Verrazzano, Giovanni da

Giovanni da Verrazano, Giovanni da Verrazzano

c.1485-c.1528.  Verrazzano (spelled also Verrazano) was the first European to sail the American coast from North Carolina to Newfoundland. An Italian captain from a prominent family in Florence, he was wealthy and well-educated. He entered the French service in 1522 and organized his first voyage to America for French king Francis I, sailing in January 1524 from the Madeiras. He landed in North Carolina, probably around Cape Fear, early in March.

He then sailed up the coast, prudently staying off shore, missing the Chesapeake and Delaware, but anchoring in New York Bay at the Narrows now bearing his name. He made contact with the local inhabitants, the Lenape, but did not explore the harbor although his crew may have landed on Staten Island. Sailing on, he spent two weeks exploring Narragansett Bay, anchoring in what is now Newport Harbor. After friendly encounters with the natives he set sail around May 5 or 6.

Escaping the shoals of Vineyard and Nantucket, he sailed around Cape Cod and struck the Maine coast around Casco Bay. The native inhabitants were inhospitable, shooting arrows and fleeing, and when visible acting rudely. This suggests that the natives knew about Europeans and had been badly treated. Verrazzano called the coast "Land of Bad People." Continuing on past Monhegan, Isle au Haut and Mount Desert, he may have sailed up into Penobscot Bay, for on the map that his brother created of the voyage "Oranbega" shows up where Penobscot Bay should be. Contrary winds kept Verrazzano from seeing the Bay of Fundy and most of the Nova Scotia coast. He departed from Newfoundland in mid June, and indications are that he had Portugese information about Newfoundland.

If his place names had been followed, America would be Francesca, named after King Francis. His voyage was well reported in his letter to King Francis, and his brother Girolamo's world map of 1529 records his trip.

Verrazzano was killed in 1528 in the West Indies on his second Atlantic voyage.