Mine laying was one of the most widespread forms of warfare in the Mediterranean: all belligerents laid both defensive and offensive minefields.
The Regia Marina participated in this form of warfare, laying fields both in coastal waters and to protect naval sea lanes, such as in the Sicilian Channel.
Most mine laying was carried out by warships (cruisers and destroyers): almost all Italian ships were fitted with tracks for these weapons. However, this task was also performed by specifically assigned ships, i.e. minelayers, transport ships and even some tankers.
The ferry Andrea Sgarallino, originally assigned to the Piombino – Elba route
A valuable support was provided by the units requisitioned in the Merchant Marine: some auxiliary cruisers (Adriatico, Barletta, Brindisi, Brioni, etc.), coastal minesweepers (Andrea Sgarallino and Elbano Gasperi) and, above all, some Ferrovie dello Stato (Italian Railways) ferries were assigned this mission.
The latter type of ship (Scilla, Cariddi, Villa, Reggio, Aspromonte) were considered particularly suited to the task, because they exhibited one of the peculiar features of mine laying ships, i.e. a deck that could be totally taken up by mines. Their drawback, being small and with little draft, was that their sea-keeping capabilities were poor.
The requisitioned ships served as minelayers especially during the first week of the war, laying coastal fields, and then returned to their most specific functions: the ferries returned to their duty in the Stretto di Messina and the other units were shifted to escort or coastal patrol service.
Translated from Italian by Sebastian De Angelis