The islands of the Cape Verde archipelago were discovered by Italian and Portuguese navigators around 1456. According to Portuguese official records  the first discoveries were made by Genoese born Antonio de Noli, who was afterwards appointed governor of Cape Verde by Portuguese King Afonso V. Other navigators mentioned as contributing with discoveries in the Cape Verde archipelago are Diogo Gomes, Diogo Dias, Diogo Afonso and the Italian Alvise Cadamosto.
Before the arrival of Europeans, the Cape Verde Islands were uninhabited. In 1462, Portuguese settlers arrived at Santiago and founded a settlement they called Ribeira Grande (now called Cidade Velha, to avoid being confused with the town of Ribeira Grande on the Santo Antão island). Ribeira Grande was the first permanent European settlement in the tropics.
The Portuguese named the islands Cabo Verde (from which the English Cape Verde derives), after the nearby Cap Vert on the Senegalese coast. In the 16th century, the archipelago prospered from the transatlantic slave trade. Pirates occasionally attacked the Portuguese settlements. Sir Francis Drake sacked Ribeira Grande in 1585. After a French attack in 1712, the town declined in importance relative to nearby Praia, which became the capital in 1770.