Immigrant Ships


La Società di Navigazione LLOYD TRIESTINO aveva l'abitudine di realizzare sempre dei quadri ad olio che riproducessero le sue navi.Questa cartolina della Società, era stampata negli anni '30.

[Lloyd Triestino]

The Toscana photographed on one of its earlier departures from Pola, Istria after the February 10, 1947 Paris Peace Treaty. [Photo source: Unione degli Istriani]

  • Length: 146 m
  • Beam: 17,6 m
  • GRT: 9,429 tons
  • Built: 1924 AG Weser, Bremen, Germany
  • Operator: Lloyd Triestino
  • Speed: 12,5 kn
  • Passengers: 198
  • Sister ships (with original names): Coblenz, Fulda, Trier, Werra, Weser
  • Former name: Saarbrücken (1924-35)

SS Toscana was originally built as part of a series of new German ships known as the “Weser Class” of ships for Norddeutscher Lloyd, Bremen, Germany, who named her Saarbrücken in 1923, with a sister ship named Coblenz. Both ships were built with accommodations for 98 First Class and 142 Second Class passengers and went into service between Bremen and East Asia.

In 1934, however, Norddeutscher Lloyd built three new 18,000-ton liners to operate on the same service line that were capable of speeds of 21 knots, rather than the slow 12.5 knots of the older ships. Thus, the decision was made to sell the 12-year old liners. In August 1935 both ships were sold to the Italian government that placed them under the management of “Italia Flotte Riunite”. The S.S. Coblenz was renamed Sicilia and S.S. Saarbrücken became the Toscana. Both ships operated as troop transports for a year, and then were formally transferred in 1937 (or 1936?) to Lloyd Triestino Line who refitted them as migrant transport ships. The Toscana was then suited to accommodate some 2,000 passengers in the most austere conditions - some in cabins, but the vast majority berthed in dormitories located in the t’ween decks (holds), including where there once had been cargo space. The Toscana was placed on the Italy to South America service and later on the East and South Africa service.

In 1940, the Toscana and her sister were converted into Hospital ships and received an all-white livery. Although she still had the standard German profile and she now looked like an all white passenger cargo ship and amazingly, of the two sister ships, only the Toscana survived the conflict. She also was one of only a few of the Italian ships to survive World War II in one piece having been taken over by the Allied forces in September 1943 when Italian capitulated, but returned to the Italians in 1945. In 1947, she was handed over to Lloyd Triestino who then gave her a much-needed refitting.

The Toscana’s refit dramatically changed her internally as well as externally. Her hull was repainted black and her funnel was lengthened. She now offered accommodations for 136 passenger in Saloon Class and 690 in Third Class, thus not as crowded as before. The Saloon Class offered mostly two and four berth cabins with attractive and comfortable lounges, bars and a spacious dinning room. The Third Class accomodations were more basic with six berth cabins and large dormitories down in the holds for the migrant trade. In addition, her lounges were more modest, but still pleasant. Upon completion, the Toscana she returned to service between Italy, Egypt and South Africa.

On its September 3, 1948 arrival to Durban, South Africa from a voyage that initiated in Venice, Italy, the ship was quarantined for a day outside Durban Harbour due to an outbreak of typhoid on board the ship. According to the September 4, 1948 issue of Natas Mercury, there had been four deaths and burials at sea on that trip, but only one of which was suspected to be due to typhoid, a young girl. Four members of the dead girl's family were put ashore at Mombasa as suspected typhoid sufferers. Meanwhile, of the more than 600 passengers aboard when the ship reached Durban, 16 were then suspected of suffering from typhoid and immediately taken to the City Feverl Hospital at Congella.

Among the passengers from fourteen European nations, excluding the United Kingdom, were 129 declared Italians and 89 from 14 other European nations, plus 11 passengers who were described as "Stateless," the term used for Istrian and other European refugees from World War II.

On October 19, 1948, the Toscana commenced a new career departing from Genoa on her first voyage to Australia, arriving in Melbourne on November 30, and Sydney on December 2. It was during this time that many Europeans refugees would come to Australia in Dormitory Class on various ships including the SS Toscana. Many came from Slovenia and other East European countries. One of these was a young girl named Anita, who wrote the following (see credits):

"I sailed to Australia on the liner SS Toscana. The voyage took around 42 days. My accommodation was in a top bunk in what was rather primitive dormitory catering for 100 women, whilst another dormitory catered for the men. Yet, there were cabins available for families of four or six. Sadly, I was left without any supervision, but I do remember that one of the crew paid me some extra attention, and he was getting far to close into my personal space. As a naïve teenager, I began to feel intimidated and uncomfortable. My instinct told me this was not normal, therefore I began to avoid him. Only years later did I become aware of dangers that I could have been exposed to, had I not followed my gut feelings.

The most memorable events on my trip were seeing for the first time all those black people in Port Said and travelling through Suez Canal, and then there were all those half-starved cows staring at us as the ship slowly passed by. To a naïve thirteen years old, all this was all very intriguing.”

In 1949, the Toscana was joined by two other Lloyd Triestino ships, the Sebastiano Cabato and Ugolino Vivaldi, and together the three ships maintained the Lloyd Triestino presence in Australia.

However, with its passenger ships industry thriving, Lloyd Triestino built three new passenger-cargo liners fitted with the finest modern facilities, including excellent Tourist Call public venues and accommodations. The ships were named the M.S. Australia, Neptunia and Oceania, and commenced service in 1951, thereby replacing the S.S. Sebastiano Cabato and Ugolino Vivaldi, whereas the S.S. Toscana was slated for yet another refiting in Italy.

The rapid refit that the Toscana received late in 1951 converted her to a Single Class liner with only 819 passengers, thus giving all her passengers access to the full ship and the opportunity to use to what had previously been the First/Cabin Class luxurious lounges, bars, spacious decks and dining room. Despite these changes, the Toscana continued to sail from Italy to Australia filled to capacity with migrants, but on her homeward voyages, she operated solely as a cargo ship with her six holds full of cargo and no passengers.

Toscana operated on her new schedules as a one-way passenger liner to Australia and an all cargo ship to Genoa until she was taken out of service late in 1961, and slated for demolition. She was sold to a local ship breaker in Genoa and arrived at their shipyard on February 21, 1962 where she was quickly broken up.

See also:

Questa pergamena venne donata all'equipaggio del Toscana, dopo l'ultimo viaggio da Pola.This parchment was donated to the crew of the Toscana after its last voyage from Pula / Pola in 1947. [Source: Aldo Cherini]

Istrians leaving Pula (Pola) during the mass exodus of 1947.
February 1, 1954 - Migrants on the Toscana. [Stamp on reverse reads: `Foto Roma Trieste Via Roma [?] 20. Tel.3483. No. 22 Serie.'. In the lower right corner is a black stamp that reads: `ICEM photograph no. 508.' Handwritten in ink in the upper right hand corner is the inscription: `TOSCANA from Trieste 2/1/54'. (ICEM = Intergovernmental Committee for European Migration). Source:]]

The Toscana on the date of departure from Trieste to Australia, April 27, 1954. This photograph taken by Guido Villa, an Istrian passenger on the stated voyage. © Guido Villa and (non-transferable).

Immigrant voyages to Australiaa
(departures from Trieste)

Arrival Dates

1948 January & November
1949 March, July & October
1950 January, May & September
1951 January, May & September
1952 January, June & September
1953 January
1954 February, June (or April 27?) & October
1955 January & June
1956 January, April & August
1957 January, June, September & December
1958 April, August & November
1959 March, June & October
1960 February, June & October

The photograph used for the Italian commemorative postage stamp of 6 Decembere 1997.

Above: Horvath and Patri families next to the Toscana 10.11.1958 departing for Australia.

© Charles Horvath
Museum Victoria, Immigration Museum Collection

Below: Karoly Horvath, Hungarian immigrant, on board the S.S."Toscana", 1958.


  • SS Toscana -
  • Voyages to Victoria - Passenger Lists, Shipping Lists: Melbourne, Victoria, Australia ('%Toscana%')+&P=1) and Gallery (
  • Parchment - Aldo Cherini
  • Text and additional photos -