Leonardo's manuscripts do not contain many drawings relating to ancient monuments and archaeological finds, but his interest in the long archaeological past of Tuscany and more generally for ancient models is evident: references to classical art are often present in his production, and the study of classicism is undoubtedly detectable also in the context of architecture.

  • During the Renaissance Arezzo was a key junction for highways running westward toward the Adriatic Sea, but another aspect of the town attracted the interest of Leonardo as well – its long history and ancient artefacts dating to the Etruscan, Hellenistic and Roman periods, which had already exerted an influence on Donatello and Verrocchio. This legacy from the past is conserved in the Museo Archeologico Nazionale ‘Gaio Cilnio Mecenate’, named after one of the town’s most famous sons – Gaius Cilnius Maecenas, counselor, ally and friend of the emperor Augustus.

  • The Archeological Park of Carmignano includes various Etruscan sites of interest, as well as the Museo Archeologico Comunale ‘Francesco Nicosia’ in Artimino, which has gathered together many artefacts from the town’s Etruscan past. A fine collection of pottery is on display in a separate section of the museum in the nearby village of Bacchereto. The family of Leonardo’s paternal grandfather owned a kiln in this village and it is thought that Leonardo may have received his first informal lessons in art there.

  • A drawing by Leonardo conserved in the Cabinet des Dessins of the Musée du Louvre depicts a structure very similar to a tomb that was discovered by chance at the beginning of the 16th century near Castellina in Chianti. Whether there is a connection between the two or not, Leonardo’s intention with this drawing does not appear to have been to make an accurate record of the construction, but rather to take note of a relic that could in the future provide inspiration or material for a work of art.

  • Chiusi was an urban settlement of some importance in Etruscan Italy and continued to play a role up to the Middle Ages. Leonardo marks it conspicuously in a map conserved in Great Britain (Royal Collection, Windsor Castle) and mentions it elsewhere in his notes. He also made a sketch of the tomb of Porsenna, the legendary king of Chiusi.

  • There are various references to Cortona in the notes of Leonardo, who studied the river that flowed past the city. The town’s Biblioteca Etrusca owns a 16th-century edition of Leonardo’s Libro di Pittura, while the Museo dell’Accademia has in its collection an interesting artifact known as the Musa Polymnia, a sketch on a piece of slate (date contested), which Leonardo may have seen and drawn inspiration from for his own encaustic technique.

  • The town of Fiesole is linked to Leonardo’s experiment with human flight, which took place on the nearby Monte Ceceri. At the beginning of the 16th century the artist acquired two modest plots of land and a small quarry near Fiesole. It is unlikely, however, that he was aware of the ancient ruins, which included a Roman temple and theatre and lay buried close to the town. These have since been thoroughly excavated and opened to the public.

  • At the end of the 7th century BC an imposing palazzo stood close to what is now the village of Murlo. Forgotten for centuries, it was finally rediscovered during the second half of the 20th century. Murlo also has a museum of archeology. Leonardo marked the site of this settlement on one of his maps (Royal Collection, Windsor Castle).

  • The Etruscans’ one large port town ­– Populonia – overlooks the Gulf of Baratti. Leonardo marks the site of this town twice in manuscripts dating to the beginning of the 16th century. Testifying to the glory of the Etruscan civilization is the splendid architecture of its tumuli, as well as funerary furnishings and finely crafted artefacts of every type, a large collection of which are on display in the Museo Archeologico del Territorio di Populonia in Piombino.

  • Lying between Sovana, Sorano and San Quirico is the fascinating Parco Archeologico Città del Tufo, which features a village carved into the hillside of tuff, a porous volcanic rock. Near Sovana is one of the finest Etruscan necropoli in Italy, with a large number of monumental tombs. In several of his maps conserved in the Royal Collection at Windsor Castle, Leonardo clearly marks the position of Sovana, which was an important town at the time of the early Etruscans and continued to play an important role well into the Roman age.

  • The early Renaissance humanists were already beginning to discuss and circulate information on the Etruscan origins of Volterra, which then attracted the interest of the Medici family. Leonardo certainly studied the archaeological remains of this ancient town for he dedicates particular attention to Volterra in various notebooks, and on two maps (Royal Collection, Windsor Castle) he sketches some of these remains with great accuracy from different angles.