Itineraries in the Empolese Valdelsa district

  • Leonardo's mills

    Near Vinci there still stands a building known as Mulino della Doccia (Mill of La Doccia). It is right here, in his native village, that Leonardo had observed the operation of that hydraulic factory, depicting it on a famous map in the Codex Atlanticus. Leonardo's studies on the calculation of forces deriving from water were based largely on experience. On the hills around Vinci, a landscape familiar to the young Leonardo, there were a great number of mills powered by the rivers that flowed down from Montalbano. Some of these date back to the 16th century and are preserved even today.

  • Leonardo’s "invisible" castles between the Valdelsa and the Valdera

    Leonardo's geographical maps constitute one of the most characteristic productions from the eclectic artist. Some embrace supraregional territories, like the famous map of the Windsor Castle collection RL 12278, covering a large part of central Tuscany; and in addition to the orographic details, the network of fortified towns having a particular strategic value at the time have been depicted. In observing the area around the Valdelsa, we can recognize many well-known villages, such as Certaldo and Castelfiorentino, but perhaps the most interesting aspect is the inclusion of those villages or towns that no longer exist in the forms in which Leonardo saw and depicted them during the early 16th century.

  • Leonardo’s family’s farms and the lands of the Counts Guidi in Vinci

    The lands and farms acquired by Leonardo's father, a very successful notary highly active in Florence, were scattered about the hills around Vinci, which was originally the castle of the Counts Guidi. The gentle hills of the ancient castle district became the most familiar landscape to the young Leonardo, who spent the first years of his life here. The lands owned by the da Vinci family were found primarily in the communities of San Pantaleo, of Santa Lucia a Paterno, of San Lorenzo a Streda, and of Santa Croce. The churches of these communities, and the others that punctuated the countryside around Vinci, all once belonged to the powerful noble family. The infant Leonardo was baptized in the castle church.

  • The da Vinci family Taverns

    During Leonardo’s time the ancient road that led from the Arno to Vinci and then toward the Montalbano passes was dotted with resting places. One was right in Vinci, in the village at the foot of the castle, and was taken over by Leonardo's youngest half-brother around 1530. Continuing along the road there was another point for refreshment, the tavern of Anchiano, with which we are acquainted, because in the middle of the 15th century Leonardo's grandfather, then in that place, was obliged to interrupt a game of "backgammon" to draw up a contract. When Leonardo's father bought the farm in Anchiano 30 years later, his intention may have been to take advantage of its position along the road and create, or strengthen, its function as a resting place for wayfarers.

  • The lands of Leonardo’s nichi

    The Greti hills, where Leonardo passed the first years of his life, were, for him, the first geological observatory. We can find traces of the different geological levels that aroused Leonardo’s scientific curiosity as we walk through the vineyards and fields around Cerreto, Vinci, Collegonzi, and Capraia. It was here that Leonardo observed and collected the fossils of marine origin he called nichi (cavities, hollows), meaning shells, in his writings. Collections of Leonardian nichi and reconstructions of the geological stratigraphy for the Middle Valdarno, whose origins Leonardo theorized, can be visited in the geological sections of some local museums.