Who Was Giovanni Da Verrazzano?

Giovanni da Verrazzano (1485-1528) was a Florentine explorer who mapped the North American coast. In 1524, he sailed from France towards the American continent intending to eventually reach Asia. Although several European travelers had mapped parts of the American coast before him, Verrazzano produced more detailed descriptions and added entirely new information. He is also the first explorer to write detailed descriptions of the appearance and customs of Native Americans.

Da Verrazzano reached America at Cape Fear and sailed along the coast from Florida to Newfoundland. According to the Mariner’s Museum, Lyonnaise textile merchants had financed the trip so that Da Verrazzano could bring back rare Chinese silks that were in high demand at the time. The Florentine explorer never reached northern China. Instead, upon returning, he provided French king Francois I with an extended description of the American coast, including the first written description of the New York harbor.

Da Verrazzano sailed to South America several years later, reaching present-day Brazil in 1527. He died in 1528 in the Caribbean, either at the hands of cannibals or executed by the Spanish government for piracy. Less famous than Ferdinand Magellan, despite their sailing during the same years, Da Verrazzano was rediscovered in the 19th and 20th century. In New York, the explorer is remembered through the Verrazzano-Narrows bridge.