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100 years of Italian Air Force - The protagonists

The city and the surrounding area have given a lot in terms of personality and ingenuity to Italian aviation.


Carlo Del Prete, Enrico Squaglia and Vincenzo Lunardi, the symbolic faces of the sky over Lucca.


Vincenzo Lunardi, Enrico Squaglia and Carlo Del Prete, alongside a contemporary pilot, and aircraft from different historical periods, best represent the spirit of this great event, in a particular period of the year, which for our community means above all the rediscovery of their history, roots and traditions, a special occasion to retrace the history of aeronautics and the stories of many of our fellow citizens, who were able to reduce the distance between countries and continents using the airplane.


Vincenzo Lunardi

vincenzo lunardi on his balloon


(Lucca, 11 January 1754 - Lisbon, 1 August 1806) was an inventor, Italian officer and pioneer of aeronautics. Engineer officer in the army of the Kingdom of Naples, he was appointed secretary of the ambassador of the Kingdom of Naples in England. The echo of the ascents of the Montgolfier Brothers, who in 1783 managed to raise the first heated air balloon, prompted Lunardi to design a gas balloon with better ascensional capacity and greater autonomy.
The following year, on 15 September 1784, using a balloon inflated with hydrogen, Lunardi made the first ascent in England, in Chelsea (London), in the presence of the English Court. The balloon had a diameter of 33 feet (about 10 meters) and was equipped with two light blades by means of which Lunardi intended to regulate the ascent, but which proved useless in practice. After a flight of 2 hours and 15 minutes, Lunardi landed in Ware, a town in Hertfordshire. The following inscription was placed on the site of Lunardi's landing: "May posterity know, and therefore be amazed, that on September 15, 1784, Vincenzo Lunardi of Lucca, Tuscany, the first air traveler to Great Britain, rose from London's Artillery Ground and traversed the Winds Region for two hours and fifteen minutes. On this rough monument will forever be remembered that admirable feat, successfully accomplished by the powers of chemistry and the courage of man... for eternal glory".


Carlo del Prete

Carlo del Prete the local aviator


Lucca 21 August 1897, Rio de Janeiro 16 August 1928
After classical studies at the "Machiavelli" gymnasium-high school, at the age of fifteen he embarked on a military career by enrolling in the Royal Naval Academy of Livorno. He first participated in some operations of the Italo-Turkish war of 1911 for Libya, then in the Great War where he operated in the Adriatic Sea both on battleships and on submarines. His passion for flying started during the war when he was assigned as an observer to the 1st Seaplane Squadron in Venice.

At the end of the war, he obtained a seaplane pilot's license and graduated in mechanical and electrical engineering in Milan. The Regia Aeronautica was recently established and Carlo decided to join in, becoming commander of the Sesto Calende seaplane base.

His skills as a pilot and as a great organizer were noticed by  General Francesco De Pinedo who involved him in his exploits. In 1927 he was a navigator and second pilot in the extraordinary transatlantic flight of the two Americas. From February to June of that year, De Pinedo and del Prete, together with the engineer Vitale Zacchetti, traveled 43,820 kilometres, touching Africa, South and North America, aboard the S55 "Santa Maria" seaplane, in memory of the voyage of Christopher Columbus. The raid was welcomed by the populations of the countries touched in a triumphal way just as his return to Rome and his welcome in Lucca where, although he didn't like celebrity, he had to speak in front of a huge crowd from Palazzo Ducale.
His popularity increased again the following year: together with Arturo Ferrarin he won the world record for endurance and distance in a closed circuit aboard the S64 monoplane. It was the morning of May 31, 1928 when the pair of aviators began to travel the circuit between Torre Flavia and the lighthouse at Anzio 51 times. When they land on June 2, they have covered 7,666.616 km in a time of 58 hours and 37 minutes. A feat that is preparatory to another even more sensational and full of dangers: that of arriving in Brazil with a direct flight, non-stop. Ferrarin and del Prete departed from Monte Celio (Rome) aboard the usual S64 modified and improved for the occasion on 3 July 1928 and landed non-stop on a beach near Port Natal on the following 5th: they covered 7,450 km in 44 hours and 9 minutes at an average speed of 168 km/h. But history preserved a tragic fate for him: on 8 July, during a transfer flight aboard an S62, a wing of the aircraft broke, falling into the water and the aircraft fell into the water. Ferrarin had not particularly serious injuries and traumas, del Prete both legs fractured. Amputation of the right hand was necessary, but the operation was not enough to stop the infection: on August 16 of that year he died in Rio de Janeiro.


Enrico Squaglia

Enrico Squaglia aviator from lucca


Lucca 10 February 1902, Azores 8 August 1933
In 1923 he entered the Regia Aeronautica after a long apprenticeship and with the "proud of belonging to the tenacious people of Lucca, who are known for the most difficult paths in the world", as he telegraphed once he arrived in America. He died on the long return journey from the US to the Azores Islands. Squaglia's body returned on 20 August 1933 by ship to Porto Santo Stefano, the Misericordia of Lucca carried out the transport to the city, in the church of San Francesco. On the 21st of August Squaglia passed for the last time in Lucca on a cannon carriage and wrapped in the national flag in the midst of people: all the Atlantics were present, Balbo on top. Squaglia is now Gold Medal for Aeronautical Valour. A city street is dedicated to him and initially the Tassignano airport was named after him.



Giovan Battista Pittaluga

Giovan Battista Pittaluga


Lucca 21 June 1893 - Bolzano 26 February 1918. Called "Joyful of joy" by d'Annunzio, he was the protagonist of sensational missions including the bombing of the Austrian base of Cattaro (together with the poet-soldier d'Annunzio) after a journey of 900 km in the open sea. Pittaluga died in February 1918 during a bombing mission in South Tyrol. His remains are kept in the city's Monumental Cemetery.

Pietro Massoni

Pietro Massoni


Massa 12 April 1896- Bagni di Lucca 3 July 1957. He was among the seven pilots who, with d'Annunzio, were protagonists of the Flight over Vienna on 9 August 1918. On board Ansaldo SVA aircraft they reached the Austrian capital, flooding it with tricolor leaflets to return back to base after a flight of 1100 km, 900 of which in enemy territory. Massoni was born in a noble family from Lucca in 1896, during the Great War he obtained the pilot's license and was first assigned to reconnaissance and then to hunting, to the 87th Squadron "La Serenissima". He boasts three silver medals for military valor.


Fortunato Federigi

Fortunato Federigi


Seravezza January 22, 1901- Mediterranean sky July 4, 1941. He entered aviation in 1924, after having participated in d'Annunzio's feat in Fiume, from 1928 he dealed with civil airlines where he collected a million and a half kilometers flown around for the world. He was the protagonist in the war in Spain alongside Ettore Muti and always alongside him, in the Second World War, in October 1940 he was the protagonist of the longest bombing mission of the conflict (4300 km) arriving to hit the British refineries of Bahrain. He died in 1941 in command of an aircraft that had civilian insignia: he was transporting medicines to Greece, but was shot down by the British near the island of Amorgos. The section of the Air Force in Lucca is named after him.

Mario Ingrellini

Mario Ingrellini


Lucca April 21, 1915-June 14, 1942. At the age of 20 he left the university due to the call to fly. He was employed with bombers and first collected a bronze medal, then two silver ones. In 1942 he switched to the torpedo bomber specialty, one of the most selective and risky: in that year, during one of the bloodiest air-naval battles in the Mediterranean, he and his crew mates died aboard an S79. Ingrellini wedged his aircraft towards an enemy aircraft carrier, and although riddled with bullets he managed to release the torpedo, then, conspicuously doomed, headed with the aircraft towards another ship into which he decided to crash.
A city street and the local section of retired officers are dedicated to him.

Ranieri (Samuele) Cupini

Raniero Cupini


Lucca 3 March 1904-Rome 11 May 1983. In his very long career he held the highest command ranks. He entered the Academy in 1923 and did his first flight on an airship. Appointed military pilot in 1927, he took part in the transatlantic flight with Captain Attilio Biseo's aircraft. In 1937 he accomplished yet another extraordinary feat by winning the Istres-Damascus-Paris air race where three Italian S79s finished in the first three places. He participated in the war in Spain, in the Second World War, in which he directed numerous air squadrons. With the armistice, he refused to collaborate with the Germans and was interned in a Polish concentration camp in very harsh conditions until the end of the war. After the war he was first general of the Air Division and then of the Area Squad, also holding positions in NATO. He died in 1983 and although he loved Lucca, he asked to be buried in Orbetello together with the other Atlantics and the commander Balbo.






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