Genoa, the home port of the Andrea Doria, produced two of the world’s greatest sea captains: Christopher Columbus and Andrea Doria (1468-1560). While Columbus famously went off in search of new sea routes, Doria stayed home and fought the Spanish, French, and Barbary pirates. One of the most cunning fighting men and politicians of his day, Andrea Doria, who is credited as the first man to discover how to sail against the wind, became Admiral of the Genoese Fleet and ultimately the “father of his country.” Like that of the Borghese, the name of Doria lived on through the centuries as one of the great family names of Italy and it was to Andrea Doria that the Italia Line returned when choosing a name fitting for the great ship it had designed after the second World War.
The Andrea Doria under construction.
The keel of the Andrea Doria (No. 918) was laid down on the Number 1 slipway at Ansaldo’s Sestri Ponente yards on February 9, 1950. Planned for launching on June 10, 1951, it was six days later when Italy’s first postwar North Atlantic liner slid down the Ansaldo ways. Prior to the launching, the ship was blessed by His Eminence Cardinal Siri, Archbishop of Genoa, and christened by Signora Giuseppina Saragat, wife of the former Minister of the Italian Merchant Marine. By June 23, she was in the fitting-out basin and expected to be ready “by next summer.” However, decorating the interior of this ship consumed another eighteen months, and it was not until November 6, 1952, that the Andrea Doria left Sestri Ponente for her preliminary engine trials. Nine days later, amid reports of machinery problems, her maiden voyage was rescheduled from December 14, 1952, to January 14, 1953.
During the acceptance trials from December 3-9, Andrea Doria maintained a speed of 25.3 knots for six hours with a top speed of 26.218 knots. Any earlier defects had been corrected and her performance was eminently satisfactory. The Andrea Doria returned to Genoa at 11:20pm on the December 9 and was formally handed over on December 19, one of the proudest days in the history of the Societa de Navigazione Italia (Italia Line).
“First of all, a ship that is worthy of the name must be a SHIP. She must be able to function as a huge machine…to provide light and heat and numerous essential hotel services to her passengers. She must be able to cleave the ocean waves efficiently and safely, no matter what the weather conditions. She must get her passengers where they want to go with reasonable dispatch, adhering to a schedule announced in advance.
But today a ship must be more than that. For a period of her voyage she must be a whole way of life for her passengers. She must provide them with an experience that will somehow be different and better than a comparable experience they could have anywhere else. This experience must be one they will enjoy while they have it…and one they will never forget as long as they live.
The Andrea Doria is, we think, unique. She was designed to be a huge, completely efficient machine, a real ship. She was also designed as a living testament to the importance of beauty in the everyday world.”
The Italia Line, in designing this ship, which was to mark the rebirth of the Italian merchant marine after the second World War, decided wisely not to compete with the United States and Britain for size and speed of their ships. Instead the Andrea Doria was imbued with Italy’s matchless heritage of beauty, art, and design. But the 29,083 gross ton ship, 696.5 feet long and 89.9 feet wide, was no slowpoke. She was among the fastest ships in the world. The Andrea Doria’s capacity was rated for 218 First class, 320 Cabin class, and 703 Tourist class passengers, as well as 563 officers and crew.