Verrazzano was born in Tuscany, near Florence, and was the recipient of a thorough education. As a young man he lived in Dieppe, France, and entered the French maritime service. Verrazzano made two voyages to the Levant (present-day Turkey, Syria and Lebanon).
France at the time was increasingly jealous of Spain's early ventures in the New World. In 1524, Verrazzano set sail in search of a northwest passage to Asia with two ships provided by Francis I of France. The expedition also was backed by well-to-do Italian merchants and bankers residing in Lyons. Initially he reached the West Indies, then sailed on to the coast of North America. He arrived first at present-day North Carolina, then headed north past Sandy Hook into New York Harbor. It was quickly discovered that the Hudson River was not a strait, so the voyage continued to Narragansett Bay, another dead end. Verrazzano later pushed on past Cape Cod, Maine, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. This voyage established a French claim to these lands, but at the time it was regarded as a failure because the passage to the East was not found.
Verrazzano made a later voyage, perhaps in 1527, to the West Indies and the coast of South America. He was killed in a confrontation with Native Americans in the Lesser Antilles.
Verrazzano's brother, Gerolamo, published maps that were among the first depictions of North America. Virginia was shown as a very narrow strip of land bounded on the western side by the Indian Ocean.
Verrazzano's accomplishments were honored in the 1964 dedication of the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge, which links Brooklyn and Staten Island in New York Harbor.
See France in the Age of Exploration.
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