Giovanni da Verrazzano (1485-1528), one of the greatest explorers of his time, was the first to set foot on the Atlantic coast of North America. The Verrazzano Bridge in New York, inaugurated in 1964, is an imposing tribute to him. Let’s explore the feats of our hero from Greve in Chianti (Florence) that have made his name unforgettable beyond the Atlantic.
The Exploits of Giovanni da Verrazzano
Little is known about the history and childhood of Giovanni da Verrazzano, but let’s focus on his pioneering exploration exploits that honored Italy in distant lands.
The 1523 Journey in Search of a New Route to the Pacific Ocean
1523 was likely a fortunate year for our hero. Commissioned by King Francis I of France for an exploratory journey between the Canadian island of Newfoundland and Florida, he emphatically set sail with a caravel and just 50 brave men.
He reached Cape Fear, on the southeast coast of the United States and North Carolina. His enthusiasm led him to mistakenly describe the famous Pamlico Sound as a large inlet separating North America. This wrong cartographic notation influenced maps until the 18th century.
The pinnacle of his exploratory career was undoubtedly the Bay of New York, dropping anchor in the strait known as the Narrows, between Staten Island and Long Island. This marked his presence as the first to reach the Atlantic coast of North America.
The construction of the Verrazzano Bridge
Not coincidentally, the bridge was designed to facilitate the connection between Staten Island and Long Island, passing through the strait known as The Narrows, where the Italian explorer had anchored. Inaugurated on November 21, 1964, its construction took five years and a $320 million investment. The total length is 1600 meters, with a main span of 1298 meters, earning it the title of the 17th longest suspension bridge in the world.
It held the record as the longest suspension bridge in the world until 1981, contributing to the film Saturday Night Fever in 1977.
A new name since 2018
The story of the bridge becomes even more intriguing when considering the debate about its original name. Known to Americans as the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge or simply the Verrazano, in 2018, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a law to restore the correct spelling, Verrazzano.
This decision received support from prominent Italian-American figures such as Robert De Niro and Joe D’Onofrio, representing a significant step for Italian tradition and history overseas.