ITALIAN sailors paid tribute to the war dead at Portsmouth Naval Memorial.
The ship’s company of the Italian naval training ship Amerigo Vespucci laid wreaths ahead of the spectacular vessel opening to the public for free at Portsmouth Naval Base this weekend.
The sailing ship, which is the last surviving three-decked square rigger in the world, arrived in Portsmouth on Thursday and will depart for France on Monday.
The crew, many of whom are officer cadets, lined up in their best ceremonial uniforms at the memorial on Southsea Common yesterday.
Captain Domenico La Faia said: ‘We wanted to pay homage to the old sailors who died for their country.
‘When a sailor joins the navy, they become part of a big family of sailors around the world who are working for their countries.
‘It’s important for us to come here with our cadets to transfer the tradition and feeling of taking part in this kind of ceremony.
‘This is all part of their training which is important for them to become part of that big sailor family.’
Prayers and a minute’s silence were held before wreaths were laid yesterday.
Portsmouth Lord Mayor Cllr Frank Jonas represented Portsmouth by also laying a wreath at the memorial.
The Royal Navy was represented by Commander David Hilton of Portsmouth Naval Base, who said: ‘It’s wonderful to have the Amerigo Vespucci visiting Portsmouth.
‘They have around 300 men and women on board who are potential officers undergoing training and what a wonderful experience it must be for them to come to Portsmouth, the home of the Royal Navy.
‘Italy is a strong Nato ally and these men and women are potential officers of the future so it’s great to see them here paying their respects and taking in the culture of the country and Portsmouth.’
The Amerigo Vespucci is a sail ship with a diesel-electric propulsion system.
She is one of the last ships to manoeuvre her 24 sails manually and, apart from the Second World War, has been used almost continuously for naval training since 1931.
The ship will be open to visitors from 10am to 4pm on Saturday and Sunday.