Vinci is a beautiful town located in northern Tuscany, on the slopes of Montalbano, a mountain rich in olive groves and vineyards. Vinci is recognised worldwide as the birthplace of Leonardo da Vinci.
The oldest part of the town has a characteristic almond shape, and observed from above resembles a boat with two masts. For this reason, the old town is called “Castel of the ship”.
In the heart of the small village of Vinci there is the Leonardo Library and the Leonardo Museum, one of the most important museums in the region, with around 130 thousand visitors every year.
During my visit to Vinci I saw the beautiful Piazza dei Guidi, where, in the centre of the square is a bronze equestrian statue created by an artist called Nina Akamu, who was inspired by the numerous designs of horses by Leonardo. From there I made my way to the Piazza della Libertà where I saw a wooden sculpture depicting the Vitruvian man, a monument made by Mario Ceroli, another artist inspired by the drawings of Leonardo.
With great curiosity I visited the church of Santa Croce, where Leonardo was baptized, and the Leonardo Library, which contains several of his manuscripts and reproductions of his drawings. Leonardo was born in 1452, 3km outside of Vinci, at the southern foot of Monte Albano, in Anchiano. You can visit his birthplace, which is surrounded by vineyards and olive groves, because it is part of the Houses of Memory and the Leonardo museum.
The Tuscan landscape marked Leonardo indelibly and influenced the young man, his art and interests. In 1472 Leonardo moved to Florence and at the age of 17 began his apprenticeship in the workshop of Andrea Verrocchio, a favoured artist of the famous Medici family of Florence. In Florence, which was the capital of Tuscany during the Renaissance, Leonardo continued his studies under the tutorship of Verrocchio. He learnt the techniques of the art of painting, drawing and sculpture.
My next visit was to the Leonardo Museum, in Vinci, it was here that I discovered one of the largest collections dedicated to his interests, studies and inventions, he was an eclectic and complete artist: a painter, sculptor, architect, inventor and scientist all at the same time. The museum has two locations in Vinci: the first is the Uzielli and the second is the Castle of the Counts Guidi, where I saw models and machines which have been built, based on the drawings and writings of Leonardo, from the paddle boat to the swivel crane, a press for oil and a flying machine, the forerunner of modern day airplanes. I was mesmerized by these and struck by the thought of how advanced the genius Leonardo was.
As I later travelled away from Vinci, along the wine and olive oil road of Montalbano, I admired again the hills, immersed in a landscape of woods, the vineyards, olive groves, the Etruscan ruins, state and historic houses. I was struck again how much this land of art, culture and excellence had influenced and inspired Leonardo throughout his life, his passion for observation, his representation of nature, a passion that I had seen and admired in his works of art displayed in Vinci.