The town of Vinci in Italy in Tuscany is located in the province of Florence, an hour west of the capital town but only a dozen kilometres north of Empoli. Its hamlet of Anchiano gave birth to one of the most eclectic, brilliant and talented men in history, Leonardo, and here we have already solved what to see in Vinci: the city dedicates its main and exclusive attraction, the Leonardo da Vinci Museum in fact, to his great talent. Leonardo da Vinci was born here, the illegitimate son of Piero da Vinci and Caterina, in April 1452 and the whole of Tuscany prides itself on this little corner at the slopes of Montalbano.
Vinci revolves around the story of the domination of its Castle of the Guidi Counts, built around the year 1000. Already here you will be lost seen that the there are several Conti Guidi castles around; well, then this is one of those, in short, the same family. The Guidi were a dynasty which ruled over much of central Italy between Ravenna, Tuscany and Emilia from the 10th century onwards. It is reported that its founder, Tegrimo, was resident in Pistoia in 924, not far from Vinci Tuscany, and the possessions of the Romagna had arrived for the wedding of a noblewoman from there. The first possessions were the ones from Tuscany, among these, there would be the ones we are talking about here.
The Guide Castle in Vinci, also known as 'the ship' for its elongated construction, with central tower, which make it looks like a sailboat, remained to the Guidi until 12 August 1254, when Vinci became Florentine and followed all its events. Submission to Florence then brought to the Vinci Castle a series of raids. In 1315 Uguccione della Faggiola conquered it and drove out the Florentines for a short time. Returned to the latter, the town was under the attacks of Castruccio Castracani between 1320 and 1326, and to demonstrate that not all Englishmen who have filmed in Tuscany are lovers of nature, good wine and refreshing walks, Vinci was also attacked by the famous British leader John Hawkwood, who at that time was in the pay of the Republic of Pisa, in 1364.
'Vinci - what to see' has already been dealt with as this story already tells why you should visit Vinci In Italy.
Vinci and Florence are not, however, a combination that provided the small town of Montalbano with any kind of prosperity. Vinci was and remained in history an agricultural centre and became a commune in 1372, to then merge with Cerreto Guidi in 1424. The latter very slowly took the lead of all the territory and, in 1772, had the upper hand. In 1774, Vinci is not even a commune. It was Leonardo da Vinci’s memory that advised the President of the Italian Republic Luigi Einaudi in 1954 to attribute to Vinci Italy administrative autonomy and, also, to give it the title of 'City'.
Leonardo was born in Vinci but, at the age of eight, he moved with his family to Florence: his father wanted to follow him in his footsteps and be a notary, but, between 1464 and 1469, our little genius joined as an apprentice no less than in the workshop of Andrea del Verrocchio. As was tradition in Florence for those who exercise arts and crafts, in 1472 Leonardo is already registered to the Brotherhood of Painters and, at that time, he had frequented the house of the Medici for some time. In short, the boy is on the upper floors…In 1482 Lorenzo de Medici sent him to Milan at the court of Ludovico il Moro, and in the letter of presentation of Leonardo, the head of Florence presents to the noble from Milan the architectural skills of the child, as well as his military and engineering ones, as a sculptor and so on. That said, you will understand the hilarity of who is telling this story when reading the most official biographies of Leonardo, where Leonardo is said to have instead been responsible for organizing the parties at the court in Milan! Then the first three things that come to mind are: Lorenzo the Magnificent wrote like a mule, or Ludovico could not read or Leonardo da Vinci was a real joker.
However in Milan Leonardo did very well. Many are his works in this period: 'The Last Supper' at the refectory of the Dominican convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie was painted between 1495 and 1498. In 1499 he abandoned Milan conquered by the French and in 1500 he returned to Florence. Subsequently he was at the service of the Borgia, working with Michelangelo's 1503 painting 'Battle of Anghiari' in the Salone dei Cinquecento in Florence and touring Italy between Milan, Rome and Florence, whilst creating his own works - now primarily of civil engineering - and presenting his countless inventions. In 1515 on a trip to Rome the King of France, Francis I, invited him to move in with him, Leonardo agreed and went to live with some of his disciples in the castle of Cloux near Amboise, where he died on 2 May 1519 and where he is still buried.
It is true, Vinci was not the centre of Leonardo's life but his hometown has been able to collect his spirit of inventor, engineer, creative, visionary of the future into the true work of art that is the Leonardo di Vinci Museum.
This museum of Leonardo and the whole of Vinci, as we shall see, are inspired by a great idea: the past-future relationship, with sometimes deliberately high-tech solutions. Vinci, to experience the futuristic works of his Leonardo, has created squares, streets and meeting points with its visitors in mind in a modern, modernist and highly technological style. For example, the Piazza Guidi, in front of the entrance to the museum, is dominated by the multifaceted and abstract artist Mimmo Paladino’s contemporary sculptures, shiny and modern works that represent the encounter between today and Leonardo’s Renaissance.
We know that you would maybe do the opposite, at least for logistical reasons but, if you are heading for Vinci, when you are in its vicinity just pass it. If you come from the south pointing toward the mountain, go a couple of kilometres beyond the tip of the ship, past the castle - by the way the latter seen from the street is also cute - and quickly enter into the climate of Vinci heading towards Vinci Anchiano Italy. This village is located just a little over two kilometres north-east of the centre, the scenery is gorgeous and, if it is the right season, you are surrounded by olive trees and you move on the typical narrow streets of the Tuscan countryside. You have now arrived at the birthplace of Leonardo da Vinci. Curated by the Leonardo Museum, the house has been restored and some measures that help the visitor enter the right climate: you will be protagonists of the application 'Leonardo Touch', which lets you discover Leonardo the painter through a Leonardo's life-size hologram.
Vinci is a large museum of Leonardo da Vinci. The Leonardo Museum was born as an idea in 1919 and materialized around what has been its current philosophy since 1953, thanks to the donation of a world international company of Information and Communication Technology: IBM. Initially the museum only occupied the Conte Guidi Castle but since 2004 its exhibition capacity has expanded to the nearby Palazzo Uzielli and has thus found a refinement level of its museum proposal that puts Vinci on the list for visitors of Florentine days when discovering the best of Tuscany.
The Leonardo Museum is a great exhibition of the models and machines of the genius of Leonardo engineer, architect, scientist and inventor. It is the discovery of the Renaissance - the historical period that had its own development from Florence, its vocation for innovation and creativity.
The tour of the Leonardo museum starts on the first floor of Palazzo Uzielli: its sections are dedicated to applied textile technology, construction machinery and mechanical watches. With particular interest for those with an inclination towards calculations is the study of Leonardo's construction of Brunelleschi's dome in Florence. You then move to the Guidi Castle in Vinci where, on the ground floor, there is a section dedicated to war machines, architecture and engineering. In the flight section you will find the famous beating wing and then the designs of automatic mechanisms, such as those for operating bells. You then climb up to the next floor in the Sala del Podestà to start with the big crane, then the room of the bicycle, optics and water and the studies dedicated to river transportation. You then go to the room where you will find the projection of documentaries and videos on the work and life of the Renaissance genius. From the tower of the castle you can enjoy spectacular views of the surrounding area.
Following in the footsteps of Guidi's Square in the vision of past-present intuition, take a tour of the contemporary works housed by the small historic village of Vinci. In Piazza della Libertà, since 2001, is the work of 'Leonardo's Horse' by the Japanese-American artist Nina Akamu, inspired by the never finished work of Leonardo for Francesco Sforza. In the square behind the Leonardo museum you will find the wooden sculpture donated by Mario Ceroli to the Museum and entitled 'The Man from Vinci' because it represents the famous Vitruvian Man by Leonardo. Between the palace and the castle on Via La Pira is the Church of Santa Croce, where there is also a 15th century baptismal font. Since 2010, this church has housed, inspired by Leonardo, a sculptural cycle by Cecco Buonanotte, one of the most famous contemporary Italian sculptors.
It is amazing how Vinci Tuscany Italy has been able to tell its story also through festivals and events that parade through its streets.
The first is part of the Leonardo Library initiatives, a reading and discovery centre of Leonardo’s works. Since 1960 this organization has organized, usually during the second weekend of April, a cultural gathering called 'Lettura Vinciana', which is a critical review of one of the works of Leonardo with Da Vinci readings. It is curated each year by a different international exponent of the world of culture and / or professor and world expert on Leonardo. This event is generally within the framework of Leonardo's celebrations that are organized just between mid-April and the end of June.
It is however, the 'Unicorn Festival' in Vinci the most intense and original event. The Festa of the Unicorno has taken place since 2004 in the second half of July with three days dedicated to the fantasy world that invades the streets of Vinci with colours and costumes, elves, goblins, knights of the Hobbit world, Adventure Comics characters that surround the life of the town. On the streets of Vinci in those days contests and thematic music concerts are held, you are immersed in the Alley of Fear, we are witnessing the Challenge of Magical Arts passing from the more traditional fantasy to comics to the world of Yu-Gi-Oh and Cosplay. The party records every year a record attendance, well over twenty-five thousand accesses in three days, and is a true gathering for fans of the genre, and for many families and kids of all ages.
The third event that we announce is definitely the most important to Vinci and its inhabitants, and after Leonardo, is tied to a piece of history that Vinci has inside but only more recently has begun to propose first of all to itself : the Volo of Cecco Santi.
The history of Cecco (the Tuscan landscape is full of stories of Cecco) should be seen in the 14th century and the background are the struggles between Guelphs and Ghibellines which convulsed Florence and Tuscany. Cecco Santi di Vinci was a guard knight of fortune who, for the love of a noblewoman, became corrupted by the opposing attackers to encourage their entry into Vinci. He was discovered and sentenced to be thrown from the tower of the Castle of the Guidi Counts. Cecco asked to drink, as a last wish, a good wine glass of Vinci, a miraculous wine because the traitor and womanizer rider was able to fly and had thus saved his life. The commemoration, which is a rite for the harvest of Vinci’s fields, now takes place in the last week of July and consists of a historical parade in medieval dress on the streets of Vinci, the flight of Cecco Santi puppet from the Castle and one breath-taking fireworks display. Around Vinci then the local culinary traditions does the rest. We have evidence of the first edition of this festival in May of 1856 and we are sure that it was repeated until the early twentieth century. It was restarted in 1935 then again interrupted and resumed after the war with no continuity. Tuscany is a land of strong people and very attached to their traditions and that is how the Vinci managed to introduce 'Volo Cecco Santi' again and stably in their calendar in 1989 with growing and fascinating theatrical tricks.
We have talked of Vinci and wine, was the cup of Cecco Santi effectively miraculous? Evidently around Vinci this still works because the production of Chianti DOCG red wines, Chianti Montalbano DOC and Vinsanto DOC white wines and IGT ones has in fact been a miracle and fits perfectly into the context of the vast Chianti winning culture that runs through a large portion of Tuscany. Vinci also produces a refined oil with the 'Extra Virgin Tuscan IGP' label. In 2003 the Consortium of Vinci Hills was born which includes wine and olive oil producers from Vinci and is also a promotional and product dissemination tool. The Consortium also organizes visits to their associated farms with guided tastings of wine and oil. Discover on the web its busy schedule, or make yourself heard, it's worth it!
Vinci is a small reality that does great things and goes through an array of different initiatives: from the high-tech world to fantasy, from the ingenious machines of Leonardo to the land products that saved Cecco, it is a town that wanted to combine Renaissance and contemporary art, and there is no doubt that the final result is consistent and compelling.
Living Vinci has exactly this whole Tuscan dimension yet it is very original, but it is clear to anyone who visits it that Leonardo's machines are the true stars, almost the makers of this union. Welcome to Vinci.
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Day trip to Siena, San Gimignano and the Chianti area: departure from Florence
Duration: approx. 11 hours
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Day trip to the Cinque Terre from Florence with lunch
Duration: approx. 13 hours
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Vasarian Corridor & Uffizi Gallery
Duration: approx. 3 hours 30 minutes