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Italo Pizzo 

From the book by Andrea Amici

A September afternoon

De Ferrari, 2006


A stoker, embarked on Rome since 1942, the attack caught him in the 381 n. 3 (the aft one).

Ring the bell, call the ghosts,

rally rescuers and pirates.

The shoals lurk, the winds scream,

the rain pours, the waves break.

One night, in the freezing darkness,

someone will make a mistake.

The sea will have no mercy. 3194-bb3b-136bad5cf58d_ 

John T. Cunningham

In the instant in which we are saying goodbye, I begin to descend the ladder that reaches the level of the furnace from the plank of the warehouse of the master of the ax. I hear a nervous shouting from the lookouts above me, further proof that I should hurry up and go to the refuge of tower three. I did not arrive until the middle of the first ladder that I notice a few meters to the left of the stern of the ship that is ahead of us[the]get up a water fountain of about thirty meters. We are under an aerial bombardment! I turn upwards and notice a very pale Giovanni staring at me for a moment in the eye, as if looking for an explanation for what is happening. Our gaze lasts little more than a second. We don't say anything. We literally dive down the steep stairs without even touching the steps, only with the strength of the arms that slide on the handrails. I think in less than ten seconds he has already arrived at the castle. At every step on the bridge, out of the corner of my eye, I see the silhouette of Giovanni jumping from one bridge to another. He will realize much later that he has stuck a heel, causing himself a bad sprain also because he, like most everyone, is wearing light sandals.

As I run towards the stern I hear Giovanni behind me, it is a couple of meters behind me that spurs me to run faster. In reality he just wants to calm me down to make me feel he doesn't want to part with me. Arrived, on the straight side, shortly after the stern funnel, I manage to dive like a fish into the armored hatch that leads below to the main deck. Two carpenters, friends of Giovanni, are closing it, climbing on it with the weight of both, to counteract the torsion bars that facilitate its opening. He stops for a few seconds to talk to them, I can clearly hear that they are talking about Central Floating. I stop for a moment to look at Giovanni, to see where he is going. “Italo, you go to the shelter, we carpenters in the event of an alarm must go to the floating station. See you later!".

I start running down the first staircase on the main deck, then into the one that arrives on the first corridor. I take the starboard passage, coming out alongside the medium-caliber three tower and arriving straight in front of the only entrance door of the large-caliber aft tower. There is a bit of a crowd in front, made up of about twenty of us who are queuing to enter. The opening is so narrow that you can only pass one at a time.

  The hum of an electric motor closes with a dull thud from the outside the small armored door with an almost elliptical shape, placed five steps above the floor of the transfer chamber, the lowest level of the interior of the goatee. Only the door, which requires stooping to cross it, weighs almost a ton and has the hinge pins on the left of the hull. The last latecomers have managed to get in, they are still out of breath for the race. Inside the tower there is still movement between the ladders that lead up to the maneuvering room, the shooting room and the range finders for autonomous shooting. I go to the lowest point, about a meter below the front door, at the same height as room 261. We all sit on the circular floor of the transfer chamber, at the level of the troughs, with our hands on our knees. The diameter of the shell at this point is approximately nine meters. However, this is not an empty area, because the interior is largely occupied by the devices of the three norias. I have my back to starboard, sitting on the lowest level, next to the dipper of the transfer bench which serves to feed the number of projectiles and charge elements to the firing chamber, above us, where the breeches of the guns are. Further down it is practically impossible to go down, because the lower level of the well is occupied by the first noria that accesses the charge depot and further down to the projectile depot, where three slides provide for the 381 slides to flow from the depot to the noria bucket. On the upper deck, the loading barrels, made of cordite, much more unstable and dangerous than the explosive inside the shells, TNT, are loaded onto the same bucket. But below there are no exits, because the entrances to these rooms are protected by parapamp doors, to prevent the risk of fire.

We are many, but there is a silence that freezes the blood. Seated everywhere, even on the upper levels, although some remain standing attached to the rungs of the ladders or the breeches of the guns. The head of the plant reassures us: this is the safest point of the whole ship, because here in the aft sector of the 5th zone there are no boilers and other vital organs.

The white light of the bulbs allows you to notice the faces of each one. The pallor and sweat-drenched foreheads are rampant, while the murmur of someone praying is heard in the background. In here, most of us are made up of conscripts who have been turned away from their posts, because they have been replaced by department heads by more experienced ones. Other than fearless warriors of the sea, we are just a group of helpless scared kids, who are praying to all the Saints in Heaven. We are all closed in our thoughts: photos of wives, children and girlfriends emerge from our wallets. I left mine in the locker, along with my dad's watch, for good luck!

My senses are so acute that the smell of the grease from the chains of the norias disgusts me a little and I can clearly distinguish the stench of adrenaline sweat that we emanate. I notice one of us leaning an ear against an upright of the ladder: "They're shooting!" he just whispers. I imitate him and leaning my head against the bulkhead you hear a repeated knock-knock-knock, it is the vibrations of the anti-aircraft guns that affect the steel. So the situation is really serious, we are in combat! But too many of us are starting to eavesdrop on the vibrations. The elders scold us, saying that if a bomb were to fall, the backlash would break our neck.

All this happens in just over a minute after closing the door. It has only been three minutes since the bomb fell into the water aft of Italy. In the moment in which I am mentally starting to pray to Our Lady of the Coast of Sanremo, I feel a sharp metallic blow strike the steel of the ship. Our nerves are so tense that all together we jump in fright, at the same time a terrifying prolonged roar is followed by another practically identical. We feel lifted into the air and fall back to the floor like pears from a tree. In the tossing, I slam my side against the track of a treadmill, remaining breathless for a few moments with pain. The echo of the explosion lasts a few seconds, while you have the sensation of hearing the noises of scrap metal and writhing sheets. It's chaos: the electric lighting blows up as everyone starts screaming in terror. We are convinced that the explosion occurred right below us: “They hit us, they hit us twice!”.

Another shouts: "It was a torpedo or a mine!".

In the confusion you hear someone desperately starting to call: "Mom, mom!".

The moment is dramatic, certainly worse than the one spent in the boiler. I have the distinct feeling that death is walking among us. Meanwhile, I wonder if it is correct that he remains there and does not try to go out to ask for instructions to the 7th-8th ward, but from what I see no one is having this kind of scruples.

Shortly after, the emergency lights come on, a bulb for each level of the three-tiered tower, enough to orient oneself and calm down a little. Panic, however, took hold of us all and made us lose our reason. While the plant manager asks for a report on the phone, someone tries to open the heavy armored door in order to escape without authorization. But its opening is electrically controlled with the electrical energy coming from the turbodynamos or diesel dynamos, it is therefore blocked.

There are no more orders or discipline. We do not understand what has happened, we have the feeling that the ship is no longer horizontal, perhaps it is engaged in a turn, but the vibrations of the axes seem to decrease considerably and I can clearly see the standing men compensate for the inclination to stay in balance. I am able, for some reason, to think of the two explosions two minutes ago, while the ship does not stop the skidding. It comes to mind when, shortly before joining the Navy, I met a friend of mine in Sanremo who was on board the submarines. He told me of the terrible experiences he went through during a dive escape, while a destroyer attacked them with depth bombs. As each bomb went off, another nearly identical one followed moments later. It was not another bomb, but the violent return of water into the vacuum sphere created by the underwater explosion. In fact, the fountain of water raised by an explosion below the surface is created by the violent return of the liquid that bounces in itself when the sphere closes. Furthermore, the effect is greater the closer you are to the surface, due to pressure. If the bomb that just hit us went off near the bottom, underwater, it must have created the effect described, as if we had been hit twice.

But not knowing what is actually happening outside here only makes us more and more worried as well as making us feel powerless to any kind of possible salvation. If we could at least see the damage caused by this mysterious explosion[ii]...

Shortly after, the head of the plant informs us all that we have been hit by an airplane bomb, but the device should not have exploded inside the hull. The situation is now under control: Roma do not run the risk of going to the bottom. Hopefully, we are just reassured by the fact that the ship continues to sail anyway and is perfectly capable of fighting.

As will be confirmed by the testimonies, the bomb went through the hull from side to side and exploded into the sea, under the keel, thus creating that sense of double explosion perceived by the crew.


Meanwhile, the tension in the air is cut with a knife, I see a scene that upsets me. A sailor, who does not even look eighteen years old, stands up showing a yellowish wet halo in his pants of his engine: he has peed on himself and is trembling like a leaf. A close friend of his hugs him to comfort him and to give him some confidence. He begins to cry uncontrollably, while his friend hugs his head and hugs him to his chest. I am paralyzed with fear and seeing this only makes me even more agitated. I feel instinctively, like everyone else, that it's not over yet. The sound of my teeth chattering in terror begins to reverberate in my head, but I don't know what to do to chase it away. The heartbeat has almost doubled, I clearly feel the heart dilating faster and faster in the chest. I have a dry throat, a feeling of total dryness in my mouth, I swallow all the time. I still pray, to ask the Lord for Grace but, perhaps, also to think of something else. Some images of my house run through my mind very fast. Each frame is an emotion, a memory, a love ...

Five more minutes pass and what we expected happens, almost with liberation. The ship is suddenly shaken by a roar that seems more prolonged than that of ten minutes before. We are again tossed everywhere in this huge pot which is the ferrule of the tower. The script repeats itself and in fact the light is missing again, but this time only the emergency light reappears. The vibrations in the plank gallery, which is practically a few meters below us, fade to silence as we begin to agitate almost uncontrollably. "It's the end!" That's all I can say to myself.

The starboard axis also stops: it is the last vital moment of the Regia Armazzata Roma.

"Get out, let's get out of here!" is the voice of the plant manager.

They all want to get out and the officers also agree, ordering them to leave the place of refuge. Fortunately a couple of turtles[iii]emergency lights are on. Those higher up begin to climb the ladders, I don't know where they will come out from.

At the same time, a very strange thing is happening in the first corridor. In the middle of the passage that leads towards the bow, some time ago someone built a small wooden shrine, which houses an image of Santa Barbara. To make the icon more sacred, a small very low consumption light bulb was adapted by the electricians department with the task of illuminating the effigy day and night. Despite the sudden cessation of the electric current, the small light bulb does not cease to function and allows you to orient yourself in the dark towards the aft hatches and towards the small entrance in tower three.

The only possible explanation for this fact is that the bulb had been incorrectly installed on the 48 Volts power supply system, the electric line with independent batteries for the emergency lights. A negligence that, however, allows a good number of us to just light the way in the corridor and not to crush each other during the messy escape in the dark and smoke.

I'm still down there, hoping they'll be able to open the armored door. Close to it there is a jack system that allows it to be opened in the event of an electrical failure: a couple of sailors are operating the lever and the door finally begins to open, with enormous effort, however, because the heeling of the ship does not favor the opening, which by gravity tends to close the door. They make such nervous movements that they cannot even hold the lever and fight over who has to act on it. They manage to open a few centimeters, while through the crack, someone from the outside is inserting an iron bar like a crowbar and yelling at him that they are helping to open them too. Fortunately, altruism exists in these moments! Maybe there's some hope of getting out of here, out of this mousetrap. It takes enormous efforts, but with great effort they finally manage to open the door. At the same time, a very clear glow appears from the top of the tower. They probably opened one of the light doors of the twelve-meter rangefinder eyepieces for autonomous shooting. The sunlight! But there is still no time to rejoice.

There are so many in here that I have to queue up to climb the ladder that leads to the control room, while the inclination is increasing faster and faster. There is no time to waste, we go out one after the other from the door like shotgun balls.

After a couple of minutes I can finally get out of the narrow hole. In that moment, perhaps the most beautiful of my life, I see a face in a hundred emerge from the darkness of the second corridor. The face of the one I most wanted to see: John. "John! John!". I try to call him, but the terrified human wave is louder than my screams and I am dragged onto deck, climbing up one of the ladders to starboard of the armored exit.

Arriving on the main deck, the wonderful light that enters from the door of the guardhouse of the Avio Secretariat, makes me identify for a moment with a fish escaping from the net. Just ten minutes earlier, I wouldn't have bet anything on me and us locked up down there!

The first thing that appears to me is the propeller of the small RE 2000 aircraft still erected on the socket forward of the launching catapult, which makes me deduce that there was not even time to engage a defense between our flies and the eagles that attacked us. On the other hand it would have been a useless suicide to face a flock of high altitude bombers with a small fighter like ours.

Unfortunately, I immediately realize that there is not a second to lose, while everyone is massing in this area. I spend a few moments to see if I see Giovanni, but he is not there. I go in front of the entrance to the sub-castle, but there is too much confusion.

On the deck everything begins to slip, I look up and notice the bell rope mounted on the barbetta of tower three, constantly hanging to starboard. I am lost, I want to find Giovanni. So I try to go up the ladder on the left that leads to the castle, I don't know why but I am convinced that it is up there.

Arrived up, I advance a few meters towards the bow. What appears to my eyes is a frightening spectacle: the whole complex of the command tower is reduced to a smoking section. The 90 guns are all out of order and forward of the tower comes out a quantity of dark smoke so imposing as to obscure the sky and the sea to the left of the ship. I am petrified by the astonishment of so much destruction. I still advance a few meters between the launches and the motorboats hovering over the vases. Then I look down. Only in that moment do I realize the enormous slaughter of human beings on the bridge. There are deaths everywhere, at my feet I seem to recognize the piece of a torn limb, I don't know if it is a leg or an arm. Ahead is a body lying face down that is still smoking. I move a little closer and I can make out the smell of his burnt flesh. I'm about to cry like a baby, I'm so lost and desperate. I seem to hear moans around me. For a moment I think I'm living in a nightmare, this can't be true! I am horrified, I don't know what to do. I see movements in the smoke, I think they are other sailors wandering in search of something. But I don't even tell them apart, they're just dark shadows moving. As I look forward at this mushroom of smoke rising into the sky, I feel like a pinch under my lower lip. I barely notice it.

All surfaces are becoming covered with an impalpable black soot that burns the throat and eyes when you breathe it. I can see, between the beard of tower three and the officers' square, that the situation on the straight side is even worse, with the boats and the motorboat on the ruined sockets on the decks.

I approach the gunwale on the left, I cling terrified to the steel cable of the rail that runs in the stanchions and I begin to breathe deeply. I feel like throwing up when I think about the smell I just smelled and I don't have the courage to look back. I recover a little and start wandering again, to see if I find anyone I know or looking for some education.

A minute goes by and things go a little better, a sudden noise in the stern awakens me and people screaming. I run towards the stern and arrived at the height of the beard, I look out for a few seconds, enough to make me make a decision. The catapult released and the plane, detached from its support, overturned and sank into the sea. The teak deck is littered with the wounded and the dead. I see pitiful scenes,   sailors who shake their dead friend, others who carry him on their shoulders approaching the edge that is slowly going under.

The water is already starting to wet the wood of the blanket. Teak is a strange wood, it stays clear for a few moments, but when it gets soaked it absorbs water and darkens. I clearly notice the speed with which the hull is sinking, because I see the level rise on the various wooden slats about twenty centimeters wide, divided by the tarred coments. The water takes no more than half a minute to cover a plank: time five minutes and the ship will sink! Perpendicular to the black lines of tar, red lines of blood are dripping into the water.

Someone seems crazy, my gaze falls on a CREM lieutenant who tries in vain to reposition the catapult track towards the center of the ship. His is an impossible undertaking, because the steel complex weighs a few tons, but does not give up[iv]and would also like someone's help. Take a moment to move towards the small platform to starboard, for the crank swing of the structure. He tries to maneuver it, but gives up shortly after only because it is practically already submerged by the rising water. Naively he would perhaps try to balance the heel to starboard by shifting the weight of the catapult to the left. I also see other truly isolated gestures for a situation like this: some officers and sailors, before jumping into the water, are folding their trousers and carefully putting away their shoes next to the entrances under the castle.[v].

At this point I understand that there is nothing more to do, I have to throw myself. Below there is too much crowd, I have little time. I check the cap of the inflatable life buoy, put the alloy carabiner in the ventral belt and, with a little hesitation, I approach the rail aft of the tower four of the 152 mm on the left. I want to throw myself away because I would like to give myself more momentum to get away. I focus for a moment. I want to reflect, because for a moment I think that the ship is unsinkable, that in any case it could not be worse than that. At the same time I hear an order shouted from the stern: “Everyone into the sea, save whoever can! The ship is about to capsize! ”.

Here is the stimulus that overcomes all my indecisions. I look at the water and I cannot determine how far it is, I assume about ten meters. The oil that surrounds the entire ship prevents the wind from rippling the surface, so it is difficult to focus the view, even if everything starts to float around there. There are also bodies that float attached to the side, it's terrible to see them and think about diving into them, but they give me a sense of the proportions of height and I have no other choice.

A big breath and down into the void! I dive like a soldier, giving me a strong impetus, because the armor and the tumbler[you]which contains the Pugliese tube form a camber between the gunwale and the surface. The flight never seems to end, I have the impression of throwing myself off a skyscraper. My back touches the steel, I can almost feel it. During the flight I look at the horizon, so as not to think about the height, and I see its line drop quickly, until it disappears the moment I arrive in the water. The thud is terrible, the water is cold and I sink for a few meters, it seems to me that I can never go out, but the life jacket does its job and pulls me up immediately. Although I have plugged my nose with my hand, water mixed with naphtha enters my mouth and nostrils violently. Feeling repulsive, because it reaches up to my throat, making me cough for a while.

I begin to swim aimlessly, seized that I am in terror. There is no one near me, I am alone within a radius of about thirty meters. All those who flounder in the water are moving towards the stern, to stay out of the attraction that the ship exerts. The left side is downwind, the ship's side shields me from the wind and current coming from starboard, but at the same time prevents me from moving away from the immense hull. It seems to me that the stern is the safest place, because the smoke from the fire goes from the tower to the whole bow. I swim again and with a little effort I arrive about ten meters from the coat of arms of the Savoy crown.

The water is already almost at the height of the castle bridge. Most of the Carleys now[vii]and anything that can float has been thrown into the water, but there are still many people on board. The panic contributes to other trouble: some sailors detach a Carley from the halyards of tower three, but the hold slips and smashes on the deck to starboard. Others throw another raft into the sea, but overturned. The paddles and the rest of the emergency equipment remain underneath, so they are forced to get on it anyway and row with their hands, making a crazy effort[viii].  “Go for it, everyone jump right in!”. Shouts an officer already at sea.

I am now on the straight side of the hull, moving slightly towards the bow, swimming about twenty meters from the side. I want to see if I see Giovanni. The oily water of naphtha enters my eyes and mouth, I feel like throwing up and the more I try to clean my eyes, the more I do nothing but spread it well between the eyelids, causing an increasingly annoying burning.

Meanwhile, the whole group of terrified still on board is moving to the left, at the highest point of the bridge, now impracticable due to the inclination. They are barefoot so as not to slip, they cling where they can to climb. It is not difficult to understand that it is bad for them, they seem deaf to the exhortations to jump that shout at them from the sea.

As I watch this havoc, the ship slowly begins to spin to capsize. You can clearly hear the incandescent sheets of the base of the tower frying while the sea begins  to wet them. I look at the Italian flag which, on the peak at the stern, flutters to the left, greeting us for the last time. In its circle that it completes, it touches the water last, immersing itself. Then the ship stops for a few more moments, until it resumes shortly after the movement that will overturn it completely.

The clusters of people at the stern, about ten, climb over the rail, cling to the portholes of the official quarters and somehow manage to reach what was the ship's living work. I don't know how they do it because the hull is clean and it's very slimy.

The sight that presents itself to our eyes is very sad, our beautiful ship reduced to a floating wreck, like a large cetacean with its belly in the air. I can still see the starboard propeller moving slowly towards the bow. I think about it for a moment and I understand that it was that of the starboard bow turbo reducer, the one powered by my boiler. The gigantic ship that it was now appears very small in its keel and suddenly seems to miss the shadow that covered the water beside it. I almost want to cry, perhaps because this detail has suddenly transformed the moments of a few hours ago into poignant memories. My ship, the Admiral, my companions, my locker, the shipwright's workshop, the sardenaira… All lost!

As I look at this scene with dismay, one detail brings me back to reality. I recognize, among the group on the keel, my friend Mantia from Genoa: “Antonio! Antonio, jump into the water, come here! ”.

I scream with all the breath in my throat. But Mantia is so scared that he doesn't hear my call. He runs, like all the others, towards the bow. They reach beyond the level of tower three and find in front of the sheets of the hull torn like sheets of paper, in the point where the first bomb exploded. They understand that it is useless to continue, they go back and the instant they reach the level of the propeller cases, a terrifying creak accompanied by a beaten steel noise splits the ship in two almost in half. The stern immediately begins to sink and the group on the hull slides inexorably into the water. Between them, however, I see Mantia being able to gain momentum to dive not far away. Maybe he can! In fact, I see it re-emerge near the bulwark, in the midst of other heads that sprout. But now I can't do anything for him and I start swimming freestyle to get away from the ship, with great vigor despite the fact that the life jacket prevents me from an effective style. The terror of the mythological whirlpool that will drag everyone down makes me feel the strength of a dolphin and in fact I manage to move away another twenty meters.

I am now fifty meters away, I think they are enough and I turn around to witness the last moments of my ship. The stern is almost gone, the central rudder still protrudes and the flagpole is tilted 45 ° over the water. I start to swim hard towards the bow trying to get away, because I have seen a couple of rafts full of people not far from me.

I manage to get almost to the center of the ship, the current helps me a little, I would like to go towards the bow. It is only a matter of seconds and the stern gently goes down. It almost seems to struggle to sink, but an ominous hiss of air escapes from the hatches, causing the portholes and openings to explode, turning into a whitish bubbling as the stern disappears completely.

The bow remains. Slowly he gets upright, while I am practically at his side, I swim all the time, keeping my gaze to the left, I pass the bulwark and I can see for a few moments the red and white streaked blanket that is going down. Only three days before I was there with Giovanni, where there are the anchor winches. I recognize the patches on the deck plates, you can also see the newer paint retouch.

As it sinks, some boilers and charges from the deposits explode underwater and produce an effect on us similar to a wave of piercing needles. Everything lasts about ten seconds. The large Hall-like anchors and the bow flagpole is the last image we all have of the Regia Nave Roma, while another small explosion is still perceived. Screams rise all around: “Long live the King! Long live Rome! ”. I too join in these hymns, while all that still remains of Rome and its crew that is going down into the abyss with her is the last plume of smoke that dissolves in the Mediterranean sky, like the puff of a censer. of incense. "Goodbye my friends!".

A ghostly silence suddenly falls on the scene. The metallic noises and rumble of the ship in agony are silenced by the voice of the sea, hasty to cover the tombs of my companions and Rome with its liquid earth, hiding it forever. Like a cynical necrophore, he did not even allow time for one last homage, banging the coffin lid with a wave.

Now, however, the situation is perhaps worse! Where I go? About fifty meters there is a Carley with a nice group above, I swim towards them, with great difficulty because I go against the wind. The sea is now more rough, there is no oil here, we are upwind of the large patch. I begin to feel fatigue and the life jacket begins to rub under my armpits, irritating them. I arrive a few meters from the raft and I see its occupants who every time they climb above the wave shout in chorus: "Help!". I am still swimming towards them, but when I get close to him I notice a shocking scene: there are some sailors, like me, who try to cling to the line of the raft. In response, they receive a paddle or a kick on the hand. How vile is fear! I approach them to see if they have some Christian mercy. Nothing to do. Being close to him still gives me some confidence, so I swim to him at five or six meters. I hear them counting: "One, two, three HELP!". They organized themselves to get someone's attention. I could at least see something from a higher point. A sailor in the water asks them if they see anything. "There is some hunting on the horizon, but maybe it's going away!" It is terrible news and a couple of those in the water jump on the raft like furies, there is a frenzy, but they manage to hook the carabiner of the life jacket to the lines. Then I hear a voice that freezes my blood: "The sharks!". I do not understand if whoever screamed this is because he saw them or if he is afraid they will arrive[ix]. This too does nothing but resign me to the knowledge that only a miracle could save me.

I begin to shiver with cold and fear of dying as the group on the Carley begins to pull away from me.

About half an hour passes, I'm so tired of swimming that I abandon myself to the current, resting. But a little later something appears that gives me some courage. When I arrive on the crest of the wave I see a dot not far from me; it is not a head, it is definitely a floating object. I swim towards the object and after five minutes I reach this piece of wood to which I cling. I gasp, I am practically exhausted and it is only half an hour that I am at sea. But this wooden board comforts me more than anything else. I get on it and sit, with difficulty, on horseback.

The sea has risen and the waves crash on my miserable wreck, soaking me all over. With my tongue I feel that between the lip and the lower gum there is something that cuts and it starts to hurt. Only now do I notice that one of the teeth is broken and that a part of it is about to come off. I have a hellish thirst, my throat feels like fire and I smell of naphtha in a sickening way. The legs can hardly swim anymore due to cramps caused by cold and fatigue. We are already around 5 pm, at least I think because I have no watch, but I notice that the ships on the horizon have not left.

Finally I can touch the inside of my mouth with my fingers and I understand that something foreign is planted in the root of my tooth. I have a small wound above my chin, which burns me a little from the oil and salt water. Now I remember that pinch, it must surely have been a splinter that pierced my under lip to get stuck in my teeth. I try to extract it, but just touch it that pains me hellishly . 

In the sky the German planes continue to circle, I can clearly hear their engines: "God have mercy on your soul when you will be judged one day, after what you have done[x]! ".

The reference to Providence makes me begin to recite the Rosary, imagining myself kneeling inside the Sanctuary of the Madonna della Costa. In a state between resignation and the awareness that after all it is better to die praying in the sunlight, than closed in the dark inside the hull of the Roma, I fall into a kind of semi-consciousness.

I don't know how long it takes, but the sound of a whistle makes me jump. I explore the horizon with my eyes and a miracle appears in my eyes.


[the]The battleship Italia.

[ii]The first bomb crossed all the bridges of Rome until it crossed the live work, exploding a few meters below the keel, more than ten meters below the surface of the sea. The bomb did not pierce the armored decks of Rome orthogonally, but with an angled trajectory with respect to the hull, due to its fall which can be modified by the pilots of the attacking plane and due to the fact that the Rome, probably, at that moment was making an approach towards straight to try to escape the bomb.

[iii]Bulbs covered with a watertight glass shell  in turn protected by a brass cage that protects it from shocks. The shape resembles that of a turtle.

[iv]This man will be saved, even if his identity is not revealed.

[v]After the war it was known that these gestures were not strange at all, but those who made them were not perfectly sure that Rome would sink after a few minutes. They left their clothes on deck in hopes of returning aboard when the fires and tilt  would cease.

[you]External swelling of the hull on the side.

[vii]Life rafts in gray with orange stripes to facilitate sighting at sea, erected on the sky of large and medium caliber towers.

[viii]Testimony confirmed by the diary of Giuseppe Mango, assigned to tower three of the medium caliber (starboard aft battery).

[ix]Some testimonies of the survivors claim to have found bodies  mangled by shark bites and others to have lost a limb because of them. It was probably a matter of serious mutilations reported during the shipwreck.

[x]From the mouth of Italo Pizzo no word of hatred was ever uttered towards the Germans, nor did he ever make any comment on what he thought of them. Even listening to the stories of all the other survivors, I have never heard of any comment on the Germans. (nda)

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