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‘Mystery of time’ to grace Grand Harbour

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Book marks the 90-year-long journey of the Italian navy school ship Amerigo Vespucci, which is returning to Malta this week.

The hull of an unusual sailing ship slid down the slipway of the Castellamare di Stabia shipyard in the Gulf of Naples on February 22, 1931. The Amerigo Vespucci had entered maritime history as the Italian navy’s school ship.

Four years later, almost to the day, the world-renowned ship visited Malta for the first time on February 19, 1935. For four days, from tomorrow, August 26, this old-time vessel will, again, be gracing Grand Harbour.

Many who have boarded the Vespucci, in any capacity, in any condition or state, in any weather, at sea or at berth, as civilian or military, helmsman or motorman, officer or sailor, felt they had to write about their experience on board.

It is, therefore, no coincidence that the Italian navy prefers to have the vessel’s history recorded in black and white, as if to ensure nothing escapes memory by the passage of time.

Thus, over the past 20 years, the navy commissioned major Italian publishers to release books about the legendary training ship. These include Vespucci. The Most Beautiful Ship in the World, an illustrated book published by DeAgostini on the occasion of the ship’s 75th anniversary, and Nave Vespucci: The Mystery of Time that marks the 90th anniversary of the launch. The second voluminous book was published by Giunti only last November.

Both books were edited by Enrico Gurioli, an Italian journalist and writer on maritime issues and also an honorary consul of Malta in Emilia Romagna.

He will be making a presentation on his work on board the prestigious ship on Saturday, together with the Vespucci commander, Massimiliano Siragusa.

The author explains that, in the first book written in 2006, it was a matter of narrating a relationship inspired by his experience while sailing on the Vespucci.

“It was a representation of a universe in which to lose oneself and find oneself,” Gurioli says.

When writing the book, he will be talking about in Malta, the Italian journalist says he had to make a clear distinction in terms of reading between life on board the ship and writing about maritime affairs.

Nave Vespucci: The Mystery of Time, in fact, includes a portrayal, based on multiple sources, of chronicles during the ship’s 90-year-long voyage. The work, Gurioli says, required combining the experience of the publishing house with the expertise of the navy, even if it all had to be done in a few months and amid the pandemic.

He wanted to ensure that a book on the Vespucci captures the true substance of such an important Italian sailing ship, rather than his own views. Still, there was a complementary and parallel narrative, the result of a rigorous selection of iconographic material sourced from decades-long works by shipboard photographers and the archives of the Italian navy historical office.

Proud of his work, which he deems fundamental for one to learn about Mediterranean maritime history, Gurioli concludes: “In writing the book, I had to take into account the sea − a universe that almost never leaves any traces and does not like rhetoric − and the heart of the sailors of the Vespucci, made of ropes, sheet metal, wood, sails and brass, which kept beating uninterruptedly to the rhythm of ship rituals marked by the ticking of a metronome that cannot be seen but has been there for over 90 years.”






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