Giovanni da Verrazzano

Explorer

Age of Discovery

Quick Facts:

Discovered the majority of the eastern coast of America including the Virginia and Delaware Capes, New Jersey, New York Bay, Rhode Island, Narragansett Bay, Massachusetts Bay, and the Maine Coast.

Name: Giovanni da Verrazzano

Birth/Death: 1485 CE - 1528 CE

Nationality: Florentine

Birthplace: Italy

“Giovanni Da Verrazzano,” Harper’s Encyclopedia of United States History, from 458 AD to 1902, 1901

Giovanni Da Verrazzano

“Giovanni Da Verrazzano,” Harper’s Encyclopedia of United States History, from 458 AD to 1902, 1901, From The Library at The Mariners’ Museum, E174.L8.

Early Life

  • Giovanni da Verrazzano was born in 1485 to a wealthy family in Tuscany, Italy.

  • As a young boy he studied in Florence, Italy, and was well-educated and excelled in math.

  • Around 1506, Giovanni moved to France.

Voyages

  • Around 1508, Giovanni da Verrazzano joined a voyage that left Dieppe, France, and sailed to the coast of Newfoundland, Canada.

  • In 1523, Verrazzano received a commission from King Francis I of France to sail to the New World to discover a passage to China. In 1524, he left on his first expedition and landed at Cape Fear, Carolina.

  • As he travelled up the coast, Verrazzano had a lot of contact with the Native American tribes of the region whenever he would land in order to resupply and explore the new territory.

  • At this point in his journey, Verrazzano made a significant mistake and proclaimed that the Currituck and Pamlico sounds of North Carolina were in fact the Pacific Ocean and that the Barrier Islands were all that constituted North America at the point of the Carolinas.

  • Verrazzano continued north, and passed by the Chesapeake Bay and Delaware Bay because he sailed far from the coast in order to avoid shoals, or sandbanks.

  • The next major stop of Verrazzano’s voyage was the New York Bay.  He anchored in the narrows, between Staten Island and Long Island.  This area is known today as “Verrazano’s Narrows.”

  • The next stop along the voyage was in the Narragansett Bay where Newport, Rhode Island is located. Verrazzano stayed at Newport for 15 days, during which he traded with the local Native American population, the Wampanoag. The Wampanoag later encountered the Pilgrims in 1620.

  • Verrazzano continued north to the coast of Maine; however, he was not able to explore the coastland because he was driven off by the local Native American tribes.

  • Verrazzano continued up to Newfoundland, where he resupplied and started his return trip back across the Atlantic, and reached Dieppe, France, on July 8, 1524.

  • In 1527, he landed in Brazil to collect a shipment of logwood and then returned to France.

  • In 1528, Verrazzano took three ships and sailed to Florida before he headed south in search of a route to China. He landed on the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe and was unfortunately eaten by a group of natives called the Caribs.

Notable Ships

  • La Dauphine – Built for the French Royal Navy in Le Havre in 1519, she was 100 tons and was manned by a crew of 50 men.

Legacy

  • Giovanni da Verrazzano was the first to definitively say that what he discovered was a New World, not part of Asia. He was also the first to deny any existence of a passage to China through the Americas.

  • His discoveries were mostly renamed and overlooked as he had the misfortune of making his discoveries during the time of Ferdinand Magellan’s epic circumnavigation of the globe and the Conquest of Mexico, which overshadowed his own discoveries. His exploration of the New York area was overshadowed by Henry Hudson almost a century later.

  • In Narragansett Bay, the Jamestown Verrazzano Bridge and Maryland’s Verrazano Bridge are named in his honor.