By Richard Campbell
Dubbed the most beautiful ship in the world by Americans aboard an aircraft carrier who encountered it in 1962, it would be hard to imagine a more beautiful ship, or hospitable crew than The Amerigo Vespucci. Built in Castellammare di Stabia, it was originally launched in February 1931, and represents the best of the Italian Navy as a seaman training ship. It most assuredly retains its original luster. From Tuesday to Saturday morning the ship will be in port at the World Trade Center dock, and free tours are schedule in the evenings between 4:00pm and 6:00pm. South Boston Online was there to see the ship hosting dignitaries, as well as the arrival of the first group of visitors.
Under the command of Captain Angelo Patruno since October 2016, you may rest assured from his extensive history of training in the Naval Academy through a series of rigorous maritime and scientific studies, as well as multiple commands of other naval vessels- that the ship is in good hands. When they say engineering marvel they have this ship in mind. After a two-year overhaul in preparation for its relaunch in its 85th year, the ships exterior and its machinery were given extensive upgrades from a highly efficient eco-friendly engine, to new propulsion system, and new high tech designed propeller, and advanced security systems. To give you an idea of what kind of power must be needed to drive this ship, it’s displacement is 4,200 tons, and its sails are 2,650 square meters. We aren’t merely talking beautiful, but big and technologically advanced. The highest point of the ships tallest mast is 54 meters, and watching guys climb it will give you goose bumps.
For Bostonians walking around the ship gazing at its spotless gleaming surfaces, large rope works, life boats and presentation vessels, carefully planned quarters, multiple wheel houses, and with its inordinately polite, well-dressed crew; they might get the impression that the Amerigo Vespucci is merely a traveling show boat of sorts. But if they saw the training manuals and the tests the midshipmen and veteran sailors had to pass at the Naval Academy to run the beast; they would quickly come to an understanding that running a ship like this is every bit as technically advanced as modern day war ships. I stopped counting the boats that were festooned around the deck, but for the record they include: 2 speedboats, 2 motorboats, 2 launches, 4 skiffs, 1 whaler. The crew of was verbally told to me as about 400 including, officers, senior enlisted, Naval Academy staff, and Naval Academy cadets. In the past 85 years the vast majority of the Italian Naval officers have trained on this ship- as the Italian Navy places heavy value on knowing how to navigate the ocean without having to always rely upon the latest technical devices.
It was most interesting to watch all hands on deck preparing for the arrival of the Ambassador of Italy to the United States, his excellency Armando Varricchio, and General Counsel of Italy in Boston Nicola De Santis. Upon the arrival of the dignitaries and the eloquent speeches, I was beginning to understand the need of the crew to impress. As ambassadors to their country, from the captain to the crew, these are people who are not merely nice, but supremely polished. The patience and time they took with all the crew, the press, and the public showed they possess enviable diplomatic skills. When in the rare case that someone did not speak English as well as Italian, they provided the most gifted translators, the sailors were as meticulous in their dress and comportment. This is one of those once in a lifetime experiences. Magnifico is the only word that sums this ship and its crew. If you are in South Boston this weekend, get on down to the harbor!