Leonardo's Home Town
The borough of Vinci numbers 14 thousand
inhabitants. It is situated in the heart of Tuscany,
only a few kilometres from Florence and Pistoia, a
stone's throw from Pisa, and within an hour's drive from
Lucca and Siena. Vinci extends over an area of 54 sq.
km., with a minimum altitude of 26m at Sovigliana and a
maximum of 640m on Montalbano (Cupolino), where the
greater part of the borough territory may be found.
Vinci, Leonardo's home town, lies in the heart of the
most verdant countryside. This gives the surrounding
landscape a magical and enchanted quality, worthy of the
most suggestive of Leonardo's images.
In former times,
Vinci was inhabited by the Etruscans, and later became a Roman
The primitive castle building dates back to the height of the
Middle Ages and, around the year 1000, was dominated by the
Conti Guidi, whose possession was confirmed in 1164 by
Frederick Barbarossa and in 1220 by Frederick Il of Sweden. On
August 12, 1254, Vinci succumbed to Florentine dominion and
was transformed into a borough.
As it was situated on the western borders of the state, Vinci
was contended by Florence's enemies; it was also directly
involved in the events caused by those factions which
tormented life in the capital. In 1315, Uguccione della
Faggiuola's troops fought under Vinci's walls; in 1320-26,
John Hawkwood, dubbed "The Acute", was at the head
of the English mercenaries hired by Pisa.
Through the centuries,
the original structure of the Conti Guidi Castle underwent
various alterations by its numerous proprietors. It was
returned to the borough of Vinci by Count Julius Masetti da
Bagnano, in 1919, for the restoration of the Leonardo Museum.
The museum, which dates back to 1953, was composed of a series
of machines inspired by Leonardo.
In the new arrangement, the models have been inserted in a
larger, more comprehensive exhibition and are accompanied by
descriptive notes. The series of reconstructions using real
dimensions compares Leonardo's designs in relation to movement
on land, sea and air to analogous mechanisms thought up by
technicians and inventors before, during and after Leonardo's
The Conti Guidi Castle is commonly referred to as "The
Ship's Castle", due to its long shape and tower which
recall the outline of a sailing-boat. Here you can also find
the frescoes and sculptures of the various coats of arms,
which evoke the former podestą, and Giovanni della Robbia's
splendid ceramic, "The Madonna and Child".
"The Man from Vinci", a large wooden sculpture by
Mario Ceroli, inspired by Leonardo's Vitruvian man, was
erected in the square opposite the castle in 1987.
Near the Conti Guidi Castle lies Santa Croce Parish Church. It
is filled with relics of great local historical interest and
is of Romanesque origin with various modifications; the bell
tower dates back to 1852, the interior and faēade to 1929,
the new baptistry to 1952, containing the salvaged baptismal
font where, according to tradition, Leonardo was christened.
About 3 km from Vinci, at
Anchiano, lies the house where Leonardo was born. It was restored in
1986 and adds an interesting finishing touch to a tour of the museum.
The landscape surrounding the house is still very similar to the one
Leonardo had contemplated and drawn since childhood. That is why it
was decided, during the repairs, to decorate the house with examples
of how Leonardo was able to "see" and interpret nature.
Inside the house are the reproductions of several drawings
representing views of the Tuscan countryside and a map of the Arno
valley, traced by Leonardo himself.
At present, a new museum building is being prepared in the proximity
of the Conti Guidi Castle to host the "Leda di Vinci", a
superb painting from the school of Leonardo, assigned to the borough
of Vinci by the Minister of Fine Arts. The new museum will be
devoted to the theme of Leonardo the painter, thus completing and
encapsulating the Leonardian itinerary of the museum, birthplace and
The arrival of the " Leda" at Vinci will thus fill
"the gap caused by the lack of any original work by Leonardo or
his group in his native town".
The Vinci itinerary is completed by Leonardo's Library, which now
represents an authoritative reference point for the study of the
works and thoughts of Leonardo and his times. The collection
includes the complete series of reproductions of Leonardo's
manuscripts and drawings and a detailed documentation in many
languages of the most important publications and monographs.
Since 1972, the Museum of the Agricultural Community has stood in
Via Montalbano, in the historical centre . It forms a part of the
great Castle Cellars and includes the collection of a vast range of
antique farming implements. After large-scale renovations, the new
"Ideal Leonardo da Vinci Museum of Art and the Utopia of
Science" has also been dedicated to the exposition of material
from various exhibitions on Leonardo which have taken place in
recent years both in Italy and abroad.
Apart from Leonardo, other famous people are associated with Vinci:
another great artist from the same family was born here, the
sculptor Pierfrancesco da Vinci, known as Pierino (around 1530 -
1554), Leonardo's nephew to whom Vasari dedicated one of his famous
"Vite"; at Dianella there are the house and tomb of the
poet Renato Fucini; the national hero Giuseppe Garibaldi lived, in
1867, as a guest in the two historical villas of the Ferrales and
Again within the borough, 4 km from the chief town, is the
"Pieve di San Giovanni in Greti" at San Ansano. Mentioned
in a diploma of Ottone III in the year 998, it stands as one of the
most interesting monuments of Romanesque art in the Tuscan
Moreover, Vinci is famous for the excellence and authenticity of its
local products, its extra virgin olive oil and wines (Chianti Putto
Montalbano, Chianti D.O.C.G. ).
Vinci promotes various cultural events throughout the year: the
Leonardo celebrations in April and the July Fair which, in the past
few years, has revived the traditional historical commemoration of
the "Flight of Cecco Santi" from the Castle Tower.