The Florentine hills

The Florentine hills

Leonardo studied the hills that encircle the basin of Florence, both as landscape elements and as observation points for the reconnaissance connected with the project for channeling the Arno. He drew their contours, evidencing the hills of Bellosguardo, Certosa, Fiesole, L’Incontro, Monte Ceceri, Monteoliveto, Montici and Il Paradiso. Leonardo visually surveys the scenario, fruit of an extraordinary blend of nature and artifice, in which he plans to intervene rationally; the ductus is that of the views from the Pisan Mountains, but with more aesthetic refinement and optical-perspective sensitivity, as in the vedutas en plein air of a traveller during the Romantic period.

  • Indicated by Leonardo in several documents, the Certosa is one of the most important religious and artistic centres in the vicinity of Florence. Appearing as an industrious citadel of faith, it preserves works by great artists, especially from the 15th and 16th centuries.

  • Three toponyms appear in the drawings that Leonardo made of the hilly region to the north of Florence. In addition to Mount Morello, Leonardo mentions Fiesole (a city founded in antiquity, and where the artist owned some land), and Mount Ceceri, from the summit of which one of his students. Zoroastro, flung himself into the void in the attempt to realize the dream of human flight.

  • On foglio 17r in the Codex Madrid II is a sketch by Leonardo of the hills of Florence around Villamagna. One peak is labeled “L’Incontro”.
    In the 18th century a Franciscan monastery stood on this panoramic site overlooking Florence and the Valdarno from a height of 559 metres.

  • A sketch of the hills lying to the south of the Arno River can be found on a folio from the Codex Madrid II. Leonardo depicts what today would be referred to as the skyline with, for example, the hill known as Mount Oliveto on which still stands the Church of San Bartolomeo a Monte Oliveto (once part of a monastery complex situated alongside what is now the park belonging to the Villa Strozzi). The Bellosguardo Tower (which is perfectly recognizable in the drawing) and the Church of Santa Margherita a Montici have also survived to this day.

  • Rusciano and Il Paradiso are two localities are situated on the left bank of the Arno. Rusciano is mentioned more than once in Leonardo’s papers and gives its name to the villa that was built in the area. Del Paradiso is a hill at whose base lies a monastic complex that was built around an imposing, pre-existing building. Il Paradiso became a favourite meeting place for leading figures in the early period of Florentine humanism.