For part 3 and 4 of Cruise Ship Interiors through the Decades, we’ll be taking a look at Italian Line Michelangelo and Raffaello, two Italian-designed-and-built mid-1960’s ships with no expense spared on the aesthetics.

To give each of these amazing photos the space to stand out, we’ve made Cruise Ship Interiors through the Decades a multi-part piece. If you missed part 1 or part 2, take a look at the interiors of TSS Awatea and P&O Orcades, and Hurtigruten Finnmarken and P&O Oriana.

As Michelangelo and Raffaello were designed as cruise ‘liners’ for the transatlantic crossing, both ships were split into First Class, Cabin Class, and Tourist Class. As we’ll see in comparisons below however, Cabin and Tourist Class didn’t suffer from less design consideration.


In the early-to-mid 1960’s, Italian Line commissioned two of the biggest ships to be built in Italy since 1932 – Michelangelo and her sister ship Raffaello. The ships were instantly recognisable due to their trellis-like funnels, designed by Turin Polytechnic. The design allowed wind to pass through, and the large smoke deflectors atop them ensured almost all smoke from the funnels was directed away from the decks.

The interiors of both ships were decorated with art and sculptures from famous contemporary artists, and interior areas were designed by famous Italian architects.

On board Michelangelo, the interior spaces were designed by architects with a history of naval design, resulting in a more classical style of ship interior – namely, Vincenzo Monaco, Nino Zoncada, and Amedeo Luccichenti, who had previously worked on Leonardo da Vinci for Italian Line.

The above two images show the ballrooms in first class (left) and cabin class (right). The first-class ballroom is grand, sophisticated, and designed in an interesting melding of classic art-deco and Italian mid-century modernism. The large chandelier (of which there are multiple) in particular is in the art-deco style, whereas the furniture is firmly in the 60’s style, likely inspired by famous Italian designers of the time such as Marco Zanuso. The decorative wall coverings are wool tapestries by Nino Zoncada, reminiscent of William Morris textiles, tying up an interesting mix of styles! The first-class ballroom was large, covering the entire width of the ship.

The cabin-class ballroom doesn’t hold back on the design front, with similar (if slightly less grand in the colour choice) armchairs in the ‘bucket’ style popular of the time. The lighting of the cabin-class ballroom looks as if it has drawn inspiration from the sea, with a tentacle-like arrangement in the ceiling lights. The artworks in this image are enamel-coated iron designs by Romano Rui.

The first and cabin-class verandas are very similar in design, with the same furniture, flooring, and lighting in each. The shell-shaped armchairs, made popular in the 50’s by designers such as Eames and Saarinen, are here designed by Nino Zoncada in strong primary colours, setting a relaxed and informal atmosphere for Michelangelo’s veranda.

It is worth noting here that both Michelangelo and Raffaello were ahead of their time when it came to safety requirements, and that all the furniture on board was fitted with fire-resistant materials.

The above image shows the first class dining room – a grand dining affair if you’ve ever seen one. Containing more Zanuso-inspired furniture likely designed by Nino Zoncada, the first class restaurant extended across the entire width of the ship.

The Suite (first image) shows an interesting choice of colours, mixing luxury with playfulness. The thick carpet and solid furniture bring a sense of luxury to the suite.

The first class room and stateroom here (second and third image) bring a mid-century classic to Michelangelo with the formica sideboards. The soft furnishings are simple with clean lines – most likely designed to be light, durable, and comfortable, as is required on board.

Michelangelo is undoubtedly a fine example of a transatlantic cruise liner, mixing styles and influences with aplomb. Her sister ship Raffaello was planned to be identical – however, a choice of designers with no previous naval experience led to completely different interiors – check them out in the next part…