In 1994, Melbourne journalist and author Tony De Bolfo developed a burning desire to discover what prompted his grandfather and two brothers to leave their homeland in Italy for a new life in Australia.
He turned to his great uncle, Igino De Bolfo – the only surviving member of the original trio who undertook that arduous forty-six day voyage aboard the steamship Re d’Italia (King of Italy) in 1927.
Over an eight-year period, the author uncovered extraordinary tales of love and friendship, suicide and murder, tragedy and success.
“In these pages dripping sweat, blood, guts and tears, there are great subjects for a score of novels.” - Nino Randazzo, Italian Senator, former editor Il Globo
In Search Of Kings is available through Harper Collins Publishers
Originally laid down as the Sardinian Prince, the Regina d’Italia was one of three steamships built by Sunderland Shipbuilder James Laing for the Lloyd Sabaudo Line in 1906, along with the Principe di Piemonte and the flagship, Re d’Italia.
With a tonnage of 6149 grt, length of 430 ft, beam of 52ft 8in and service speed of 14 knots, the Regina d’Italia was launched on January 20, 1907. On May 15 of that year, the Regina d’Italia commenced her maiden voyage from Genoa to New York. The following October, she inaugurated the company’s Genoa-South America service as the steamship Tomaso di Savoia was not ready.
When a massive earthquake rocked Messina in December 1908, the Regina d’Italia, together with the Re d’Italia, was used as a hospital ship. Three years later, she served as a floating hospital during the Italo-Turkish war between Benghazi and Derna.
In 1920, the Regina d’Italia’s accommodation was reduced to first and third class only. Two years later she was transferred to the South American service and in the final years of her life completed a handful of voyages to Australia.
The Regina d’Italia was broken up for scrap at Genoa in October 1928, a year before the Re d’Italia. The Principe di Piemonte was sold to the Cunard Line in 1916 and renamed Folia. On March 11, 1917, the Folia was torpedoed by a German submarine of the coast of Youghal, Eire, resulting in the loss of seven lives.
While the Fondazione Cineteca Italiana in Milan confirmed ownership of the copyright of Dall’Italia All’Australia, the organisation was able to provide few, if any, details regarding the film’s history, other than its year of production, 1925.
However, the National Archives of Australia’s Melbourne office yielded valuable information relating to the voyages the Regina d’Italia made to Australia pre-1925.
The Regina d’Italia, under the command of Master Ettore Zitelli, sailed into Fremantle on September 14, 1924. The relevant passenger list, kept on microfilm at the Melbourne archive, also carried the name of the film’s director, Angelo Drovetti, amongst the hundreds of disembarkees. Drovetti was listed as a single man of 38 years of age, whose forwarding address was “aboard the Regina d’Italia”.
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