She was originally a cargo ship, transporting sugar from the West Indies, cocoa, and coffee from Brazil and Guiana to Nantes, France. In 1951 she was sold to the Venezian count Vittorio Cini, who named her the Giorgio Cini after his son, who had died in a plane crash near Cannes on 31 August 1949. She was rigged to a barkentine and used as a sail training ship until 1965, when she was considered too old for further use and was moored at the Island of San Giorgio Maggiore, Venice.
In 1972 the Italian Carabinieri attempted to restore her to the original barque rig. When this proved too expensive, she became the property of the shipyard. In 1976 the ship was re-rigged to a barque. Finally, in January 1979, she came back to her home port as the Belem, flying the French flag after 65 years. Fully restored to her original condition, she began a new career as a sail training ship.