The Leonardo da Vinci Museum, or Museo Leonardiano in Vinci, is the perfect place to go poking around inside Leonardo’s world. A place that brings to life his ideas and genius in his own hometown. The ancient rooms of the Counts of Guidi Castle and those of the Palazzina Uzielli – which together form the Museo Leonardiano – host a fascinating array of models that recreate the machines drawn by Leonardo in his manuscripts.
The town of Vinci in Tuscany is devoted to Leonardo’s genius and the museum sits at its heart. A visit to this engaging museum will allow you to get a glimpse at his work. And after seeing it all, I’m left with one question: just how did he do it all?
The Leonardo da Vinci Museum
We’re in Vinci, the Tuscan town where Leonardo was born, 40 km west of Florence. He spent his early years here with the family of his father, a wealthy notary who, though Leonardo was illegitimate, gave him his name and later brought him to Florence to study.
Even if, like me, you’re not a scientist, and are scratching your head over some of the details, it’s still fascinating to learn about the ideas of this modern thinker was so ahead of his time. During the course of his life, Leonardo explored all sorts of theories in different fields, not to mention scientific research, all of which show an astonishingly modern mentality. As I discover, he did so through observation as much as through the study of the classics.
His drawings, today scattered all over the world, range from textile to war machines, cranes, clocks and studies of animals and plants. He built dams, studied water movement, and was working on plans to deviate the Arno river. He dissected corpses to study how organs work, including the human eye. Here his drawings are brought to life in these extraordinary models that give an idea of his genius.
Conti Guidi Castle – Flying machines and scientific flights of fancy
In the impressive rooms of the 12th century Castle of the Guidi Counts, I was particularly fascinated by the futuristic flying object that Leonardo invented. I discover that Leonardo wrote a study on the flight of birds, which helped him create his designs of flying machines. As if this didn’t seem futuristic enough for a man of his time, there’s also a strange looking apparatus for breathing under water.
The war machines include a round tank and a cannon, and rooms dedicated to optics show how Leonardo was studying light and shadows. With constant experiments, he studied the size and length of shadows, reflection and refraction, and how the human eye works. He applied everything he learned to his paintings in a constant exchange of artistic and scientific ideas.
Palazzina Uzielli – Leonardo and the human body
The ground floor of the Palazzina Uzielli hosts a collection of textile machines and clocks, while upstairs lies an eerie world dedicated to anatomy. Leonardo was fascinated by the human body and saw humans and animals as belonging to the same world, the world of nature. He saw connections between the universe and the human body. As far as he was concerned it was all one, just as his famous Vitruvian man testifies.
Museo Leonardo da Vinci – Practical Info
With your entrance ticket (11 Euro) you can visit both sections of the museum. It takes a couple of minutes and some very steep steps to get from Palazzina degli Uzielli, in Piazza Guidi (recently remodelled to illustrate Leonardo’s devotion to geometry), to the Conti Guidi Castle, which overlooks the town from its highest point.
Once you’re inside the castle, make sure you climb the tower which will offer you a spectacular view over the valley. With the same ticket you can also visit the house in nearby Anchiano, where Leonardo is believed to have been born.
If you can’t get enough of Leonardo, take a look inside the Biblioteca Leonardiana in Vinci, the most comprehensive research centre for Leonardo, which contains reproductions of his manuscripts.