Andrea di Robilant, author of A Venetian Affair, investigates the story of the Zen brothers, the fourteenth-century merchant navigators whose fabled voyage to the North Atlantic made history.
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In the 1380s and 90s, Nicolò and Antonio Zen journeyed from Venice up the North Atlantic, encountering warrior princes, fighting savage natives and, just possibly, reaching the New World a full century before Columbus. The story of their adventure travelled throughout Europe, from the workshop of the great cartographer Mercator to the court of Elizabeth I. For centuries, the brothers were international celebrities, until, in 1835, the story was denounced as a ’tissue of lies’ and the Zens faded into oblivion.
But was it a hoax? What if these Venetian navigators really made their incredible journey? Intrigued by the myth, Andrea di Robilant sets out to discover the truth about the Zen voyages. Following in their footsteps, his quest to solve one of Venice’s most intriguing mysteries takes him on a fascinating journey of his own, from the crumbling Palazzo Zen in Venice to the Orkney Islands, Shetland, the Faroes, Iceland and even as far as an isolated monastery in Greenland. Part history, part travelogue, Venetian Navigators is a charming tale of great journeys, fine detective work and faith, against the odds.
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