He was an extraordinary man, living in extraordinary times. I had previously heard of Nicolò Costanzi and marvelled at the beauty of his patented ‘swan neck’ bow and intriguing hybrid stern designs, but it was in researching my first book, about the Italian Line’s Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo and Raffaello, that I became fascinated by the man at all.

Passing the baton. Costanzi and a member of his team pour over blueprints. (Museo dela cantieristica Monfalcone collection, Italian Liners of the 1960s, Amberley Publishing)

In the prologue of this new book, I describe the episode that first drew my attention to him, whilst Chapter 1 elaborates on Costanzi’s life, character, exceptional talent, and output, all placed in the context of a turbulent period of history.

The beautifully svelte 702-foot-long hulls included an exceptionally slender entry at the waterline fore and aft, with pronounced tumblehome amidships. However it was the patented ‘swan neck’ bow that really caught the eye and became the trademark of Costanzi’s prolific output in the 1960s. (Dante Flore collection, Italian Liners of the 1960s, Amberley Publishing)

Most of the book is, as the title suggests, devoted to the four ships he designed in the late 1950s and early 1960s and which I have always considered to be amongst the finest of their era. Purists might take issue with the title of the book, for although three of the vessels described (Galileo Galilei, Guglielmo Marconi and Eugenio C) were indeed ‘liners’ operating transoceanic services, the fourth, Oceanic, only ever sailed as a cruise ship. In response I can only ask you to set aside any disgruntlement and ignore this misnomer. I could justify myself by pointing out that Oceanic was originally designed as a Transatlantic liner (sailing for Home Lines from Cuxhaven to Montreal via the channel ports) but must admit the main reason is simple pragmatism. Calling the book ‘Three Italian Liners and a Cruise Ship – The Costanzi Quartet’ seemed just a little clunky.

Nineteen days earlier than expected, as the Lloyd Triestino flagship skirted the African coast off Liberia, Mrs Tomarchio gave birth to a baby girl. The new member of the Tomarchio family was christened a week later, as Galileo Galilei approached Durban. She was named Silvia Lidia, after her Godfather Captain Rudolfo Sangulin’s (centre holding the baby) wife, and the ship’s nurse (right) who delivered her. (Silvia Tomarchio collection, Italian Liners of the 1960s, Amberley Publishing)

The ships’ histories are described chronologically in separate chapters. I have amalgamated the stories of the Lloyd Triestino sisters for obvious reasons, since their design, construction and early careers inevitably overlap. Researching each ships’ career has involved trawling numerous books and websites but I must confess my favourite and the most rewarding aspect involved collating personal recollections. Forums and Facebook groups are a godsend, especially for connecting internationally, and I have been fortunate to receive help and stories from a broad group of wonderful people, ranging from former crew members to passengers and even probably the most prominent ship designer of the modern era. Dr Stephen Payne MBE vividly describes the rationale (included in Chapter 1) behind incorporating a ‘Costanzi stern’ into Queen Mary 2’s design.

Oceanic’s 10,350 square feet central lido area. The original concept included a single enormous pool with a narrow isthmus straddled by a small bridge. In the evening the pool would feature illuminated fountains. Presumably for practical and cost reasons
these elements were subsequently dropped. Nevertheless with its twin swimming pools, striped beach mats, vibrant hued umbrellas and a little imagination it still resembled a microcosm of the Italian Riviera. (Author’s collection, Italian Liners of the 1960s, Amberley Publishing)

Singling out individuals seems unfair but just as my now good friends Alberto Imparato and Claudio Serra made the first book possible, Marc Lewis has been instrumental in compiling this follow up volume. Not only did Marc’s wonderful recollections of vacations on board Oceanic allow me to bring that ships’ story to life but he also provided a wealth of images of the other ships as well. Corresponding with Silvia Tomarchio ‘the one born at sea’ on Galileo Galilei was particularly fun and I am so grateful for her providing a photo of her baptism on board. Cesare Zaniboni’s evocative description of working in Eugenio C’s engine room also stands out.

A personal favourite and amongst the finest publicity photographs ever. Eugenio C steams towards the South Atlantic at over 27 knots. (Marc Lewis collection, Italian Liners of the 1960s, Amberley Publishing)

I have been really grateful to all those who gave such positive feedback about ‘Masters of the Italian Line’, either through reviews or via emails. One minor criticism of that book I have tried to address with the follow up was the omission of deck plans. Inevitably given the small dimensions I can’t do them justice in printed form, but they are included on the page of my website shown below, together with some of the other images there was simply no room for in the book.

https://www.sarniawatercolours.co.uk/the-costanzi-quartet

I hope that you enjoy this book and that it serves its purpose, as a testimonial to an incredible human being and some of the finest passenger ships the world has witnessed.

Ian Sebire's new book Italian Liners of the 1960s is available for purchase now.