The town of Vinci preserves the trace of the urban layout it had during Leonardo’s time. Between the streets and squares of the castle and the village, small fragments of the life of Leonardo and of his family can be traced. One of the most singular is the building that is currently next to the present-day Androne Ciofi, the covered passage leading to the road toward San Pantaleo. Archival research and comparison with the historical land registers have made it possible to recognize in this building the tavern that was rented by Giovanni, one of Leonardo da Vinci’s younger half-brothers. The inn was at the beginning of the road toward Montalbano. On that same road, but farther along, at Anchiano, in the complex purchased by Leonardo's father, a "chasa da oste" (house for landlord) had just been begun.
The micro-histories of the many sons of ser Piero da Vinci: Giovanni da Vinci and the village tavern
The inn rented by Leonardo's brother corresponds to the house that is located today on Piazza Leonardo da Vinci at address 22-24, next to the vaulted passage of the Androne Ciofi. The building itself is clearly recognizable in the detail of the castle of Vinci drawn on one of the late 16th-century maps of the Capitani di parte Guelfa. In the drawing, the last building of the village along the road running along the castle’s western bank is indicated as osteria (a tavern). Next to it we can recognize the small arch of the Androne Ciofi, where the road leading to San Pantaleo starts. After the last building of the village, which at the time was the osteria of the Ridolfi, the millrace and the municipal mill are perfectly distinguishable, the latter of which was also managed by Leonardo's family. In essence, therefore, the youngest of Leonardo’s half-brothers, who probably lived with his older brother Guglielmo in the house at Anchiano, was running the Ridolfi family’s butcher shop, located in a strategic position with respect to the road toward Montalbano. For those coming from Anchiano, the tavern was located right at the beginning of the village of Vinci. For those who had to proceed north from the Empolese valley floor, the premises of the tavern were the last stop and point for refreshment of the town, before taking the road toward the Montalbano passes. As for the context of Giovanni’s management of the tavern, the wine usage could avail itself of the family vineyards’ production, while the butcher shop’s meat production no doubt ended up partly in the refreshment service, as well as in retail sale. The butcher shop activity must have been greatly facilitated by the presence nearby of millrace waters—of the mill that was managed at that time by the da Vinci family—and of the underlying drainage ditch. The cycle of the processing of meats for slaughter required, in fact, a large amount of running water. Giovanni also possessed, by the way, the two plots of land "behind the ditch".