Italy finds stolen Columbus letter announcing discovery of Americas

Italy has found a stolen letter written by Christopher Columbus in which the famous explorer announces his discovery of the Americas.

Italy finds stolen Columbus letter announcing discovery of Americas
Italian investigators have tracked down a letter penned by Christopher Columbus announcing the discovery of the Americas. Photo: Polizia di Stato

Columbus, an Italian from the north-western port city of Genoa, was the first European to land in the New World in 1492.

On February 15th 1493, he penned a letter about his discovery from his Caravel the Niña while making his way back to Europe from the Americas.

Once Columbus arrived in Europe, several copies of letter in various languages were dispatched to different European countries to spread the word.

Only a handful of these copies have survived – one of them in Florence.

The letter was stolen from Florence's Riccardiana library, with the thieves replacing it with a forged copy.

But nobody noticed until 2012.

An investigation was only opened after the National Library in Rome – which also held a version of Columbus' letter – discovered that its document had also at some point been stolen and replaced with an elaborate fake.

In the course of investigations, Italian authorities managed to track down the original letter belonging to the Riccardiana.

The letter was stolen at least 23 years ago as it was bought by a private purchaser at auction in 1992 for €400,000. It was then donated it to the Library of Congress in Washington in 2004.

The letter is today valued at some €1 million.

In a press release the Italian police said they had managed to track down the document thanks to “efficient collaboration with US authorities over the illegal traffic of stolen artefacts”.

The letter is of extraordinary historical interest and was unveiled to the Italian press on Wednesday.

U.S Ambassador to Italy, John Phillips, called it “a symbolic event which shows the level of friendship and collaboration between the two countries.”



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Italy’s Renzi wants ex-ECB boss Draghi to become prime minister: report

Ex-PM Matteo Renzi would like to see former European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi become prime minister of Italy, a party source told Reuters on Sunday.

Italy's Renzi wants ex-ECB boss Draghi to become prime minister: report
Matteo Renzi. Image: Andreas Solaro/ POOL / AFP

“I would say that is one of our proposals,” confirmed the source, who declined to be named.

The Italian government collapsed last week when PM Giuseppe Conte resigned. The former coalition allies are currently trying to come to an agreement and sort out their differences.

The centre-left government had been in turmoil ever since former premier Matteo Renzi withdrew his Italia Viva party earlier this month, a move that forced Conte to step down this week.

During the past year, Renzi frequently criticised Conte’s management of the pandemic and economic crisis.

Italy’s La Stampa newspaper also reported on Sunday that President Sergio Mattarella was considering Draghi for the prime ministerial role. However, Mattarella’s office promptly denied this, saying there had been no contact between them.

So far, there has been no comment from Draghi, who hasn't been seen much in the public eye since 2019.

Italy's president, Sergio Mattarella, gave ruling parties more time on Friday to form a new government, after the resignation of Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte. 

Coalition parties Italia Viva, the centre-left Democratic Party (PD) and anti-establishment 5-Star Movement must come to an agreement to allow the government to heal. 

Renzi, a former prime minister himself, has pubilcly stated that he does not want to talk about who should lead the next government at this stage, reasoning that the parties need to agree on a way forward first.

“Any effort today to fuel a discussion about Draghi is offensive to Draghi and above all to the president of the republic,” Renzi said in an interview published on Sunday with Corriere della Sera.

A senior Italia Viva lawmaker also told Reuters that “If the president gives a mandate to Draghi, we would certainly support this”. 

Renzi, whose party is not even registering three percent support in opinion polls, quit the coalition over Conte’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and his plans for spending more than 200 billion euros from a European Union fund to help Italy’s damaged economy.

READ ALSO: Why do Italy's governments collapse so often?