Giovanni da Verrazzano (Verrazano), navigator and discoverer of New York harbour

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Giovanni da Verrazzano (Giovanni da Verrazano)


Giovanni da Verrazzano
Giovanni da Verrazzano


Giovanni da Verrazzano was primarily a navigator. He was born about 1485, of good family, at the Castello di Verrazzano, located on a hill top above the Val di Greve, not far from Greve in Chianti. His name is sometimes spelt Verrazano.

Entering the naval service of Francis I of France, an enthusiast for all things Italian, he soon became famous as a corsair, preying on the ships of Spain and Portugal, one of his prizes in 1522 being the treasure-ship sent to Charles V by Cortès loaded with Mexican gold and silver.

In January 1524, he began a voyage of discovery to the New World on behalf of his patron Francis I, during which he kept a log-book of his experiences. In 1556 Ramusio published in his collection of voyages a letter written by Verrazano giving an account of his voyage to the coast of North America and its exploration from 30 degrees to 50 degrees N. lat. It is the first post-Columbian description of the North Atlantic coast, and gives the first description of New York Bay and harbour and the present Hudson River. Thence he sailed along Long Island Sound to Block Island and Newport, of which he makes mention. From this note-book of the voyage his brother Hieronimo drew in 1529 a map of the North Atlantic coast, which is now in the museum of the Propaganda at Rome, and testifies to the accuracy of Verrazano's observations along the coast as far as a point in the present State of Maine.

Little that is authentic is known of his subsequent career. Verrazano wrote interesting, though sometimes inaccurate, accounts of the lands and inhabitants that he encountered. His explorations concluded at the eastern part of Newfoundland. His return to France on July 8, 1524, gave King Francis I his nation's claim to the New World.

Verrazano undertook two more voyages to the Americas. In 1527 he commanded a fleet of ships on an expedition to Brazil that returned profitable dyewood to France. His final voyage began in the spring of 1528, when he sailed with his brother, Girolamo, from Dieppe with two or three ships. The fleet sailed to Florida, the Bahamas, and finally the Lesser Antilles. He anchored there off one of the islands (apparently Guadaloupe), went ashore, and was captured, killed, and eaten by cannibals.

The main piazza of Greve in Chianti, Piazza Matteotti, is dominated by a fine statue of the navigator.

























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