Born in a fishermen’s town on the southern Adriatic coast of Italy, Captain Giulio Ressa was destined for a life at sea. Since graduating from the Maritime College in Bari many years ago, Captain Ressa has worked aboard many ships, including Renaissance Cruises and even the original Love Boat, the M/V Pacific Princess. He has called Brazil home for the past 15 years and has been with Oceania Cruises since the very beginning. We sat down with him to learn about his introduction to life at sea, his favorite food from his hometown and more.
What led you to become a captain?
The town I was born in bears a long-standing seafaring tradition…I remember spending hours sitting on the blocks of the local small shipyard looking at the master carpenters in action, hand-carving the oak-wood logs to build 100 feet long fishing boats. It was a captivating process to see the keel of the vessels being assembled – the whole complete boat taking shape under the skillful hands of this bunch of men working feverishly…months of hard work and heavy sweating. Later on, my strong desire to travel, explore the world, learn about different cultures played a big role in my decision about my future life. At the age of 14, I decided to enroll in the nautical college just north of my hometown – the rest is history.
Can you describe your first memory at sea?
The very first day I stepped on the fishing boat, I was sick like a dog even though the seas were not rough. It was a 100 feet long fishing trawler – one of these I had seen being built. I remember spending the whole day laying on the side of the boat…feeding the fish. After a full day at sea the captain, Captain Tonino, asked me to have a chat with him while he was steering back to the port. I thought was fired. On the contrary, he gave me some dry bread and salted anchovies. At first, I was reluctant but then I started eating and slowly feeling a bit better. He told me not to worry and confessed to me that he went through the same thing. Then he added, if you can endure this first week, you will get stronger and never get seasick again. He told me, you are going to love life at sea and you will enjoy all the places you will be visiting. By then he was hugging me and I felt I could easily overcome my weakness after his reassuring words. This is my first memory at sea.
After years of visiting ports, which are your favorites?
Being Italian, the most impressive port sailing in – well, I have to say Venice Canal Grande and the approach to San Marco Square. I do also really like Kotor, Santorini and all the Mediterranean ports of call. So many of these ports are impressive and will leave some lasting memories with you.
What do you love most about being a captain with Oceania Cruises?
I enjoy a lot to be the Master of a “human-size” ship, and I mean to say the sizes of our ships are such that you, as Master, can still get to know your guests and your crew and have a complete feeling of what is happening on your ship. I dedicate some of my time meeting and chatting with our guests and crew – we are all family.
Tell us about the cuisine in your hometown – what are your favorites?
Along the coast of the Adriatic Sea, we are fond of seafood, we have a lot of fishing boats and colorful fish markets where you can buy fresh fish. These markets are a destination on their own. In Bari, the typical dish is a pasta called orecchiette, which means literally “little ears,” – this is because of its shape. We cook it together with a fresh vegetable called rapini, or broccoli rabe, and toss it in a sauce made with extra virgin olive oil, garlic and anchovies and maybe if you like spicy, some dried hot pepper.
Do you have any travel plans in the coming year?
Yes, I have many plans with my family. the first one is about visiting the Argentinean wine country of Mendoza and spending some time there visiting the most famous wineries. Then by car, we plan to cross the Andes via the Transandine Highway, which is a route that connects Argentina to Chile. This has been described as one of the most spectacular and breathtaking highways in the world because of the wilderness and dramatic landscapes you encounter. Once in Chile, we’ll continue visiting some micro-wineries on the way to Santiago del Chile.
Another trip we are planning is in France. We’ll charter a small river barge for the family and sail through the French rivers and canals starting from northern France in the North Sea and sail all the way into the Mediterranean waters. This is possible using canals that allow the passage of these Longhorn river ships because of their size. Definitively this will give us the opportunity of seeing and experiencing a different France.