Giovanni da Verrazano was an Italian explorer of North America and was born about 1485 into an aristocratic family that owned estates south of Florence, Italy.
In 1506, Verrazano left his privileged life and moved to Dieppe, France, to learn the ways of the sea. He gained experience on commercial voyages and became a captain of a French war vessel.
In 1524, the French king provided Verrazano with four ships to lead a voyage of exploration to North America. Shortly after leaving France, two ships were wrecked and a third returned to France with riches plundered from Spanish merchant vessels.
With 50 sailors aboard La Dauphine, Verrazano pushed on, eventually reaching Cape Fear off North Carolina. Verrazano, like most explorers, was searching for a water route through North America. Long, narrow sandbars run along the North Carolina coast.
Verrazano looked at these sandbars and saw the sea behind them. He did not see the mainland of the giant continent, and he assumed that the water was the Pacific Ocean, meaning he had found the sea route. Fearing the hostile Spanish to the south, Verrazano sailed north. He encountered several American Indians, whom he described as “well fashioned” and “well favored.”
On April 17, 1525, Verrazano entered a broad channel leading to a well-protected harbor. Today the strait, the entrance to New York City, is named after Verrazano. Verrazano continued north to Massachusetts and Maine. There, he encountered Indians, Abnaki, who shot arrows at the French. In disgust, he named the area “Land of the Bad People.”
When he reached Newfoundland, Verrazano turned east and returned to France. Verrazano made two more voyages, one to Brazil and another to Florida and the Leeward Islands.
After landing at one, probably Guadeloupe, Verrazano was seized, killed, and reportedly eaten by cannibals.