The ancient Etruscan city of Artimino was a reference point, both strategically and within the system of roadways, for Leonardo's Valley of the Arno and Montalbano. The town was destroyed during the Roman period, but the remains of walls, tombs and artefacts continued to testify to its existence. Some of the ancient stone blocks were used in the construction of the Romanesque parish church of San Leonardo. Many Etruscan artefacts are conserved in the Museo Archeologico Comunale Francesco Nicosia. Set up in 2011 in the bowels of the medieval castle, the museum’s collection includes splendid grave goods discovered in the necropolises of Prato Rosello and Comeana, as well as objects from the Etruscan settlements of Artimino and Pietramarina. The museum forms part of the Archaeological Park of Carmignano, which comprises four important Etruscan sites: the necropolis of Artimino near Prato Rosello, the tumulus or burial mound of Montefortini, the tumulus of Boschetti outside Comeana, and the settlement of Pietramarina.
A separate section of the Nicosia Archaeological Museum has been set up in the vault of the Church of Santa Maria Assunta in the village of Bacchereto. Bacchereto (in the municipality of Carmignano) was a flourishing centre for the production of ceramics since ancient times and the museum contains an interesting array of Etruscan ceramic ware. The family of Leonardo da Vinci’s paternal grandfather owned a fornace da orcioli (kiln for producing terracotta ware) in nearby Toia (also in the municipality of Carmignano) where the young Leonardo may have gained his first exposure to the applied arts.
Near Artimino is the Golfolina, a tagliata or passageway hewn through the stony hillside known as the Masso delle Fate or Fairies’ Rock (so named because it was believed to be inhabited by fairies), which is mentioned by Leonardo in the Codex Leicester (ff. 8v, 9r). According to local tradition the Golfolina had been cut through the bedrock by the Etruscans and while this is unlikely, it should not be forgotten that significant traces of Etruscan settlements may be found throughout the hills of Grumaggio opposite the Masso delle Fate, including ancient stone quarries, the extensive necropolis of Prato Rosello, and the remains of the town of Artimino.
Another legend would have it that the Golfolina, described by Leonardo as “a great rock that in antiquity was united with Monte Albano to form a very high cliff”, was actually excavated by Hercules the Aramean, a descendent of Noah and the father of Thuscus, king of the Janigenae, from whom the region derives its name. This myth is relayed in Antiquitatum variarum libri by Giovanni Nanni (Annio of Viterbo), who claims that his source was a text of Berosus, the Chaldean priest of Bel.