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Italy - Maritime Flags

Last modified: 2013-11-11 by rob raeside
Keywords: italy | european union | pisa | amalfi | genoa | venice |
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As far as the usage of the Navy flag versus the private use at sea is concerned, the lion holding a sword (St. Mark's Lion) have a book as well, but in this case the book is closed. The reason for is that in the open book you can read the Latin sentence "PAX TIBI MARCE EVANGELISTA MEUS" (Peace to you Mark, my Gospel writer), so in war time the Republic of Venice was not allowing to read "peace" as the first word. Actually, the two versions of the Naval Jack are embedding the two different Venetian flags so maintaining their origin usage.
Fabio Pasello, 15 Septemnber 1999

The present italian coat of arms is never shown either on the merchant or on naval ensign. The shield you see there is the italian naval shield (with crown - navy, without crown- merchant ships). The prsent coat of arms of the Italian republic is the one described in this page. The one on the naval flags is made up by joining the 4 shields of the ancient "repubbliche marinare": Pisa (whitem "Pisan" cross on red field), Amalfi (white "Amalfi" cross on blue field), Genoa (red cross on a white field) and Venice (St.marks lion with a sword for the navy and a book for the merchant ships, gold on a blue field).
Antonio De Girolamo, 14 June 2000

Civil Ensign

image by Gerard van der Vaart and António Martins-Tuválkin, 5 July 2009

For private use at sea there is an ensign similar to the national flag, but carrying a shield on the white strip with the four symbols of the so-called "Sea Republics" (Repubbliche Marinare) of Italian tradition: first quarter Venice (St. Mark's winged lion holding a book), second Genoa (a red-on-white cross), third Amalfi (Maltese white cross on dark blue) and fourth quarter Pisa (peculiar-shaped white cross on red).
Navy carries the same flag, but the lion holds a sword instead of a book and the whole shield is crowned. These flags are official since 9th November 1947.
Alessio Bragadini

Until the end of WW II, the Italian flag always had the Savoy coat of arms in the center (without the crown: Merchant, with the crown: naval ensign) {so there was no confusion at sea}. After the war, the plain tricolor was adopted as the national flag, but in order to avoid confusion with the Mexican merchant flag, the new Italian coat of arms was placed in the center of the Italian merchant flag (again with no crown.)
Nick Artimovich, 16 March 1998

Civil Authorities Flags

According to Italian navy site those flags are used:

a) "Bandiera distintiva per Autorità Civili" - Civil Authorities Ensign (see here)
b) "Bandiera distintiva del Ministro della Difesa" - Minister of Defence Flag (see here)
c) ) "Bandiera distintiva del Sottosegretario alla Difesa" - Undersecretary of Defense (see here)
Dov Gutterman and Pier Paolo Lugli, 5 September 2000

In a page from an italian dictionary (Il Nuovissimo Melzi, 1952), sent by Alex Belfi, which displays the flags of all european countries, there is also:
- Minister of Aeronautics flag - probably not in use today as there is no more such a position.
- Minister of Marine (Admirality) - probably not in use today as there is no more such a position.
Dov Gutterman
, 4 October 2000

EU Civil Ensign

image by Željko Heimer, Gerard van der Vaart and Antonio Martins, 12 July 2009

image by Željko Heimer, Gerard van der Vaart and Antonio Martins, 12 July 2009

It's the EU "civil ensign"; it is customary, I'm told, for Europeans to display the EU flag on private boats with their own ensign in the canton, here Italy.
Al Kirsch , 20 July 1999

That's an Italian European Ensign, as used unofficially on internal European waterways. There are variants for most other EU countries, such as Britain, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany and France.
Graham Bartram, 20 July 1999

Now this is strange, in the first place: Why ships operating in internal European waterways don't use their own national ensigns and/or courtesy flags, even if only officially?
On the other hand, if this is a way to expess european "loyalty" why not a plain EU flag? Why deface it with the national ensign?...
Antonio Martins, 23 July 1999

In August, our local newspaper had a report on its 'national news' page about a Venetian who had taken a gondola across the English Channel. The article was accompanied by a photograph which showed the gondola flying three flags. One was the banner of St Mark for Venice; one was the Union Jack, flown considerately but incorrectly as a courtesy flag; and one was the Italian version of the European Civil Ensign. The one shown above, has the national flag in the canton smaller than the one shown on the gondola. My observations in the past of European Civil Ensigns have been more like that on the gondola, with the twelve stars clearly in the fly rather than central.
André Coutanche, 20 September 2001

Anything is valid, as such ensigns/flags are absolutely unofficial. They are like any "fun flag". It´s up to the flagmaker and the user to find a design they like. The usage of this flags is so unofficial and anarchical, that any "standard" is tough to define. The boat actually flyes no ensign. He is not showing any flag to indicate nationality, and could be fined. Not to mention legal problems in case of accident. European Civil Ensigns are fun flags.
Jose C. Alegria, 20 September 2001

See also: European Union: Unofficial civil ensigns, European Union

Post Pennant

image by António Martins-Tuválkin, 5 July 2009

image by António Martins-Tuválkin and Gerard van der Vaart, 5 July 2009

"Guidone Italia Postale" , which is manufactured in 2:3 ratio,according to Adria Bandiera catalogue
Dov Gutterman, 6 August 2000

I noticed that the Post Penant is not shown in the Album [pay00]
Željko Heimer, 15 January 2001

It is on purpose, I never saw these post pennants at sea any more (Postal ships have been replaced by planes!)
Armand Noel du Payrat, 16 January 2001

This flag was reopted as 2:3 at Adria Bandiera catalogue and in a much longer ratio, about 4:7 in a. photo of a real flag. Above are both versions.
António Martins-Tuválkin, 5 July 2009 

River Po Signal Flags

image from <>

The page <> (in Italian) shows – among other navigation signals – two flags used on the River Po: "Two signals [are used in the] riverbed, represented by surface buoy (where the bottom is high) or red or white flags: the red flags or the red surface buoys are put at about 20 m. right from the course for those who sail downstream; the white flags or the white surface buoys are put at about 20 m. left from the route for those who sail downstream; vice versa for those who sail upstream.". There is also a sketch in the end of page. 
Another table showing the flags are at the end of <>. 
Present-day signals on the River Po also at <>:  red flags or panels (ill.) pp. 14 and 16 of the file No white flag around if I am not mistaken.
Jan Mertens, 22 March 2008

Programma Nazionale di Ricerche in Antartide - PNRA

image by Chris Kretowicz, 12 May 2001

Italy operates 2 summer-only stations in Antarctica: TERRA NOVA BAY and DOME C (with France). Authorizing authority: Programma Nazionale di Ricerche in Antartide - PNRA
Chris Kretowicz, 12 May 2001