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Vinci Leonardo's Home Town

VINCI  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 "castrum".
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.

The Castle
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 lifetime.

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.

The environs
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 library.
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 the Martellis.
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 countryside.
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.

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