Italy at this time was not one country, but several. The southern half was dominated by the Bourbon Kingdom of Naples, whilst the north was split between the Venetian Republic to the east, and the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, the Republic of Genoa and the Kingdom of Sardinia to the north, as well as various smaller polities. In the middle, based of course on Rome, were the Papal States.
The Papal States were ruled spiritually, and practically, by the Pope. From 1740 to 1758 this was Benedict XIV, who had improved state finances after decades of maladministration, but cut the military budget. In 1758 he was succeeded by Clemens XIII. The main preoccupation during his reign was the fate of the Jesuits, following a lot of pressure, especially from France, or at least the French Parliament if not the king, to suppress them, which Clemens XIII resisted.
The main port of the Papal States at this time was Civita Vecchia on the west coast, the base of the Papal fleet. There was also Fiumicino, and Ancona on the eastern seaboard. All of these were dwarfed by Leghorne, a thriving international port and part of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, on the coast above Civita Vecchia. In addition, the Pope had a very close relationship with the Knights Hospitaller on Malta, and could request military help from them if needed. The head of the Marine Commissary, Pasquale Acquaviva d’Aragona, a Neapolitan with a career in the Church, was a member of the Order of Malta.
Civita Vecchia in 1750The Papal fleet at this time consisted mainly of galleys, and convicts were still sent to row them in the 1750s. In April 1754 these were supplemented by two 30 gun sailing frigates, built in London and named the San Paolo (St Paul) and San Pietro (St Peter). The San Paolo was commanded by Chevalier di Pollastron, and the San Pietro by Chevalier di Caros. Di Pollastron was actually a member of the Order of Malta, and many of the ships officers were supplied from Malta. When di Pollastron was promoted within that Order in 1757, the Pope requested the Grand Master, Manuel Pinto da Fonseca, from Portugal, to recommend a replacement.
The 1750s were a busy time for the Papal Navy, as described in my next post.