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Amerigo Vespucci Italian Ship in the USA on July 4th

There’s been a lot of hubbub over the past couple weeks (at least it seems from the relentless number of ads I’ve been seeing on social media) about the Italian training ship “Amerigo Vespucci” visiting Los Angeles. Having sails and being tall, it’s in the “tall ship” category and was built in 1930. Part of the historic lore is that a U.S. aircraft carrier signaled to it in the Mediterranean in 1962 “Who are you?” The ship responded “Training ship Amerigo Vespucci, Italian Navy.” The aircraft carrier signaled back “You are the most beautiful ship in the world.” So that description is now a big part of the billing in all of the social media publicity.

Currently, as part of a unique world tour, spanning from July 2023 to Feb. 2025, the Amerigo Vespucci is visiting 28 countries on 5 continents. With it being in the Port of Los Angeles right now, I visited on our Independence Day, July 4.

Amerigo Vespucci Italian Navy ship docked at the Port of Los Angeles - photo by KilmerMedia

This isn’t just a “visit the ship” event. Next to it is a “Italian village” that features several temporary buildings and performance spaces. I'll detail what's what later.

Leading up to this event, it didn’t take long to discover the official website sucks. The great care, passion, and thought Italians put into some of their designs doesn’t apply there. Switching the language from Italian to English only works on the homepage… The schedule of events differs from other sites, such as the Port of L.A… One of the parking lots listed is at an intersection that doesn’t exist… People on Instagram have complained about not being able to reserve tickets, due to captcha issues or never receiving the confirmation email. I’m a little more forgiving about complicated tech issues but not incorrect info on an official page.

Thankfully, I had no problem making a reservation for this free event. Although tickets for touring the ship were snatched up quickly, many hundreds have remained available each day for general admission to the village area. We reserved ours last night, figuring an Italian experience on the 4th of July holiday might be the best bet to avoid the crowds. Plus, I really wanted to see the Italian Air Force’s “Frecce Tricolori” squadron... One source said those jets would be flying over today; the official website had other days listed instead.

Our reservation was for 2 PM. I figured that would give us time to have a look around, see the military band perform from 3-4, hopefully watch a flyover at 4, then see what the aperitivo bar opening at 5 is all about.

Once we were in the village, our rough plans quickly changed: at 2:20, we were hungry and parched, so the first thing we did was get in the long line for the Eataly restaurant. The wait was about 45 minutes. At what I thought was the host station, instead you place your whole order there, then get seated and wait for your food and drinks to be served.

We were warned ahead of time that the kitchen was backed up, and it took maybe another 45 minutes for our pizza and tiramisu to be served. The pizza was bland and cold, and the tiramisu didn’t contain any “lady fingers” cookies, contrary to the standard recipe and description on the menu.

Italian cuisine: Margherita pizza, red wine, and tiramisu - photo by KilmerMedia

We very rarely complain at restaurants but, at $23/$16 respectively, we tracked down a manager. He was understanding and helpful, although the replacement tiramisu was no different.

Eataly Italian Restaurant menu at an event in Los Angeles - photo by KilmerMedia

The military band started late and played through their song list until there was a pause at 4 PM.

Carabinieri military band from Rome performing at the Port of L.A. - photo by KilmerMedia

Suddenly, the energy of the crowd shifted, and people began rushing over to the edge of the ship berth, to get a better view of the open ocean. "I see them over there," one person said. "Where? Where?" someone asked.

A minute later, the Italian Air Force jets could certainly be seen in formation, flying this way from way out over the Pacific.

Soon enough, the nine jets were screaming by overhead, with three each trailing green, white, and red smoke - colors of the Italian flag. “Well, that’s it,” I thought, until they circled back around for another low pass… and again… and again!

Frecce Tricolori Italian Air Force jets flying in formation with colors of the Italy flag being shown in smoke trails - photo by KilmerMedia

Finally, they flew off, until the aircraft looked like dots gently gliding through the blue sky. The jets trailed smoke one more time, which made me wonder if they were making another appearance somewhere down the coast, as part of the fun festivities on our Independence Day.

From here, we explored the village… and “explored” is the right word, because there’s no indication what’s in the surrounding buildings. Here’s the key: the Expo Pavilion is a mini-museum showcasing the Italian design aesthetic of many consumer goods. The Open Stage features performances by the military band, Eataly cooking demonstrations, and evening movies. The Conference Hall has presentations and at least one concert. The Immersive Hall is a big building with a small public space inside, with an "immersive" projection room next to a photo gallery. My collection of Italy photos are like a drop in the sea, among all the beautiful shots people ever have taken there. Yet, since some of my work has been licensed for all kinds of uses (websites, magazines, TV shows, even a museum), I couldn't help but to see if one of my prints somehow ended up on the wall. Not this time, but while on the topic and as a quick aside, here are some of my favorites from vacation last year:

Other than the ship and the jets, what we also wanted to see is “La David di Jago”, which is a reimagined, female version of Michelangelo’s “David” sculpture. In person, the original in Florence is amazing, standing 17 ft. tall, and the look in his eyes is more intriguing than Mona Lisa’s smile. With that in mind, we were curious about this newer (bronze?) display.

In searching for it, one security guard had no idea what I was talking about. Two staff members, though, in their thick Italian accents, were able to guide us to a general area where the statute is displayed: “over by the ship”, they said.

“Over there”, we figured it would be protected from the sun and salty ocean breeze in an enclosed space. Nope, it’s outside, in the ticketed area next to where you board the boat. And this life-size work just doesn’t impress the way the larger-than-life David sculpture does.

La David di Jago reimagined version of Michangelo's David sculpture - photo by KilmerMedia

To wrap up, visiting a temporary Italian village was certainly a unique way to spend the 4th of July holiday here in the USA. By no means was it an amazing event, but we have an appreciation for it being something different and, if nothing else, it was free.


"Amerigo Vespucci Italian Ship in the USA on July 4th" (2024)

by Justin Kilmer

All images and media on this site are © by Justin J. Kilmer, unless otherwise noted.


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