Giovanni da Verrazzano

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Giovanni da Verrazzano (1485–1528) was an Italian explorer of North America, in the service of the French crown. He is renowned as the first European since the Norse colonization of the Americas around AD 1000 to explore the Atlantic coast of North America between South and North Carolina and Newfoundland, including New York Harbor and Narragansett Bay in 1524. The bridge over the opening of New York harbor, a naval vessel of the Italian navy, a destroyer of the Navigatori class, are among his numerous eponymous honors.



Origins and voyages to America

Historians have presented conflicting evidence about the origins of Verrazzano. Traditionally, his ancestral home is reported to be Val di Greve, south of Florence, Italy,[1] where he was born to Piero Andrea di Bernardo da Verrazzano and Fiametta Capelli. More recent scholarly research has revealed that Verrazzano was born in Lyon, France, the son of Alessandro di Bartolommeo da Verrazzano and Giovanna Guadagni.[2][3][4] He signed documents employing a Latin version of his name, "Janus Verrazanus," and in his will dated 11 May 1526 in Rouen, France (preserved at the Archives départementales de la Seine-Maritime), he called himself "Jehan de Verrazane."[5]

Although Verrazzano left a detailed account of his voyages to North America, little is known about his life. After 1506, he settled in Dieppe, in France, where he began his career as a navigator; probably in 1508, in the company of captain Thomas Aubert, he embarked for the American coast on a ship called La Pensée, equipped by the shipowner Jean Ango. He explored, possibly during a fishing trip, the region of Newfoundland and the mouth of the St. Lawrence River in Canada and made numerous voyages to the eastern Mediterranean.

In September 1522, the surviving members of Ferdinand Magellan's crew that circumnavigated the globe returned to Spain. Competition in trade, especially with Portugal, was becoming urgent. Initiated by French merchants and financiers from Lyon and Rouen who were seeking new trade routes, King Francis I of France, in 1523, asked Verrazzano to make plans to explore an area between Florida and Terranova for France, with the goal of finding a sea route to the Pacific Ocean. Within months, four ships set sail due west for the Great Banks region, but a violent storm and rough seas caused the loss of two ships. The remaining two damaged ships, La Dauphine and La Normande, were forced to return to Brittany.

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