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.
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
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 podestà, 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 façade to
1929, the new baptistry to 1952, containing the salvaged
baptismal font where, according to tradition, Leonardo was
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
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.
foto di G.