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"Most Beautiful Ship In The World" - Touring the Amerigo Vespucci

"Most Beautiful Ship In The World" - Touring the Amerigo Vespucci

Old Jul 9th, 2024, 10:36 AM
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"Most Beautiful Ship In The World" - Touring the Amerigo Vespucci

On July 4th, Tracy and I were lucky enough celebrate the Red, White & Green when we took a tour of the famed Italian Navy Tall Ship, Amerigo Vespucci. San Pedro was its only stop in the continental United States on its worldwide, 20-month tour. First setting sail in 1931, this ship has been dubbed “The Most Beautiful Ship in the World.” First we’d hit the Italian Village that was set up, have a lunch from Eataly, watch a very cool and colorful air show from an Italian Air Force aerobatic team and finally tour the ship. It turned out to be a fun way to spend the 4th. Next stop for the Amerigo Vespucci: Honolulu. Be there ... Aloha!
Link with photos below ... you know the rest.


Thanks to a heads-up from my friend Denny who lives in Canada, on America’s 248th birthday, Tracy and I took a tour of a famed Italian sailing vessel bearing the moniker of the Florentine explorer for whom America was named. So, while most of Southern California was celebrating the red, white and blue, we were celebrating the red, white and green.

Called by many “the world’s most beautiful ship,” the Italian Navy tall ship Amerigo Vespucci set sail from Genoa, Italy, for a nearly two year, round-the-world voyage on July 1, 2023. A little more than a year later she arrived at the Port of Los Angeles, where for six days tours of the historic sailing ship, which also serves as a training vessel for the Italian Navy, were available. (photo courtesy Los Angeles Maritime Museum … a place you should visit … and I should revisit)

The Amerigo Vespucci first hit the waters in February 1931. Resembling a 19th-century wooden warship, it carries 24 canvas sails. The permanent crew numbers at 270, and it can also accommodate up to 150 training cadets. On the current world tour, its first in 20 years, the Amerigo Vespucci will visit 31 Ports of Call, 28 countries and five continents. It arrived at the Port of Los Angeles on July 3.

Tracy and I had pre-booked a 4:20 tour of the ship online (free), however we arrived at Berth 46 a couple of hours early to visit “Villaggio Italy,” which we heard would “feature Italian cuisine, history, music, film and exhibitions.” We were also excited because at 4 p.m., the Frecce Tricolori, the Italian Air Force's National Aerobatic Team, was going to do a flyover of the Amerigo Vespucci.

Although we enjoyed our time onboard the ship and the air show, the entire experience was rather mixed. After about 1 20-minute walk from the parking area, we found it was I fortunate that we had pre-booked, because the line for those who had not was very, very long to get inside. It took only a few minutes to go through security, but that would be the last short line we’d encounter.

We walked through “Piazza Italia,” a square with pavilions featuring musical performances, exhibitions, films and food. Since we were hungry, we decided to eat lunch, scope out the exhibition and then get ready for our 4:20 time slot. Things did not go exactly as planned.

The line for the patio restaurant did not seem overly long, and there were plenty of empty tables, so we thought it would move quickly. After moving only a few feet in the first five minutes, a server came over and asked whether we were planning on ordering an alcoholic beverage (obviously, he didn’t know us). As he fitted us with a wristband, we asked how long the wait would be, and he replied 40 minutes. It was at this moment I wished I had brought a hat and lots of sunscreen, because it was hot, very, very hot, without any refuge for shade. Not having any other food options, we decided to stick it out.

Luckily, there was a nearby bar so Tracy and I ordered a glass of Trento DOC and a glass of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. As I stepped toward the bar, something happened to me that has never happened before … I met a man carrying a clarinet. He’d be on stage playing soon with the Carabinieri's Fanfara Cadet Team. Volare anyone?

Ten more minutes and the line had barely moved. The reason? Although you ordered your food before being seated, it was an incredibly slow process. By now there were lots of tables open and thankfully, they finally got someone in there who could do it faster, and after another 35 minutes we finally ordered and were seated.

We scored a table with an excellent view of the ship, which would be good for flyover photos. Once again we were in the sun, however (anything for a photo). Tracy ordered lasagne, while I went for the Bucatini Cacio y Pepe. The food, although tasty, was disappointing. Only our arancini appetizer was hot, and the bill was more than pricey.

At 4 p.m. sharp, we heard the sound of nine jets, and soon the Frecce Tricolori (Tricolor Arrows), the largest aerobatic team in the world, appeared on the horizon trailing red, green and white smoke.

The flyover was mesmerizing as they made three deafening passes over the area. I learned the smoke is “created by dispersion and consists of vaseline oil and environmentally friendly pigments. Smoke is released through a chimney located at the rear of the aircraft.”

Luckily we were able to get some nice photos …

Looking out at the ”most beautiful ship in the world,” I wondered how it got that moniker. Apparently in 1962, the American aircraft carrier USS Independence was in the Mediterranean Sea and flashed the Amerigo Vespucci with itd light signal asking: "Who are you?" The full-rigged ship answered: "Training ship Amerigo Vespucci, Italian Navy." The Independence replied: "You are the most beautiful ship in the world.” That would not be the only time. In 2022 the Amerigo Vespucci sailed by the American aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush, which also saluted the ship and commented: "You are still, after 60 years, the most beautiful ship in the world.”

Now it was time line up for the ship.

Unfortunately, the line stretched all the way to Naples. It seems timed tickets to this event were like stoplights in Rome, they’re only a suggestion. Everyone from 3:40 to 4:20 to 5:20 was in line, so to the back of an extraordinary long horseshoe line we walked.

It took a full hour until we boarded. One incredible thing about that line, however, was that everyone was jovial, talking to each other and nobody, and I mean nobody, tried to cut the line or became angry for the long wait. The other interesting fact was that we overheard many speaking Italian. Tracy had read that the Italian community had been encouraged to attend the weekend event, so between the local Italians and those visiting from Italy, we almost felt like we were on vacation in Italia.

As we neared the boarding area, we could see that the dock was bobbing up and down. It was then that the Italian Naval officers started taking bets on when I would take a tumble heading up to the ship. Looking at me as I not so deftly navigated the ramp to the ship, I thought I overheard one of the officers say, “Quello è il Gobbo di Notre Dame!” At least I had a hunch that’s what he said..

If he thought I looked like Quasimodo on the ramp, he must have really thought I resembled him when I climbed the steep, narrow stairs up to our first stop. Safely on board, Tracy and I, plus a few hundred of our new friends took part in the self-guided tour shuffling (carefully) toward the Aft Bridge.

One of three command locations aboard the Amerigo Vespucci, the Aft Bridge (also called Historic Wheelhouse) is used for sailing.

Four large wooden wheels guide the rudders, maneuvered manually.

When you sail on this ship, you literally have to know the ropes. La Pazienza (Patience) is the “circular wooden fitting made up of brass and wood parts and pulleys, which holds all the ship’s riggings, the ropes used for maneuvering the sails.” These ropes are made from hemp.

We wondered how the sailors could figure all these ropes out, but I guess that’s why it’s a training vessel.

I believe this is the bollard, used for mooring the ship.

We kept an eye out for anything unusual.

They only let you go so far as you head toward the bow.

The wind started up a little more, which felt good in the heat.

The Port of Los Angeles is the “busiest port in the United States by container volume, the 19th-busiest container port in the world, and the 10th-busiest worldwide when combined with the neighboring Port of Long Beach.”

I asked if I could scale the ship, but since I barely got up the stairs my request was denied.

It was at this juncture I was also asked why I was wearing a Christmas Hawaiian shirt. I told them I was from the Island of Misfit Passengers. I believe that was lost somewhere in translation.

We came upon the Vespucci bell.

This device tells you who is onboard the vessel, and who isn’t.

I think this might have been the Comandante talking to some VIPs.

After disembarking (I pleaded for with Tracy not to take anymore photos of me), we came upon a modern version of Michelangelo’s David (La David di Jago), reimagined as a woman.

One other Amerigo Vespucci fun fact: The ship carried the Olympic torch from Piraeus to Syracuse for the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome.

Our Italian Quattro Luglio (4th of July) had come to an end. Even with a pricey lunch and the long lines, it certainly was a unique and fun experience, especially since L.A. was the only port in the Continental USA to host the event. Hopefully, if any of you plan to see the ship when it hits Honolulu, Tokyo, Manila, along with other stops along the way, the lines won’t be as long. And remember, if they are, “Pazienza.”

maitaitom is online now  
Old Jul 11th, 2024, 01:50 PM
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Great story and so glad you got to board the Amerigo! I see it's heading over to Hawaii later in the month...thinking about going!
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Old Jul 12th, 2024, 12:25 PM
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"I see it's heading over to Hawaii later in the month...thinking about going!"

Even with the lines, it will be worth it. Hopefully, they'll be shorter in Honolul.
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Old Jul 12th, 2024, 01:56 PM
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We saw it from the San Pedro fishing pier and were curious what it was all about.
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Old Jul 12th, 2024, 02:22 PM
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These are truly very interesting to visit. We get tall ships passing our cottage fairly frequently on their way to Mystic Seaport ( usually for repairs). The Susan Constant, replica of one of the ships that brought the folks to the Jamestown colony, is there right now.

i am glad you enjoyed the tour even at the risk to your scalp. Thanks for the report.
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