Asylum ships were born 111 years ago

(To Marina Militare)

On the proposal of the Minister of the Navy, Pasquale Leonardi Cattolica, on July 13, 1911, the establishment of a Consortium between the Ministry of the Navy, the Ministry of the Interior, the Ministry of Education and the local authorities of the city of Naples was authorized for the use of a ship. of the Regia Marina as a floating asylum. It was the ship Caracciolo disbarred from the register of military shipping and granted by the state to welcome students and instruct them in the maritime profession.

Thanks to this initiative of the Regia Marina, many children and young people were rescued from the streets and from crime.

The asylum ship Caracciolo he attracted a lot of national and international interest as he experimented with a pedagogical method that involved over 750 children and young people stolen from the street. The project was followed and led by Mrs. Giulia Civita Franceschi (1870-1957) while on board dozens of "caracciolini" were returned to life, healthy and dignified, providing them with knowledge and skills to be able to carry out a profession not only in the Navy, but also in the world of work.

The ship was not only a training school for maritime life, but rather a "community" in which, according to Mrs. Franceschi's approach, every boy was known and respected and above all encouraged and valued in his own potential.

Matilde Serao of the newspaper Il Mattino di Napoli referred to the work of Civita Franceschi as follows: "The Caracciolo asylum ship collects a homeless, a family without a homeland and gives this disinherited creature a homeland, a family, collects a vagabond, a beggar, and gives this poor being thrown and lost, the home, the bread, the bed, in a firm and rigid discipline, wrote the journalist. He picks up the son of a thief and makes him a gentleman; he collects a lazy, a disobedient, a prison plant and makes him an industrious, honest, upright boy, destined to do his duty as a man and as an Italian, and to earn his life, by the sea and by the sea ".

A unique experience in Italy and an opportunity for the orphans of seafarers and for abandoned children in the Neapolitan suburbs. It was the first step in the organization of these special "training ships" which on land and on board educated dozens of disadvantaged and orphaned young people, at a time when no one was thinking about their future.

Other experiments were made in Italy such as the ship Scilla in Venice where a kindergarten was established for fishermen's orphans with the aim of giving elementary and professional education to homeless children. From Ship Scilla many sailors came out who embarked on military careers as student helmsmen, signalmen, radiotelegraphers, torpedoes and naval engineers. Many others, however, took up service aboard merchant ships.

Among the other units used as asylum ships there were also the Eridano ship in Bari. While the Azuni ship operated in Cagliari, carrying out a reception and literacy work for the children of Sardinia.

Asylum ships actually introduced in our country the educational method of the culture of the sea and life on board; tradition that up to that moment originated from training ships British, promoted since the second half of the '700 by the Royal Navy, on the Thames.

The history of the Royal Navy's asylum ships is kept in the archive and photo library of the Historical Office of the Navy and in 2019 it has also become an exhibition and a book entitled At school by the sea, published by the Defense Staff.

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