Happy birthday Amerigo Vespucci, Italian icon

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The year was 1962, and the Amerigo Vespucci was reportedly crossing not far from the American aircraft carrier Independence. The American unit contacted the Italian unit by radio and asked, “who are you?” “School ship Amerigo Vespucci, Italian Navy,” was the reply. This was followed by three siren blasts from the Independence and a phrase over the radio, “You are the most beautiful ship in the world.”

We do not know if every passage in this tale corresponds to truth or where the legend begins, but what we do know for sure is that the Amerigo Vespucci will be 90 years old this 2021. In fact, the launching of what is regarded as one of our Navy’s most famous training ships took place in 1931, the design was by engineer Francesco Rotundi, and it went into the water at the Royal Shipyards in Castellamare di Stabia. The first of the 122 commanders who sailed her deck was Augusto Radicati of Marmorito, and from the earliest miles of her history the Vespucci, sister ship of the Christopher Columbus, was employed as a training ship for trainees, a task she still performs today that she is the oldest ship in operation for the Navy.

There are so many anecdotes about the Vespucci, especially during the period between 1964 and 1965 when she was under the command of legend Agostino Straulino. The Commander, a two-time Olympic medalist in the Star class, showed the whole world how the Vespucci could maneuver great under sail. He performed a spectacular exit from Taranto harbor, later achieving a ship speed record of over 14 knots, and even sailing up the Thames under the astonished eyes of the British navy.

The ship’s missions also included many representative voyages as an ambassador of the Italian Navy to the world, such as being in Auckland in 2002 for the America’s Cup. Today, the commander of the Amerigo Vespucci is Gianfranco Bacchi who is tasked with carrying on the history of this Italian icon.

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