Amerigo Vespucci. The most beautiful ship in the world

Pride of the Italian Navy, it is an ante-litteram example of Made in Italy intended as technical excellence and timeless beauty. It can be visited from time to time: here's where and how

Livorno is the city of cacciucco (a traditional fish recipe), of artist Amedeo Modigliani and a kaleidoscopic port teeming with different cultures. Drenched in history, the city strong sense of pride has shaped the thoughts of famous personalities such as Giovanni Fattori and Pietro Mascagni; who’s name and legacy will be ever present on a city terrace overlooking the Tyrrhenian waters. Livorno is definitely unique also because its removed from the main Tuscan tourist routes and cannot even be considered an entertainment capital, where nearby Versilia is the master. At the same times, Livorno is also making itself known, albeit some difficulties, for its characteristic canals in the centre (called Fossi by the locals), for the precious vineyards from Bolgheri where some excellent Super Tuscans are born and for some pleasurable seaside destinations. Some of them can awake glories from the past and if the name Castiglioncello doesn’t tell you anything, it would be wise to look it up before visiting.

All of this said, there is one thing that makes Livorno world famous: the Amerigo Vespucci. This vessel belonging to the local Naval Academy, is often referred to as "the most beautiful ship in the world". The Vespucci, with its characteristic two-tone hull with white and blue stripes, is of course Livorno’s pride and the city celebrates its every return to port. Vespucci represents Italian excellence beyond its appearance: It is an example of the mastery from Italian shipyards encompassing aesthetic taste, technical excellence and Italy’s century old maritime traditions. 

For most months of the year, the Amerigo Vespucci is far from Livorno as its role is still that of a training ship for the Academy's official students. It does return home every winter for maintenance and when the vessel is docked at Livorno’s port, it is indeed possible to hop on board as visits are open to the public.

This is a unique opportunity to discover the beauty of this one-of-a-kind motor sailing ship built between 1930 and 1931 in the shipyards of Castellammare di Stabia (near Naples) and currently ranking as the oldest boat of the Italian Navy. Standing 101 meters long and 21 meters wide, the Vespucci was designed by engineer Francesco Rotundi, Lieutenant Colonel of the naval engineers and Director of the Royal shipyards that took care of the construction. The ship, which was inaugurated on 22nd February 1931 has three vertical masts: foremast, main and mizzen. All are equipped with flagpoles and square sails while the bowsprit, protruding at the bow end, is as usual tilted forward. The gilded bronze figurehead depicts Amerigo Vespucci while the other arabesques on bow and stern are made of wood covered in pure gold leaves. The ship has a tonnage of about 4,000 tons; it can reach a maximum motor speed of 10 knots (16 knots sailing) and accommodate up to 270 crew members. The ship's motto, assigned in 1978, is "Not who begins but who perseveres". The phrase is attributed to Leonardo da Vinci.

On top of serving as a training vessel for the Naval Academy, the Vespucci is a world famous symbol of Italy with prestigious appearances in numerous international events. Not surprising, when sailing in the Mediterranean in 1962, the Vespucci encountered the aircraft carrier USS Independence and what follows, is the flashing light message exchanged between the two legendary vessels. ISS Independence: "Who are you?" Amerigo Vespucci: "Training ship Amerigo Vespucci, Italian Navy" ISS Independence: "You are the most beautiful ship in the world". And so be it.

ISS Independence: “Chi siete?”

Amerigo Vespucci: “Nave scuola Amerigo Vespucci, Marina Militare Italiana”

ISS Independence: “Siete la nave più bella del mondo”. 

E così sia.

Francesco Barontini

Raised with bread and engines by my engineer dad, I soon discovered true love for the four wheels and turned passion into a profession. I’ve been a journalist since 2003 and I love to travel both in Italy or towards exotic destinations, preferbly on the road