Archive | 3:22 PM

Through His Words: Day One

21 Oct

Reflections From and About My Grandfather
Alexander Capraro, Architect

Day One:

Saturday, July 16, 1938 
On board ship        
Chapter 1

Dear “Modjeste”

Arrived in NY without much time to lose and taxied directly to the ship. You remember the crowd where we saw the “Rex” depart; well it was the same today. 

And with those written words, Alexander Capraro’s journey began.

Alexander V. Capraro

My grandfather had taken the train from Chicago to N.Y. alone. His wife, Modesta Rose, affectionately known as Maude, (and apparently lovingly called Modjeste), had chosen to remain home with their three children, Vince, my Dad Bill, and Marion. Maude took comfort in the fact that Alex would be accompanied by his good friend Joe, who travelled to Italy annually. Shortly before their departure, however, Joe became ill and was unable to travel.

It was a beautiful, bright, sunshiny day and quite a sight to behold the N.Y. skyline and the Statue of Liberty.

I wondered about his ship, its name, origin, etc. Then a faded blue logo in the upper-left corner of his stationery caught my eye: CONTE DI SAVOIA.


How big was this ship and how old? How many passengers did it carry? And how long would it be before they reached Naples, Italy?

It was rather nice to see someone wave goodbye to us from the docks. 

With a few clues in hand, namely Rex, Conte Di Savoia, Naples, Italy, and the year 1938, I began my research.

According to, the Rex and Conte Di Savoia were sister ships built in Italy in the early 1930s. Conte Di Savoia, the smaller of the two, was built at the Cantieri Riuniti dell’Adriatico shipyard in Trieste, Italy with the following specifications:

Length: 814 feet
Beam: 96 feet
Tonnage: 48,502 gross tons
Speed: 27 knots
Capacity: 2,200 passengers:
– 500 first class, 366 second class, 412 tourist class, 922 third class
Crew: 786
Engines: Steam turbines powering four propellers

conte di savoia departs on her maiden voyage

Conte di Savoia: The Great Ocean Liners

The interesting thing about the new ship was her indoor fittings. She boasted classic style in a glamorous way, in contrast to the fashion of the period. While new liners such as Île de France, Bremen and White Star’s third Britannic sported the new Art Deco style, the Conte di Savoia proudly exposed her gilded inside – a reminder of true class. The famous Colonna Lounge – all done in marble – amazed passengers with its high ceiling decorated in murals. Along the sides of the giant room were statues standing on pedestals, and the doors were classical fairytale style high ones.   


Colonna Lounge: The Great Ocean Liners

We are well out at sea as I write this letter and the only sign of being on board ship is the vibration of the engines which account for this shaky handwriting.

Shaky handwriting? Not at all, but then Alex was a perfectionist. Besides having beautiful interiors, the Conte di Savoia was a very steady ship as she was the first ship to have gyroscopic stabilizers to reduce rolling during Transatlantic crossings.

I was rather tired from the train ride, so after lunch, and a general inspection of the ship, I went to my room and took a nap.

Conte di Savoia was completed in 1932 and left Genoa for her maiden voyage to N.Y. in November of that year. Alex joined her six years later.

My lunch time is 1:30 and dinner at 8:00, with plenty of good food and wine served at each meal; however, I am taking it easy with the food and wine in order to stay in good physical shape.

Will power, for sure.

That’s about all for today’s news. Will write more later and tell you of my itinerary. Take good care of yourself and don’t worry about anything, especially me.

Alex, born January 7, 1895, in Pietrabbondante, Italy, was just four years old when his parents brought him to America. At the age of 43, and as an accomplished Italian American architect, he was returning to Italy for his first and only time.



Besides her many transatlantic crossings, Conte di Savoia was also known for her starring role in the film, Luxury Liner. The following YouTube clip, albeit corny, shows the ship in her glory. You need only watch the first 30 seconds to “be on board” with Alex and share some of his experience some 75 years ago as he returned to the land of his ancestors.

With love to all at home, and a little extra hug to Marion, I am
Devotedly yours,

To be continued.



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