top of page

Fortuna Novella

Fortuna Novella was born in Carloforte on the island of San Pietro in the south-west of Sardinia on 25 September 1880. Her family of boat owners for coral fishing came from Santa Margherita Ligure. She had married in Mahón on May 8, 1902 with a wealthy Spanish merchant, Antonio Riudavetz and was the only Italian resident on the island when the ships with the shipwrecked from Rome arrived. She lived in a large house overlooking the sea in Plaza del Retiro at number 31, still after the death of her husband a few years before 1943.
On the morning of 10 September 1943, the news of the arrival in port of four Italian warships, laden with castaways, naked, wounded and dead, immediately spread among the inhabitants of Mahón, above all because, as the old men tell us today again:"Todo el Puerto olia a carne quemada", there was a smell of burnt meat throughout the port, which lasted for several days.

Realizing the situation in which his compatriots found themselves, he immediately rushed to the port where, as honorary vice consul of Italy, he immediately took action to provide assistance in all possible ways. Using his knowledge he did his best to get all kinds of help, also making available his personal resources to alleviate the suffering of those poor young sailors, half of whom were horribly burned. Of the 620 survivors of Rome, who arrived in Mahón, 284 needed medical attention and were taken to the Hospital of Isola del Rey, in the center of the port. The others were placed very summarily, without even a straw bed, in a shed at the Naval Base of the Spanish Navy, while the four ships of their rescuers who had brought them to Mahón, remained interned in the port, practically seized for sixteen long and agonizing. months. In total, between rescued and rescuers, about 1800 Italians arrived in Porto who for Mrs. Fortuna, a 63-year-old widow without children, became like her children. Since then her home has been constantly open for those young people and for all of them Fortuna Novella had become Mamma Mahón. After the return of the ships with its boys to Italy, Fortuna Novella will never forget those 26 fallen soldiers of the battleship Roma who rest in the cemetery of Mahón. He will take care of it by never missing a flower and a prayer. In 1950 the Italian Navy will erect a Mausoleum to honor those fallen and with them all those who rest in the depths of the Sardinian sea in that steel sarcophagus that is the wreck of Rome. The marble monument is the work of the Italian sculptor Armando D'Abrusco and "Mamma Mahón" participates with other volunteers of Mahón, in the recomposition of the remains of those who fell in the new marble tombs.

On 29 September 1950, at the inauguration of the monument, all the officers who came from Italy for the occasion saw  in  quel_cc781905-5cde-3194-bb3b- 136bad5cf58d_ piccola  donna  forward  over the years, of which they have heard a lot of moral figure in the Patria. Admiral Ferrante Capponi confirms this publicly by saying: “There is a person in Mahón to whom we owe a lot of gratitude, Mrs. Fortuna Novella. In the past it has carried out a precious work of assistance to our crews and still demonstrates to the fallen who are buried here a pious and loving care of which only a noble and generous soul is capable, moved by love of country and Christian charity ”. On September 20, 1952 she was invited as a guest of the Italian Navy and was welcomed with all honors. It will also be received in private audience by Pope Pius XII. On 30 July 1953 she was summoned to Rome to receive the Star of Italian Solidarity of the first class from the President of the Republic Luigi Einaudi.

The sailors said of her:

… He had nothing remarkable apart from the intense blue of his eyes, but he emanated something that went far beyond his small and frail figure, something sincere. Like the genuine smell of home air, what usually surrounds a mother!

The attention and care shown for those fallen young people will last constantly for the rest of his life which will end in Mahón on June 26, 1970 at the age of 89, in that house in Retiro Square where the castaways of the Rome had had comfort and help. On April 25, 2001 in Carloforte, the Municipality and the Harbor Master's Office paid a final tribute to Fortuna Novella. A solemn ceremony to name a new quay of the Port after her: the “Calata Fortuna Novella, Mamma Mahón”.
The adventure that Mrs. Fortuna Novella lived in those tragic moments of war, her actions and her commitment, spontaneous and extraordinarily generous, gave her the right to belong to the small group of illustrious Italians of Menorca and as such proud of be his compatriots.

bottom of page