Ferdinando I of Tuscany hired the English Captain Robert Thornton to lead an expedition to the northern coast of South America. This was not a formal effort at colonization itself but rather more of a scouting assignment, a preliminary voyage with more to come later. This initial expedition was simply to explore the unclaimed area of what is today northern Brazil from the coast down to the Amazon River. If Captain Thornton found conditions suitable, the Grand Duchy of Tuscany would then send over settlers to establish a colony in the region from which to export the valuable Brazil wood back to Italy; which was highly in demand with all of the building projects then underway. The area in question is today part of the overseas department of French Guyana but, at the time, it was unclaimed territory. France would not establish a colony there until 1630.
In any event, the voyage was a resounding success. After exploring the area, Captain Thornton returned to Tuscany with a report that listed the abundance of rosewood, wild sugar cane, white pepper, balsam, cotton and other valuable export items. Moreover the voyage was made from Italy to South America and back without the loss of a single man though, unfortunately, all but one of the natives brought back soon died of smallpox which they had never been exposed to. The natives did though attest to how rich and fertile the land was, making it sound as though they were trying to encourage colonization, even reporting that it was quite rich in silver and gold diposits. Everything seemed to be going great, the initial voyage was a success, all reports were glowing with promise and Captain Thornton was ready to sail back. According to the original plan, the next step was for a second voyage to establish the actual colony, somewhere between the Orinoco and Amazon Rivers, with Italian settlers from Livorno and Lucca which was to get underway in the summer of 1609. Unfortunately, despite everything going as planned and with every chance of success on the horizon, no follow-up voyage was to be made to establish an actual Italian colony.