So many Italian Explorers and ?

Frank81

Ad Honorem
Feb 2010
5,140
Canary Islands-Spain
Captains yes, but I'm also refering to crews, ships, governments, and other sponsors. There's probably a reason all of these Italian captains sailed for Portugal and other Atlantic powers - because the Italians didn't have the right ships, the experienced crews, the familiarity with long distance voyages, etc for Atlantic exploration. Some of those Italian captains, like Columbus, spent years working in the Atlantic before they became famous explorers. At that point, their experience wasn't uniquely Italian anymore. Italy provided good raw material for an Atlantic explorer, but it had to combined with experience that was unique to the Atlantic.



No argument the Italians were expericence merchants and traders. Some aspects of seafaring could be learned in the Mediterranean such as how to manage large crews of sailors and basic navigation. But other aspects of sailing were unique to the Atlantic, such as weather patterns, long distances, advanced navigation, etc. (You can't get very lost in the Mediterranean - sooner or later you will find land, but that's not true in the Atlantic.)
I think further research is needed in this direction, because evidences are contradictory:

A. Since the 13th century, Genoese ships and sailors were heading to the west due to them being unable to overcome Venetians. They entered in good relations with Portuguese and Castilians, and laterly with French and English monarchs, investing money (the Genoese somewhat displaced Jews from this activity; their funds can be found in almost every great enterprise of the western kings) and trading in a great scale. Many Genoese trading post were stablished, and a big, powerful bussyness community was born. Other Italians, including Venetians, participated as well in this activity, to a lesser scale.

B. The Genoese employed ships and crews from the West in their activities, proving that their resources were short to do the job. Also Iberians, not Italians, did the mix between naval traditions of the north and the south of Europe. They didn't develop a comprehensive Atlantic tradition, lacking enough and adequate ships, as well as experienced crews. They sailed from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic, with round ships, but their ships were weak, and their routes just the most safe.
 
Jan 2017
68
Italy, EU
Venice wanted what it's now Venezeula and Tuscany wanted what is now French Guyana but for some reasons their plans were cancelled. The Medici actually sent an expedition in Guyana and even brought back some native Americans to Florence where they learnt Italian and stayed at the court.

Overall, the Italian states were too busy fighting each other and they were focused on the Mediterranean so the great Italian navigators offered their services to other countries.

Regarding the origins of Cristopher Columbus, it's just absurd to think that he was not Italian. There is simply massive evidence that he was from Genoa. Columbus himself, his son and contemporary historians mention the Genoese origin in written documents that we have.
 
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AlpinLuke

Forum Staff
Oct 2011
27,253
Italy, Lago Maggiore
First of all that "Italian" is out of context. When Columbus "discovered" America in the Italian peninsula there was no Italian state. Was Columbus representing Genoa? Milan? Venice? The State of the Church? ... and so on ...


That was also the reason why Columbus had to look for financing "abroad", that is to say not in Italy.
 
Mar 2015
1,458
Yorkshire
Probably they were less interested as wealthy italian city states like Venice and Genoa already had trade holdings and colonies across mediterranean and adriatic seas thus less interest in funding new expeditions. Spanish and portuguese didn't have this luxury.
The Florentines did part-finance Portuguese exploration of the trade with India.
 
Dec 2012
131
As far as I know, Venezia considered developing some business in the west colonies or Africa, or at least a leader (Sebastiano Veniero IIRC) proposed it.
Technical ability to sail in the Atlantic was there (and probably the Genoese had it too).
But any rivalry with Spain or Portugal would easily doom any such attempt. Political reasons dictated that this venture was unfeasable.

Italy was bottled in the Mediterranean and italian decline started....
 
Jan 2017
132
Virginia, USA
The Italian city-states like Venice should have taken it more seriously considering how the Spanish and Portuguese basically ruined their Mediterranean trade system by circumventing the region altogether and sailing through the Indian Ocean or even across the Pacific from the Americas to reach Persia, India and China. The Ottomans were also screwed in that regard as middlemen traders and it is one of the reasons for the decline of their empire.
 
Apr 2018
303
Italy
There was an attempt of a Tuscan colony in South America

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thornton_expedition


Italian merchant ventured themself in the Atlantic Ocean quite usually, seeing the Querini shipwreck in Lofoten.


It would be difficult for an Italian state to mantain a colony in America without the control of Gibraltar Strait, and so an alliance with Spain, who controlled directly or indirectly much of Italy in XVI century. Venice was too occupied with Turks to wast resources in this adventures.


As for Colombo, he was genose without any doubt. There are a lot of documents and acts that relate him to Genoa.
 

Tsar

Ad Honorem
Apr 2015
2,010
Serbia
The Italian city-states like Venice should have taken it more seriously considering how the Spanish and Portuguese basically ruined their Mediterranean trade system by circumventing the region altogether and sailing through the Indian Ocean or even across the Pacific from the Americas to reach Persia, India and China. The Ottomans were also screwed in that regard as middlemen traders and it is one of the reasons for the decline of their empire.
At the end of the 16th century more spices reached Jeddah alone than Portugal (C. R. Boxer, “A Note on Portuguese Reactions to the Revival of the Red Sea Spice Trade and the Rise of Atjeh, 1540–1600,” Journal of Southeast Asian History 10 (1969), 426). We are just beginning to study the Ottoman Empire, so I wouldn't make definite conclusions.
 

Naima

Ad Honorem
Jun 2014
2,323
Venice
Venice wanted what it's now Venezeula and Tuscany wanted what is now French Guyana but for some reasons their plans were cancelled. The Medici actually sent an expedition in Guyana and even brought back some native Americans to Florence where they learnt Italian and stayed at the court.

Overall, the Italian states were too busy fighting each other and they were focused on the Mediterranean so the great Italian navigators offered their services to other countries.

Regarding the origins of Cristopher Columbus, it's just absurd to think that he was not Italian. There is simply massive evidence that he was from Genoa. Columbus himself, his son and contemporary historians mention the Genoese origin in written documents that we have.
Can you tell more about the Venice plans?
 

Naima

Ad Honorem
Jun 2014
2,323
Venice
First of all that "Italian" is out of context. When Columbus "discovered" America in the Italian peninsula there was no Italian state. Was Columbus representing Genoa? Milan? Venice? The State of the Church? ... and so on ...


That was also the reason why Columbus had to look for financing "abroad", that is to say not in Italy.
He was Italian and spoke Italian.