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6 min.

The Tall Ships Festival in La Spezia

This weekend La Spezia is once again home to the Marineria, the ultimate maritime festival.

Last edition, in October 2013, was the Tall Ships festival, a pure history and magic festival and obviously, Ale and I could not miss the chance to step on the decks of these wonders …

Marineria 2013, ovvero vele sotto il diluvio

The Tall Ships are floating wonderlands

We left home with great enthusiasm, light clouds and mild temperatures, we were greeted by the provincial capital with a curtain of rain and air more than fizzy and halfway between the station and the harbor we have thought it best to invest in buying a mini umbrella for 3 €. Purchase made possible by the appearance of dozens of sellers of umbrellas that started popping up on every corner like on a computer screen. Surprising and somewhat surreal.

Once at the pier we started looking at the sea, dotted with trees of extraordinary dimensions… extraordinary to me that the day before was left speechless by visiting a sailing boat of 13 meters at the Boat Show in Genoa.

To be honest, we also got traumatized by the crowd of heads, umbrellas, strollers, poor dogs dragged into chaos and rain… in short, shock from the crowd.

And to make you understand what it took to cross the various stands and get close to the sailing ships, I’ll take a bit of time to tell you something about the history of the Tall Ships.

Do not complain, you won’t be shoved or splattered while reading 😉

A bit of history

The Tall Ships Races, or racing training missions of the Tall Ships, were established in ’56 thanks to the passion for sailing of Bernard Morgan who wanted the unofficial nineteenth century races to relive, when the sailing ships that carried tea from the East, the clippers, competed with each other to dock first in London and sell the cargo beating the competition. Morgan then decided to organize a race from Torbay to Lisbon, inviting fourteen sailing ship schools of various countries.

Marineria 2013, ovvero vele sotto il diluvio

Originally, the Tall Ship were only training ships, but since 1956 also smaller ships not necessarily owned by a Navy can take part in the regatta. The only condition is to have an obsolete sail plans or have a now abandoned configuration of masts and sails.

The wood preservation is so hard that often these sailing ships are not kept at sea (I read that great damage has also been caused during the various wars, when they recovered several pieces of ships for military construction…). For this reason, many of the boats are actually reproductions.

Tall Ships in La Spezia

Arriving on the central pier we started to admire more or less historical sailboats and then brigs, schooners, cutters, but also warships, caravels, ships at stake and many other variations. I started to get excited like a kid in a toy store and want to to get on all of them, something alas not possible… We nevertheless approached them to read information about each one, take pictures and fantasize as much as possible.

Marineria 2013, ovvero vele sotto il diluvio

My first love at first sight had been for a Spanish schooner Atyla that made me dream 🙂 but during this visit I had been so emotionally unstable that love at first sight have occurred fairly rapidly and several times… my favorite thou:

  • Adornate a two-masted schooner (a term I actually learned during the visit, because for me until then it was “only” a beautiful sailing ship!) with a Romanian flag
  • beautiful Royal Helena, a three-masted Bulgarian brigantine that makes you want to embark
  • the Grace, a two-masted brig on which you can actually embark!!! A sign offered to spend three days on board for € 650, sailing till Lisbon… I an’t stop wondering who took this unique opportunity
  • the impressive Alexander von Humboldt II, a three-masted emerald brigantine catalyzing all the looks
  • and how not to mention the Russian pirate ship, complete with a pirate with a bottle of vodka in hand 😉

Marineria 2013, ovvero vele sotto il diluvio

The first Tall Ship on which we got required a lot of waiting… ideal for a few words about the Marineria… it is a two year course festival dedicated to the sea, its history and traditions and everything that revolves around it, from boats of any kind to the biology and literature.

Marineria 2013, ovvero vele sotto il diluvio

The first edition in 2009 had been a sort of preview, then structured in 2011. The event lasts four intense days, providing regattas, meetings, shows, exhibitions and more. This year it reached the summit with the presence of the legendary Tall Ships and Italian singer Vinicio Capossela himself with his poetry in music!

But let us return to sailing ships… we started the actual visit from the most impressive, the Mir (which means peace…). A Russian training ship for cadets of no less than 109 meters. Truly impressive.

Marineria 2013, ovvero vele sotto il diluvio

Only the ropes at the base of the mats left me speechless. Actually I remained speechless also observing the lack of discipline of the cadets, but then I read that in recent years the ship is mainly used for day trips and private cruises and I got it better.

On the same pier was docked the Dutch Gulden Leeuw, a three-masted schooner (and this time I already knew the name!), originally planned to break the ice, then used to study marine biology and only recently turned into a training ship, but it also seems to round organizing events on board… the proof is the huge bar that takes up all the main deck.

Marineria 2013, ovvero vele sotto il diluvio

Marineria 2013, ovvero vele sotto il diluvio

From there we went to the beautiful and absolutely immaculate brig Palinuro. The Italian prestigious Schooner, launched in France for fishing and transportation of cod in the Grand Banks of Newfoundland. The Palinuro belongs to the Italian Navy since 1955 and since then is used for training the students of our NCOs schools.

A curiosity, at least for me… the term schooner indicates that the ship has three masts inclined towards the stern (starting from the bow: foremast armed with square sails, and mizzen to which is added the bowsprit, armed with cutting sails, for be precise – and with Ale that law must be – mainsails, topsails, bows and stays).

As those of the Vespucci, even the hull and the trees of Palinuro are steel riveted.

Going up on deck we could also visit the facia… I could already see me as main helmsman! I would have stayed in there for hours, but I had to abandon both the facia and the ship 🙁

Marineria 2013, ovvero vele sotto il diluvio

We would have climbed even on the Vespucci, of course, but they had already closed the queue. Anyway, we can make it every year on March 19th, at St. Joseph, when the ship is always open to visitors.

The way back to the train station was,how to describe it… apocalyptic? Yes, apocalyptic sounds good. In the middle of via Prione (La Spezia main street) my shoes were mini-pools and my jeans weighed several pounds per leg… ditto Ale.

However, we got back home with our minds full of beautiful images.

Marineria 2013, ovvero vele sotto il diluvio

The Tall Ships left La Spezia on Monday late morning, not without saying goodbye to the Cinque Terre.

P.S. Actually I fell in love with her … the “small” and delicious Nausicaa 🙂

Marineria 2013, ovvero vele sotto il diluvio

The program of this week end Marineria Festival 2015 is available here.

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Silvia's Trips

Hi there! My name is Silvia and after 15 years between the Paris Opera and the Palau de les Arts in Valencia I now run a boutique hotel in Cinque Terre, deal with tourism management and blogging, sail, horse-ride, play guitar and write about my solo trips around the world. For more info about me and my travel blog check my full bio.