Thirty-One Days of Italians
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Thirty-One Days of Italians
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Giacomo Costantino Beltrami (1779-1855) Explored northern Minnesota in 1823, searching for the source of the Mississippi River and wrote a book describing his adventures. He was a passenger on the first steamboat that traveled the upper Mississippi. After landing at Fort St. Anthony, he journeyed through Minnesota, sometimes traveling with an American Indian guide, other times he traveled alone. Along the way he collected American Indian artifacts, believed to be the first ever collected. A lake and county are named in his honor.

Link to excerpt from his book, describing his travel up the Mississippi River (Click on View Document.)

Resources (Civica Biblioteca di Bergamo "Angelo Mai")

Giocomo Constantino Beltrami (In Italian)

A Count Who Counts in Northeast Minneapolis


Beltrami County


Giovanni Caboto [John Cabot] (c.1455-c.1498) Cabato was interested in trade and exploration. Some reports claim he was a spice merchant, and was seeking a shorter route to the East. Others claim he wanted to travel to China. His desire to find a shorter route to the East prompted him to appeal to both Spain and Portugal for financial backing. Denied by both, he headed to England and sailed for King Henry VII as John Cabot. Caboto sailed northwest and landed on the North American continent claiming the "new found land" for the king of England.

Voyage to North America

John Cabot's Discovery of North America

John Cabot


Cristoforo Colombo [Christopher Columbus] (c.1447-1506) Navigator who sailed under the Spanish flag in search of a shorter route to the East, but landed on the islands off the coast of what would become America. Colombo made three more trips, and his explorations brought immigration and trade to create a new society in a New World.

Cristoforo Colombo was born to a family of cloth-weavers; his father in wool and his mother’s father in silk. His grandfather owned land outside of Genoa and his mother’s dowry also included a parcel of land outside of the city. The family lived in the city of Genoa in an area set aside for weavers; and his father owned at least one house and owned or rented another.


Most biographies state Cristoforo was born in 1451, but Clements R. Markam, a noted English historian presents evidence that Cristoforo was born in 1446 or 1447 to Domenico Colombo and his wife, Susanna Fontanarossa. He was the oldest of five children, and received his education through a school established for the weavers’ children. Cristoforo worked with his father as an apprentice and in his early teens began to make sea voyages. In between voyages, he study mathematics, navigation, cosmology, astronomy, geography, Latin and other languages; and continued to work with his father.


Having read and heard about the sea-faring interests and discoveries of Portugal, Colombo arrived in Lisbon in the early 1470s. Portuguese explorers had traveled along the African coast, charting the coastline and its outlying islands, and Colombo learned from and sailed on some of the expeditions. In his early years in Lisbon, Colombo also was a map maker, a profession he shared with his bother Bartolomeo, who had followed Cristoforo to Portugal. In the late 1470s, Colombo married Philippa (or Filipa/Filippa) Moniz; and his son, Diego, was born by 1480. Colombo was given access to the maps and navigational charts of his deceased father-in-law, and through studying the papers, he gained a greater knowledge of navigation and an increasing desire to travel west to reach the East.


During this time, Colombo also corresponded with Paolo Toscanelli, a noted cosmographer and mathematician, who had charted a map showing India, China, and Japan to the west. Colombo received a copy of the chart, which confirmed his belief of sailing west to reach these countries. In the mid 1480s, Colombo attempted to gain support for his journey from the King of Portugal, but the country had heavily invested in reaching the East by sailing along the coast of Africa, and the king’s consultants were not enthusiastic about the plan. With his request denied and after the death of his wife, Colombo left Portugal.


In 1486, Colombo made his first attempt to gain the backing of Spain for his expedition, but it wasn’t until 1492, after Spain had defeated the Moors, that King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella financed Colombo’s expedition. In 1487, Colombo met Beatriz Enriquez and in 1488, Fernando was born.


On October 12, 1492, Colombo landed on an island that is now part of The Bahamas. Colombo made three additional voyages—in 1493, 1498, and 1502; and the accounts of all his voyages are numerous (see resources below). Colombo died in 1506 in Valladolid, Spain. His remains were moved to Seville, but after his son Diego died, Diego’s wife had both bodies moved to Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic (on the island of Hispaniola). When France captured the island from Spain in 1795, the remains were moved to Cuba, and then moved back to Seville when Cuba won independence from Spain. Today, most scholars and historians agree that some of Colombo’s remains are in Seville, some in Santo Domingo, and some in Genoa, given to the city in celebration of the quincentennial.


In 1887, the site of the original Colombo house was bought by the city of Genoa. The house had been reconstructed in the late seventeenth century.


Columbus was a man who believed. He studied, sought the answers, heeded advice, and secured funding. Many people may have influenced and supported Columbus, but it was his belief in his capabilities as a navigator that led him to sail an uncharted sea and find a new land. Celebrate Columbus Day.

Proclamation 4527 (To Honor Columbus)

Christopher Columbus


Life of Christopher Columbus by Sir Clements Robert Markham (1902)


Sulla Casa Abitata da Domenico Colombo: Memoria by Marcello Staglieno (In Italian)

The Columbus Foundation Discover Columbus' Ships


Columbus Citizens Foundation

Columbus Monuments


Giovanni da Verrazzano (1485-c.1528) The first European explorer to enter the harbor of New York. In 1524, Verrazzano—sailing for France—explored the northeast coast of North America, first stopping in North Carolina, then New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Maine.

Giovanni da Verrazzano was born in Greve (in the region of Tuscany), in 1485. The history of the Verrazzano family can be traced back as far as the seventh century, when they settled in Greve (now Greve in Chianti) a town not too far from Florence. Amid the political upheavals, the family prospered and a hilltop castle was built on ancient ruins. Verrazzano’s education led him to travel at a young age; and in his early 20s he moved to France, settling in the popular seaport town of Dieppe. There, he became acquainted with those who made their living from the sea and within a few years he was sailing as a privateer for King Francis I.


Verrazzano’s interest in exploration and finding a northwest sea route to the east was backed by local spice and silk merchants who wanted a faster and less expensive way to transport merchandise, and by the King of France, who had an interest in acquiring land for France. Verrazzano sailed the Dauphine, reaching the coast of what is now North Carolina by the spring of 1524. He sailed north along the coast, charting the waters and recording his observations of the land and Native Americans.


He named the island of Manhattan Angouleme for King Francis I, said to be also known as the Duke of Angouleme; and provided the information about the coastline for a map made in 1550. The map showed the Sea of Verrazzano. Verrazzano made two more voyages for France; he explored the coast of Brazil, but during the following voyage he died before completing the expedition.


In 1909, a statue was erected in Battery Park, honoring Verrazzano as the first European explorer to enter New York Harbor. The statue, and all others in the park, are  temporarily in storage during the park's renovation. 


In 1964, the longest suspension-span bridge in the world at 4,260 feet—between Brooklyn and Staten Island—was named in his honor. A ten-year controversy over naming the bridge after Verrazzano was won by Italian American historian John N. LaCorte in his diligence in establishing Verrazzano as the discoverer of New York Harbor. Today, the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge is the eighth longest suspension bridge in the world.


Translation of letter to Francis I, King of France.

Map with Sea Of Verrazzano

The Naming of the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge


Enrico de Tonti (1649-1704) Exploring for the French under the name Henri de Tonti, he arrived in America with La Salle in 1678, and traveled with La Salle down the Mississippi, establishing friendly relationships with American Indian tribes. In 1687, de Tonti established the first settlement in Arkansas, earning him the title "Father of Arkansas." De Tonti traveled throughout the Midwest and South, setting up trading posts, and was later appointed to negotiate peace between the Choctaw and Chickasaw.

American Journeys (Click on "Read this Document," then "Introduction" or "Text" on left.)

Henri de Tonti in Natchitoches

Di Tonti of the Iron Hand

Henri de Tonti Sculpture


Amerigo Vespucci (c.1451-1512) Born into a wealthy family in Florence, Vespucci received his education under the tutelage of his uncle, Giorgio Antonio Vespucci, an influential scholar who had established a school for nobles. The young Vespucci studied language and the physical sciences – astronomy, cosmography, and geography – which, some historians cite, caused an early interest in exploration. The Vespucci family was well established in Florence, founding a hospital and building a church, both still an historic part of the community. The church contains a fresco by Domenico Ghirlandaio, which is said to depict a young Vespucci under the extended arms of the Madonna.

After the death of his father, Vespucci’s responsibilities to his family, and his family’s connections, earned him a position with the de’ Medici family as a financial manager, first in Florence and later in Spain. By the late 1490s, with news of the Columbus voyages, Vespucci turned his attention toward exploration. He sailed for Spain and then Portugal, making five voyages. Exploring the coastline of South America, Vespucci was the first to realize that the New World was a new continent. His affiliation with the de’ Medici family was well known, and letters describing his journeys – the authenticity of an early letter has been disputed – were widely distributed in Europe. Many historians cite both as reasons why leading German cartographer Martin Waldseemuller identified the new continent as America, after Amerigo, when he created a map of the world in 1507.

America’s Namesake

Domenico Ghirlandaio Fresco (Vespucci is directly left of Madonna.) 

Details and Photographs of Amerigo Vespucci (Ship)


Copyright 2007-2016 Janice Therese Mancuso
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without permission except when published with this credit: Excerpt from Thirty-One Days of Italians, 2015 Janice Therese Mancuso.