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From November 4 – 20 the Castello in Rapallo hosted a terrific annual exhibit called “Mare Nostrum” (“Our Sea”) which included history, art and most specially, many ship models.  This year’s exhibit focused on the 150th anniversary of Italy’s unification, and included a special exhibit outlining the sea-faring highlights of that very complex and violent undertaking.  Called ‘Garibaldi, un Uomo di Mare’ it was curated by Maurizio Brescia, Emilio Carta and Carlo Gatti (who has one of my favorite last names).  Fascinating.  In one glass case there was an actual ‘Red Shirt’ worn by one of Garibaldi’s thousand (six of whom hailed from Rapallo, according to the exhibit catalog), a little the worse for wear, but definitely red.

Both the exhibit and the catalog,a handsome 64-page booklet chock full of photos, describe the preparations and outfitting for the voyage from Genova Quarto down to Sicilia, with special attention paid to the ships, models of which could be seen in other rooms.

The models are remarkable. Most are made from what we usually assume models will be made of: wood, bits of string and fabric, like the “Aldebaran” below by Roberto Oliveri.

But several of the boats were made from more unexpected raw material. Umberto Rogma made his models from riveted steel:


He must have a rather sophisticated work shop.  I doubt Mrs. Rogma would welcome riveting on the kitchen table.

Andrean Brown chose paper for his model medium:


In addition to being very compliant in the bending department, paper has the added advantage of being a quiet material – no pesky sawing or riveting.  But really, look at the detail – can you believe that’s all made from… paper?!

Many of the models are of particular vessels, like the famous Kon Tiki by Fulvio Fusetti:

and others are of a particular class of ship, such as this Corvette by Roberto Boniardi:

What would a model ship exhibit be without a ship in a bottle? The complexity of this construction takes my breath away. This is the ship Potosi, by Vittorio Oliveri:

Three of the models particularly captivated me. The Gozzo is the typical Ligurian fishing boat of yore. How brave the sailors were who set out  in these small boats with no Loran, radar, GPS, etc. You will still see many Gozzi in the harbors around Rapallo, but they are now used as daytime pleasure craft; the fishermen have moved on to more elaborate boats, thank goodness. This model was made by Marco Forlani.

Some of the models recreate the ships’ on-shore environs. I loved this one for all the on and off-board detail, the tools, casks and ladder lying on the beach next to the boat. Roberto Oliveri fashioned each element himself.

Luigi Barletta has shown us what the old ‘cantiere’ (ship-building works) looked like:

Could that be a Gozzo under construction?

These are just a few of the many, many models that were on exhibit. The show is over for this year but it will almost certainly return next year. If you’re in the neighborhood of the Castello at the right time, do go see it. It’s free and it’s wonderful.