Now, here's a stunningly beautiful ocean liner that I doubt any - if many - of you have even heard of. The SS Duilio was launched in 1923, and was constructed for the Navigazione Generale Italiana. Along with her sister ship SS Giulio Cesare, she sailed the seas to assist in filling the coffers of her owners. That being said, the shipping company certainly didn't skimp on luxurious fittings, decor and amenities for Duilio's 1,300 passengers. No expense was spared.
Getting right into the interiors of this extravagant vessel, you can't even tell that this is, indeed, a ship of less than 25,000 tonnes. The choice of interior detailing and architecture is utterly sublime, to say the least - it's something out of a palatial fairy tale. The soaring grand halls, lounges, dining rooms and other public spaces were simply extraordinary. Unfortunately, very little photographic evidence of the lush liner's interiors exists today - and most of it is safeguarded behind walls of copyright restrictions. I was lucky enough to come across even the photos you see now, thanks to those who are kind enough to share them online for the world. Otherwise, these images of Duilio's long-dead architecture would be lost to time.
Duilio is largely forgotten and but a distant memory to many - if they've even heard of her before. There were simply so many other, more famous ocean liners during her time that the little Italian beauty faded into oblivion. The paltry few images I could provide offer little more than a tiny peek into the elegance and grandeur of this liner but when glancing at the plasterwork, wood panelling, soaring domes and gilded accents, it is clear that she was designed to impress. I have no doubts of such a feat being firmly accomplished. Duilio was the very first Italian super ocean liner, her size and carrying capacity establishing the NGI as a powerful contender in the passenger shipping business.
Some unique details about the design of this regal two-funnelled liner have seeped out and remained discoverable to this day. For one, Duilio was one of the safest and most meticulously designed liners of her day. Maritime regulations served as a bare minimum consideration in her design evidently, as she boasted one of the most flood-proofed hulls in the business. For a vessel her size, the required 12 watertight compartments were increased to a whopping 17 in Duilio's design. She also housed four anti-roll cases to maximize stability and minimize seasickness - an aspect of ocean travel never advertised that many considered the white elephant in the room. Initially, Duilio was utilized as intended - the Naples - New York route. However, in 1928 she was transferred to the Genoa - Buenos Aires route.
Like almost all liners, Duilio met a bitter end after being laid up in 1940 and being chartered to the International Red Cross in 1942. This was the final assignment she would have, being laid up afterwards in the port of Trieste. The saddest part of this story is that Duilio was left to languish alongside her sister, Giulio Cesare, who shared the same fate. With the Second World War in full violent swing, the two sisters were met with a bombardment by Allied aircraft. She rolled over and sank where she was anchored like a great wounded animal. Her wreckage sat in that very spot until 1948, when it was salvaged and scrapped.
The story of the SS Duilio is a short one. Few know of her, and even fewer will as time goes on, most likely. Still, the most prominent redeeming feature of this splendid liner is, in my opinion, that she performed admirably and did exactly what she was designed to do, surviving for decades before being destroyed in a manner any ship of her day would be unprotected from. Her passengers and crew enjoyed lavish crossings and an ever-so-elegant atmosphere, and they had the privilege of being a select few to experience her gracefulness in person.
All photo credits: Museum of the City of New York