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Verrazzano’s voyages celebrated


From left: UNICO Rehoboth Area Vice President Pam Notarangelo, UNICO Rehoboth Area President Dr. Steven Stanzione, UNICO National Vice President Anthony Bengivenga, former Delaware State Archivist Russell McCabe, event chairperson Maria Teresa Morrison and UNICO Delaware District Governor Sal Ingallina.

The life and legacy of Italian explorer Giovanni Verrazzano was recently celebrated in events that included an elaborate ceremony in Rehoboth Beach, the debut of a new film in New York City and a visit to Florence, Italy, by a delegation from the Delaware Commission on Italian Heritage and Culture.

All the events took place on April 17 to recognize the 500th anniversary of the famed explorer’s voyage to the East Coast of what would become known as America.

In Rehoboth Beach, Mayor Stan Mills kicked off the ceremony by declaring April 17 Verrazzano Day in the city.

As a crowd gathered at the Verrazzano Monument, keynote speaker Russell McCabe, former Delaware State Historian and Archivist, gave a captivating presentation on the importance of Verrazzano’s 1524 explorations of the East Coast.

McCabe was part of a Delaware delegation that traveled in 2007 to Greve-in-Chianti, Tuscany, Italy, to authenticate documents and maps housed at Verrazzano Castle there. The knowledge collected at the castle eventually led to the creation of the granite Verrazzano monument at Boardwalk and Olive Avenue.

Greve-in-Chianti was Verrazzano’s boyhood home and now “sister city” to Rehoboth Beach.

McCabe reported that according to the maps, charts and notes found at the castle, Verrazzano and crew landed in the Carolinas in 1524 and continued exploring north as far as Nova Scotia. The explorer’s stops included the Delaware Coast.

Commissioner Gerard Esposito spoke on behalf of the Delaware Commission on Italian Heritage and Culture. 

Cape Henlopen High school instructor Cristina Cristy was at the monument with members of her Italian classes, one of whom is an Italian exchange student, who placed a wreath on the monument. 

The event’s master of ceremonies was UNICO representative and longtime IAH contributor Maria Teresa Sachele-Morrison.

The program was sponsored by the Delaware Commission on Italian Heritage and Culture, the Rehoboth Beach Sister Cities Association and UNICO Rehoboth Area Chapter.

In New York City, a new documentary about the life of Verrazzano debuted at an event attended by senior Italian politicians, executives from the National Italian American Foundation and other luminaries. 

The hour-long film, “Giovanni de Verrazzano: From the Renaissance to New York City,” was filmed almost entirely in Tuscany and will be broadcast in Italy on the Rai 3 channel.

In the film’s portrayal, Verrazzano was in many ways more important than Christopher Columbus, because he actually set foot in North America, and mapped the entire East Coast of North America from North Carolina up to Newfoundland, whereas Columbus stayed in the Caribbean.

The film also contains a section dedicated to Da Verrazzano’s interactions with the indigenous peoples of North America that he encountered along the way. We discover that unlike the Spanish conquistadors, Verrazzano had uniformly friendly relations with the tribes he met along the Eastern Coast of North America.

Meanwhile, on April 17 in Florence, Italy United States Ambassador Jack Markell welcomed a delegation from the Delaware Commission on Italian Heritage and Culture at Consulate General Daniela Ballard’s offices for ceremonies to recognize the 500th anniversary of Verrazzano’s voyage to the East Coast. 

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