It was an opportunity not to be missed. The small and exquisite city on the slopes of verdant Montalbano where the extraordinary man had lived, was only a short drive from where we were staying.

We stopped at the car park at the bottom of Vinci. It’s an enchanting walk uphill, with reddish stone buildings higgledy-piggledy at the top. The roadside grass verges are daubed with yellow flowers and poppies that match the Vinci flag fluttering from windows and doorways – crimson and yellow everywhere!

“Buongiorno,” locals greet and smile along the quiet and charming streets. I made a mental note to buy local produce at shops loaded with vibrant fruit and vegetables and was drawn to a tourist outlet where Mona Lisa stationery was irresistible.

The first notable building on the way to the Medieval part is the five-arched Sanctuary of the Santissima Annunziata, a rustic-looking church that radiates warmth.

Around the corner at Piazza del Liberta, a bronze statue of Leonardo’s Horse canters atop a flowerbed bricked plinth. The sculpture is the work of Nina Akamua and was completed at the end of the last millennium, and inspired by Leonardo da Vinci’s intricate and skilled equine sketches. The gardens are a peaceful spot to sit and watch the world go by under the shade of trees for a few minutes, or longer, but we were eager to reach the Castle of Counts Guidi.

We carried on up the road; its fortifications and towers came into view. The structure was renovated in 1940 and still has frescoes from the 14th century. Best of all, though, is the vitrified terracotta arched Madonna and Child, a radiant wall decoration by Giovanni della Robbia and dated around 1523.   

The castle houses a museum celebrating the city’s famous writer, artist, and inventor, but concentrates on his latter attribute. Dozens of models illustrate Leonardo’s machinery, and some of the ideas are still in use today. Canal locks, spinning wheels, looms and the automaton of the textile industry, to name a few. He was motivated by water and nature, but alas many of his innovations never reached maturity.

The restaurant is in a secluded courtyard, where the servers are cheerful and eager to explain the menu. Open bruschetta from a traditional recipe, Cantuccini (almond biscuits) dipped into Vin Santo (an Italian dessert wine), and an Aperol spritzer, was my choice. Very tasty and uplifting, and a culinary delight I intend to serve to friends and family.

We almost missed seeing the Church of Santa Croce, but were pleased to find it and spent a pleasant fifteen minutes in the church where Leonardo was believed to have been baptised.

We had worked backward. From his life works to baptism, we then headed out on the road to Anchiano to see his birthplace.

The stone villa where he was born in 1452 and lived until his family moved to Florence, and a nearby farmhouse form the museum. It didn’t look like there was much inside to see, so we decided on a helping of fresh air and sun wandering around the lavender and rose-scented grounds, but found out later that there is a full-size hologram of the genius and a touch multimedia application that delivers pictorial works allowing interaction, with more displays.

We had had an enlightening day, so didn’t feel that we had missed out on too much, but next time I think a place doesn’t look interesting, I’ll have a peek through the doorway first.

Until next time,
Sue. X