Luca Rebussini, Rhode Island’s local pirate expert, appeared at Cranston Central Library to give a talk on one of his favorite subjects, the history of Italian pirates in the world from …
Luca Rebussini, Rhode Island’s local pirate expert, appeared at Cranston Central Library to give a talk on one of his favorite subjects, the history of Italian pirates in the world from antiquity to modern times, on September 13.
Rebussini, a middle school teacher at Joseph Jenks Junior High School in Pawtucket, has been a fan of pirates for some time and has been slowly growing that interest into a series of presentations across the state.
“I love to read,” he said. “It wasn’t about pirates, but I finished it and said what’s cool… Pirates are cool. So I started with one book about them and then another. So, one book led to another and they led to a presentation. My buddy works at the North Providence Library and he and I were seeing an unrelated speech at the Cranston Library. I kind of had a lightbulb moment. I turned to my buddy and said ‘Mike this guy is presenting on this, and I’m a teacher who knows a lot about pirates. Can I try presenting something about pirates at your library.’ He said yes. That’s how I got my foot in the door.”
While his talks often focus on the history of piracy in the Ocean State, his most recent talk was a more immersive look at the history of Italian piracy. The first half of the talk was about the general history of piracy like how their ships ran, tactics they used, weapons that were common and the democracy to be found on their ships. However the second half of the talk gave the audience a more in-depth look at some of the specific Italian pirates who had made names for themselves over the course of history.
To spice things up Rebussini even brought replica weapons to the talk for the audience to look at which included a saber and short sword.
“Pirates were pretty much outlaws essentially, but they were also very helpful, even instrumental, in the creation of America,” Rebussini explained. “An example was Vincenzo Gambi who fought down in the battle of New Orleans. He really did a lot of fighting and effort on the sea while Andrew Jackson was fighting on land. He fought with bravery and distinction and actually gets offered American citizenship by President James Madison.”
Rebussini’s tour of pirate talks began in 2021 and has since taken him all over the state to spread knowledge. He said that he has done about 10 talks from Barrington, Cranston, Pawtucket, Coventry, North and East Providence and more, and he hopes to schedule more as time goes on. His love of history and curiosity about pirates drives him forward and he hopes to share that passion with others.
“When I introduce the speeches about the New England and Italian pirates, I introduce it as ‘what they don’t teach you in school,’” Rebussini said with a laugh. “They were very instrumental in the shaping of a lot of the world, mainly in New England and America. For the Italian piracy we're talking antiquity to modern times — a little before Julius Caesar to the modern age — but for the quote unquote golden age of piracy, your Johnny Depp ‘Pirates of the Caribbean' type of thing, you’re looking at anywhere between 1680’s-90’s to about the 1720’s.”
Rebussini said that when we normally think of the age of pirates where they were swinging from ropes, shooting cannons and boarding ships we are thinking of this time period. Considering that America was officially founded in 1776, it’s not as surprising to think that pirates played a role in the founding of the country.
While Rebussini has yet to set up any future speeches, he said that he is hoping to soon break into the college circuit and expand his teachings about the history of piracy and the ocean state. Those looking to reach out to him regarding the topic can email him at Lrebussini@gmail.com
*Editor's note: Patricia Fedeli and Luca Rebussini were kind enough to contact the Herald and clarify some typos and misinformation that allowed us to fix some issues with this story.