Tracking Leonardo da Vinci: from Vinci to Anchiano in Tuscany

Tracking Leonardo da Vinci: from Vinci to Anchiano in Tuscany

with 29 Comments

 

Oh so you want to become a painter like Leonardo da Vinci, huh? A ridiculous question that someone asked me many years ago, when I said that I wanted to study art. It popped up in my mind again as we drove into the tiny village of Vinci in Tuscany, and saw the street sign “Welcome to Vinci – The birthplace of Leonardo”.

 

The Via dei Martiri led us from typical Tuscan villas past contemporary houses right into the heart of the medieval part of the town. The bells of the Chiesa di Santa Croce chimed 10 times. 10am and no one was to be seen in the village. – This is weird, I said to Kerstin, do you think they are all in the church? – Either that or no one cares to visit Leonardo da Vinci’s birthplace, she replied.

 

When I parked our car on the Via Montalbano, a tourist bus suddenly pulled in. Dozens of tired French teenagers started disembarking. Soon, a second bus full of German seniors arrived. Kerstin looked at me: – There you go, here are the tourists you were looking for! I rolled my eyes and hurried towards the Museo Leonardiano, hoping to purchase our entrance tickets before the groups did.

 

Drawings by Leonardo da Vinci and models of his inventions at the Museo Leonardiano in Vinci, Tuscany, Italy © Travelwithmk.com
Drawings by Leonardo da Vinci and models of his inventions at the Museo Leonardiano in Vinci, Tuscany, Italy © Travelwithmk.com

 

 

The first part of the museum, housed in the 19th century Palazzina Uzielli, is devoted to several recreations of da Vinci’s practical inventions. Seeing Leonardo’s revolutionary concepts of a mechanical clock, a machine to automate the textile manufacturing cycle, or measuring instruments made me wonder why people often remember him primarily as a painter. Of course, he started his career at age 14 as an apprentice of Andrea del Verrochio, a leading Florentine painter from whom he learned various technical and artistic skills, and produced many paintings throughout his life, such as the Mona Lisa or The Last Supper.

 

But Leonardo was much more than a painter or a sculptor. He was also a geologist, a botanist, a musician, a mathematician, an architect, an urban planner, a cartographer, and an engineer! His drawings and manuscripts, as well as the contemporary models of his inventions showcased in the medieval Castello dei Conti Guidi, are even more breathtaking.

 

From war machines and bicycles to flying machines, parachutes, and mechanical devices to divert watercourses: Leonardo da Vinci was a real Renaissance polymath. He was what many scholars rightfully state as a “Universal Genius”. And if he were a man of the 21st century, I believe that we would call him “Einstein”.

 

 

Deeply focused on the Master’s scientific works for several hours, we suddenly realized that the French and German visitors were already gone as we reached the last showroom of the museum. From the top of the Castle Tower, we spottel several of them strolling around the Piazza dei Guidi, and others walking towards the Leonardo Library, which holds copies of every printed edition of Leonardo’s works, as well as facsimile reproductions of all his drawings and manuscripts.

 

Behind the Church of Santa Croce, where Leonardo was baptized in 1452, acres of olive groves, vineyards and iconic Tuscan cedar trees spread over the rolling hills of Montalbano. So this was the landscape that Leonardo da Vinci also saw more than 500 years ago…

 

-Do you think that the house where he was born is still somewhere down there?, I asked Kerstin. – Yes and no: the original house has been heavily restored and it’s located about 3km away from here in the little village of Anchiano. It’s written on the first panel when we entered into the museum, she said with her usual smirk. – Aha… I have to admit that I didn’t read everything, I laughed. So let’s go to Anchiano then?

 

By the time we reached our car, the bus with the French students was leaving the parking. – Wait! I overheard them saying they’re heading to Anchiano. Maybe we should walk there instead of driving, so by the time we arrive they’ll probably have left, Kerstin suggested.

 

 

The sky cleared up as we engaged into the “Strada Verde” or “Green Route”, and it soon became scorching hot for a spring day. But walking through this picturesque trail is now one of my favourite memories of our Tuscan trip. It was exactly the kind of countryside pathway I had always dreamed to walk through when I was a kid: along centuries old olive trees and flaming-red poppies, and surrounded by motley butterflies and emerald lizards, all simmering under the Tuscan sun! Almost too bucolic to keep hiking to Anchiano…

 

When we arrived at Leonardo’ birthplace, restored as a typical 15th century Tuscan stone house, the group of French students was about to board their bus. I glanced at Kerstin, who shot me another quirky smile: – You see? I was right.

 

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Tracking Leonardo da Vinci: from Vinci to Anchiano in Tuscany, Italy © Travelwithmk.com

Follow Mei:

Traveler - Storyteller

30-something Archaeologist, born and raised in Luxembourg. Besides traveling, Mei loves eating stinky cheese and raw food, as well as listening to Kerstin's stories while driving on long road trips. She speaks 7 languages, and wishes she had time to pick up Ancient Greek. She's afraid of heights, but adores panoramic views. Her favorite places are those she chose to live in: Paris, Greece, San Francisco.

29 Responses

  1. umiko
    | Reply

    Jealous! You’ve got to track Leonardo da Vinci’s life. I agree with you, he could be another Einstein with all his inventions. For now we’re happy to be able to see his works at the Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.

  2. Wow, what an incredible day! Glad you guys got to avoid some of those tourists. That walk at the end sounded especially lovely. I’ve only been to Rome and Naples, so I have so much more of Italy to explore!

    • Mei and Kerstin
      | Reply

      Rome and Naples are nice too, but quite different from Northern Italy. If you get a chance, do go explore Tuscany.I’m sure you’ll love it! 🙂 By the way, did you get to visit the archaeological sites of Pompeii or Herculaneum when you went to Naples?

  3. carol colborn
    | Reply

    This was so cool to read. Da Vinci was an amazing human being. But why did you stop telling the story when you arrived in Anchiano from Vinci? Wanted to know how he lived.

    • Mei and Kerstin
      | Reply

      Thanks Carol! Well, Leonardo’s (possible) birthhouse in Anchiano is rather small and to be honest there’s not much to see. In one of the rooms, you can learn about the history of Leonardo as an artist through a touch application. And in another room you’re welcomed by a life-sized Leonardo hologram who recounts the Master’s life story. 🙂

  4. Holly
    | Reply

    This is cool. I would want to check this out. Especially since he was into more than art. When I went to Malaga I saw some of Picasso’s stuff and old neighborhood.

    • Mei and Kerstin
      | Reply

      Oh yes I’ve heard about the Picasso museum in Malaga, and would love to visit it too someday! So far, we’ve only been to the one close to Barcelona.

  5. Suruchi Mittal
    | Reply

    I just knew that Leonardo was a painter but his other talents came as a surprise to me. He was so damn talented. His paintings are lovely. I would love going to his birthplace. Your pictures are amazing.

  6. Medha Verma
    | Reply

    I know Leonardo Da Vinci has a painter but I had no idea that he was also a geologist, a botanist, a musician, a mathematician, an architect, an urban planner, a cartographer, and an engineer – that is one super long list of talents to have for one person, is it not? His paintings truly have been amazing no doubt and visiting the museum would have been one great learning experience about his life!

    • Mei and Kerstin
      | Reply

      Yes, we really learned a lot about Leonardo in his hometown Vinci and Anchiano! 🙂

  7. Kate
    | Reply

    How incredible to be able to see so many of Da Vinci’s creations. I had no idea that he had so many varied talents including botany and music. I’m a huge history fanatic, so I would love to visit and learn more about such an incredible life!

    • Mei and Kerstin
      | Reply

      Oh then you definitely need to visit the village of Vinci, Kate! 🙂

  8. bye:myself
    | Reply

    Leonardo certainly was a smart cookie – and it’s too bad that he’s often reduced to the Mona Lisa; which is even not his best work, anyway. I follow the traces of an artist like you did here – I don’t know to how many birthplaces and homes of writers and artists I’ve been….

  9. Indrani
    | Reply

    I was used to be a big fan of Leonardo during my school days. (I still am!) I made several photo projects on him.
    Some how this post took me to my school days. I would love to visit his home or whatever remains of it. Great pics I would love to walk the same path some day.

    • Mei and Kerstin
      | Reply

      Exploring museums and historical places in Europe always take us back to our time at the University. 🙂 Which is actually a great thing, because otherwise we tend to forget about all the things we learned back then!

  10. Melody Pittman
    | Reply

    I had no idea that Da Vinci had so many other talents, jobs, trades. What an amazing man. I have seen his flying inventions at different museums and they are quite fascinating. Definitely a must visit in Tuscany.

    • Mei and Kerstin
      | Reply

      Oh I didn’t know that his flying inventions are also displayed in other museums! Awesome! 🙂

  11. Fiona Maclean
    | Reply

    LOL I’d have been with you on trying to avoid the bored French students. The Museo Leonardiano looks wonderful and I didn’t realise it existed. Just another excuse to go back to Tuscany!

    • Mei and Kerstin
      | Reply

      Yep! And Tuscany is always a good idea, right? 🙂 What is your favorite thing to do in Tuscany so far?

  12. Brianna
    | Reply

    Leonardo da Vinci was a genius in every sense of the word and I’d love to learn about him in the town he was born. Your hike to Archiano sounds like what I imagine any walk in the Tuscan country to be.

    • Mei and Kerstin
      | Reply

      Oh the Tuscan countrysides are simply charming, Brianna! And they are not all alike. While I do love the hilly ones in the Chianti Region for instance, my favorite one is along the trail between Vinci and Anchiano. 🙂

  13. Milkytravel-blog
    | Reply

    Tuscany is for sure one of the most beautiful regions in Italy, i also love taking trails, especially when weather allows. Your pictures look fantastic. Would visit this museum, when i am there 🙂

  14. bherron80
    | Reply

    I love stopping off in tiny towns in Italy and exploring. I almost always enjoy it more than the big crowded touristed cities. Such a lovely thing to road trip through another country! I recently did so through Andalucia-and last year drove through Marche region of Italy. so many cool things to stop and see with that much freedom!

    • Mei and Kerstin
      | Reply

      We’re like you, Brooke: we also prefer stopping in tiny towns while roadtripping, instead of going to big cities. When we were in Tuscany, the only big city we visited was Sienna, and it was sooo crowded that we ended up staying there less than an afternoon. That being said, I must admit that we’d love to visit Florence too someday, but definitely not during a road trip and maybe in winter.

  15. Amélie
    | Reply

    Leonardo da Vinci is my favorite artist! I love how he studied the human body before anyone else. Visiting Tuscany sounds like a great thing to get a bit of inspiration from him 😀

  16. I went to a museum about Leonardo da Vinci in the Loire Valley of France and it was fascinating. Didn’t know about this place in Tuscany. 🙂

    • Mei and Kerstin
      | Reply

      I’ve heard that the one in Loire is awesome too. Would love to visit someday. 🙂

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