Escape the busy streets of Florence and head to the small village of Vinci in the Tuscan countryside. As many other hilltop towns in the area it is surrounded by vineyards and olive groves and is a delight to explore. However, there is one thing that makes Vinci different: its strong connection with the Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci, who was born nearby in 1452 and lived here for 17 years before moving to Florence.
Anywhere you go in Vinci reminds you of Leonardo: a guesthouse called “La Gioconda”, a restaurant “Da Leonardo”. He was baptized at the lovely 13th century church of Santa Croce where you can still see the original document with a record of the event.
The village is dominated by the beautiful 12th century Guidi castle that saw many battles in its days. Today it houses the Museo Leonardiano with a collection of wooden models and ingenious machines that da Vinci sketched in his notebooks: a bicycle, car, helicopter, parachute, tank, projection device, machine for making coins and many others. There is also the Leonardo Library in the castle that has facsimile reproductions of all of his manuscripts and drawings.
|The Guidi Castle|
Just outside of Vinci is a stone farmhouse where the Renaissance polymath was born as an illegitimate child of a local small landowner and a maid. The house has been turned into an interesting interactive museum Casa Natale di Leonardo. There are three simple rooms where you can see reproductions of his drawings of the Tuscan countryside, learn da Vinci’s family history and meet a life-sized hologram of Leonardo who tell his life’s story. Over half a million visitors come to visit the Museum of Leonardo and his birthplace every year.
|Colo di Cecco Santi Festival|
If you happen to be in the area at the end of July, do not miss a spectacular festival and historic re-enactment of a local legend about Cecco Santi who was thrown off the castle’s tower but survived the fall by flying away. There is always a lot of good wine, food, music and fireworks.
Photos by: Bernd Thaller, Esteban Chiner, Volo di Cecco Santi/Facebook.