The Italian Job part 3: The Legend of Baglietto

From my earlier blog story, ‘The Call of the Clyde’, I found that, unsurprisingly, the University at the turn of the 20th century boasted a wealth of talent in the Naval Engineering world. From my detective work at the archive looking into the University’s Italian connections, I found one student who deserves more particular attention, Vincenzo Vittorio Baglietto.

Resisting the temptation to Google his name straight away, I began at the beginning – the archive materials:

Baglietto, Students of Engineering & Naval Architecture photo 1919-1920

Baglietto, Students of Engineering & Naval Architecture photo 1913-1914 (ACCN173/11/7/1a)

After matriculating in 1911 to study Naval Architecture, Baglietto went on to take a whole range of classes in Engineering and the Sciences.

In 1915 he vanished from the class list. As was common at the time, First World War service interrupted many students’ course of study, including that of Baglietto who appears to have joined the Italian Air Force.

JA de Zencovich, Engineering & Naval Architecture Students 1919-20

He returned again to the University after the War in 1918, and appears in the ‘senior students of Engineering and Naval Architecture session 1919-1920’ photo along with fellow Italian, Joseph Andrew de Zencovich. Eventually Baglietto graduated BSc in Naval Engineering in 1921, and then returned to his birthplace of Varazze in Italy to work for a local shipyard.

After exhausting the paper trail in the archive, I thought I’d give Google a shot. I had a sudden jolt of excitement as hundreds of results returned with ‘Baglietto Yachts for Sale’, ‘Super-yachts’ to be more exact. Being completely foreign to the boating world I was unaware that the Baglietto name was to yachts what Rolls-Royce is to cars. Synonymous with speed, design and luxury, Baglietto is practically a household name in the story of pleasure boats.

The Baglietto Cantiere was originally built by Vincenzo’s father Pietro Baglietto in 1854. He transformed what was a vegetable garden on the shore of Varazze into a thriving yacht business. By 1890 Pietro was being commissioned to build boats for the famous Italian poet Gabrielle D’Annunzio and even Pope Leo XIII. By the time of his death in 1911 Pietro Baglietto had placed his firm at the forefront of the pleasure boat industry in Italy.

Vincenzo and his brothers took over the business after his father’s death. Perhaps it was the loss of his father that persuaded Vincenzo to study at the University, which was at the forefront of naval architecture. He remained an active partner in the firm whilst he was still in Glasgow, designing vessels before even graduating.  After completing his studies he returned to Varazze leading his family’s company to even greater success. In 1929 he built ‘La Spina’, the first Italian 12 metre yacht.

Source: Baglietto Archive

Source: Baglietto Archive

During the First and Second World Wars the Cantiere was also heavily involved in supplying the Italian Navy with military vessels. Vincenzo designed anti-submarine motor boats (MAS), which were built with a step hull. The MAS were used throughout the world even by the Japanese, Finnish, French and Swedish Navies.

His attentions quickly returned however to building leisure boats, pioneering new technology and competing in International yacht races throughout the 1950s and 60s. Vincenzo Baglietto sadly died in 1978 but his family name and yachting prowess lives on.

It was so rewarding tracing Vincenzo Baglietto’s story and knowing that his time at the University of Glasgow was doubtless an integral part of his continued success in his career.

By Olivia Tolaini, MA History





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