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There’s no port like home

It’s not hard to see why Capt. Paolo Giacomo Reale calls the Amerigo Vespucci “the most beautiful ship in the world”.

Launched in 1931, Italy’s tall ship floats proudly in the Grand Harbour, its octogenarian masts climbing defiantly into the sky above.

“She is like an old lady,” Capt. Reale says, explaining that every year the ship went into the shipyards for maintenance and repairs.

The ship is currently on a tour of the Mediterranean, which serves to train the midshipmen of the Italian Naval Academy, who spend 75 days at sea learning their way around the hundreds of ropes on board.

“The best seafaring formation is taught by sailing,” the captain says from the luxurious officer’s quarters.

“After a year of theory at the academy, they can meet nature, the sea, the wind, the rough sea – they get to learn more about themselves and their limits – and it’s good to know those when you’re 53 metres up a mast,” the captain says.

Of the 400 people on board, 111 are students – and 22 of the latter, the captain is keen to point out, are women.

The tour will take all on board to Haifa, Limassol, Istanbul, Odessa, Sevastopol, Athens and back to Livorno.

With all these ports, what is the most beautiful harbour the captain has visited?

“For every sailor, I think the best port is ‘home sweet home’,” Capt. Reale said.

The ship is also a Unicef ambassador, with its port calls also taking on a humanitarian dimension.

True to form, yesterday the ship hosted the launch of a Mediterranean regatta and seminar to be held in Malta, called Handy Cup, aimed at bringing together 200 young people with a disability from the Mediterranean to race against each other and participate in seminars focused on disability issues.

The event will be held through September 9 to 11, and is being organised by Handy Cup, Inspire with the help of the Italian Embassy in Malta, and the Education Ministry.

The ship will be open to the public from 10 a.m. till noon.

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