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Service of Raffaello






Italian newspapers started demanding reasons for why the taxpayer's money was spent on the "floating memorials of a bygone era" and proclaimed that the ships should be sunk, not subsidied. In 1975 the Italian government stated that they simply could not keep paying Italian Lines 100 million Lire a day to keep the ships running, and in spring 1975 the government informed Italian line that their ships wouldn't receive any more government support. This meant the death of the Italian Sisters.


On 21 April 1975 the Raffaello left New York for the last time, sadly without any ceremonies. on 30 april 1975 she dropped anchor in the port of Genoa for the last time, after 113 voyages from New York, and was laid up. In June 6th she was moved to La Spezia, the location of an infamous Italian scrapyard. There she was joined by her sister a month later. Luckily the fate of Raffaello was not to be scrapped at La Spezia.


In 1976 several companies eyed the sisters for possible purchase.

The Norwegian shipowner Knud Kloster visited the ships and he would preferred buying Michelangelo and Raffaello instead than France, because their outside decks were more suitable for cruises. They were more spacious and had 3 pools, absent on the France's decks. But he decided to buy France because he required less transformation works inside and already had more portholes. Also the companies Chandris and Costa Armatori of Genoa didn't want the ships because of the same reasons: transformation costs.

Incredibly, the American Company "Home Lines", who really wanted to buy the sisters and retain their Italian crews and for use them for Caribbean cruises, was declined by Italian line, because they didn't want be associate with their former money-losers.


So the Raffaello and her sister continued their stay in La Spezia until another buyer emerged. In fall of 1976 the Shah of Persia made an offer on the sisters. He wanted to buy them for use as permanently moored barrack ships on southern coast of Persia. With the great disappointment of all the people who travelled on them and of all the people who worked years at their construction, Italia Line accepted and sold the ships that had originally cost $45 million, for the ridiculous price of $2 million.


In spring 1977 the Raffaello, naked by her original furnishings,  left on her final journey around the Arabian peninsula into the remote port of Būshehr (Bushire) in southwest Persia. There she was modified to accommodate 1,800 military personnel. Also 50 Italian workers were permanently employed aboard for her care and maintenance.

But In the late 1970's the Shah was overthrown and Persia became the Islamise Republic of Iran and the Italian personnel had to leave the ship and return to Italy.


In 1978 one reconstruction of the two ships was suggested in order to utilise the ships as cruise ships turned to a deluxe clientele, reducing the passenger capacity to 1.300 persons. The project foresaw also two new names for Michelangelo and Raffaello should become "Scią Reza il Grande" and "Ciro il Grande" ('Shah Reza the Big' and 'Ciro the Big', respectively).  

A commission of experts was purposely sent from Italy to examine the ships and for execute some maintenances, immediately noticed the poor state of the ships. The hulls were rusted, the wood that covered the outside decks was becoming deformed by the sun, and their once opulent interiors were invaded by rats. It was clear that those ships, who only a few years before were the admirals of the Italian fleet, would never sail again.


Under the Iranian rule Raffaello was neglected and laid idly at her pier in Bushire, scorched by the sun as the empire of rats grew.

A clear statement of that time is the memory of the Iranian Officer Yassan Behzad, who writes:


"I used to live on board Raffaello at port of Bousheher for almost two years1978-79. At the termination of Imperial regime by Islamic revolution the ship was looted and heavily damaged by the locals and since it's water distilling plants was out of service it become inhabitant and rats took over the ship. At the brake of the war with the Iraq Raffaello was considered a land mark for bombing the Bousheher Port by the Iraqis so it was decided to be towed to the 1000 meter off shore and anchored with couple of navy sailors as guards. On one of the morning during the first year of Iran /Iraq war it was strike by an Iraqi torpedo and sank to the bottom of Persian Golf were it was further looted by local divers for art affect and salvage parts. It was the greatest place as I ever spend two years of my life and I still hold my cabin room key in my key chain".


She would probably have laid there until being sold for scrap, but on 17 November 1983, during the Iraq/Iran war, Iraqi bombers hit her and she partially sank in the harbour waters. Not long after one Iranian cargo ship, the "Iran Salam" accidentally rammed her reporting serious damages to the hull and finishing off the job the Iraqi had begun.

Before Raffaello was bombed in was rumoured around Italy the possibility of recovering the ships by some non Italian agents, but until today, she lays on the spot where she sank, and no breaking up of the shipwreck has ever commenced… This was the end of the most modern and futuristic Italian ship.


The Michelangelo instead survived and used as barrack until June 1991 when she was sold to Pakistani scrappers. By 1992 all that remained of the beautiful Italian Twins were toilet seats sold on the market of Karachi.


Today, the wreck of the Raffaello is covered by 7 meters of water and, irony of the history, it lays only 2 Km far from the atomic central power of Heleylah (few Km at south of Bushehr), one of the centrals at the center of international tensions nowadays. It seems that the Raffaello was moved in that position during the Iran - Iraq war, just in order to defend the nuclear central from the attacks of Iraqui air force. In this time (September 2007) we got know that a private firm has bought the wreck and maybe it will proceed soon at his  scrapping and definite removal from the bottom.


Because of the many communications from people who looks the wreck of the Raffaello with Google Earth, we communicate once again the the wreck is NOT visible from the surface of the sea and it lays exactly by the coordinates 28°49'0.24"N , 50°52'36.58"E among the white signalising buoys, to avoid that other ships could to ground on the wreck. We publish this photo of the water over the wreck. We publish here a photo  at the water over the wreck, shot in January 2008, by an Iranian photograph, who wish to be anonymous and that we thank very much for the job.


As curiosity, there is by the cost of Bushehr as tourist attraction, a bar called "Rafael", a Kentucky Fried Chicken!. It is positioned in front of a surfaced rusty hull of a wreck, but that is not at all the Raffaello! It is the "Iran Salam" (or "Iran Siam", depending from the interlocutors), a hull only 40 meters long. For these photos we thank Tommaso Persano.




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