Amerigo Vespucci: a Florentine in Seville

History gives us different versions, depending on who teaches it, and, above all, where we study it. In the Spanish classrooms students learn that the date of the discovery of America is 1492, a date that cannot be forgotten, as the protagonist of this feat: Cristoforo Colombo (Christopher Columbus). In Italy, things are viewed from another perspective, without diminishing Columbus, but giving more credit to the Florentine Amerigo Vespucci, a figure that is instead ignored in Spain; Americans, however, know very well whom they owe their continent’s name.
The Vespucci were a Florentine historical family, who arrived in Peretola, today a suburban district of the city, and settled in the center of the city, in the Ognissanti area. They did the most popular jobs of that time: they were notaries, bankers and merchants. Part of the family had more success and fortune, that of Pietro Vespucci, Simone di Pietro Vespucci (the founder of the hospital “San Giovanni di Dio”) and Marco Vespucci, who will marry the beautiful and mythical Simonetta, muse of Sandro Botticelli’s paintings, of whom we will write in another article.
Our Amerigo descended from the other less fortunate branch of the Vespucci family. He inherited his name from his grandfather, and was the third of the five children of Nastagio and Lisa. His father Nastagio was a notary, but had several drinking problems, so Amerigo was educated by Giorgio Antonio, Nastagio’s younger brother, who made him study Latin, Mathematics, Geometry and Astronomy. Giorgio Antonio was a humanist and passionate of maps, friend of Marsilio Ficino and, thus, close to the Medici circle: this allowed Amerigo to take refuge with his uncle in the Villa del Trebbio during the plague of 1476. This villa was owned by the secondary branch of the Medici family, that of Pierfrancesco de’ Medici, where another uncle, Bernardo, worked as accountant. And Amerigo was always in connection with this side of the Medici family, becoming the right-hand man of Lorenzo, son of Pierfrancesco, called “il Popolano” (“of the people”); Amerigo took care of Lorenzo’s business and properties, and this brought him to Seville.

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