Few figures from history are as celebrated as Leonardo da Vinci, and with this year marking the 500th anniversary of his death, the world has been looking back at some of his greatest-ever achievements.
It’s hard to think of an individual who has had such a huge impact and influence on the world in so many ways. Hundreds of years on, he continues to be a reference point in popular culture, known for work such as the famous Mona Lisa, and drawings of early examples of flying machines, cars and artillery.
In the centuries since his death, his name has been used by both a teenage mutant ninja turtle and one of the biggest books of all times, Dan Brown’s huge hit thriller The Da Vinci Code. You’ll even find his iconic artistry in online slot games.
Created by IGT, The Da Vinci Diamonds slot online can be played on sites like Lucky Pants Bingo and features imagery from the artist’s great paintings. The likes of Portrait of a Musician and the Lady with an Ermine are present in the game, alongside – of course – the Mona Lisa.
But, while he remains a key historical figure, where are the best places to visit in order to discover more about the man? Here we offer up a few suggestions for you to consider if you want to sample some da Vinci-themed tourism.
Destinations to Visit on the 500th Anniversary of Da Vinci’s Death
Birthplace of da Vinci in Anchiano
If you’re going to start anywhere, it might as well be at the very beginning. As Discover Tuscany outlines, Anchiano is the birthplace of da Vinci, and the house in which he lived is now open to the public.
While many people believe that Leonardo grew up in the town of Vinci, his home is actually in Anchiano, which is about 3 km outside it. He was born here on April 15, 1452, and in the last hundred years the village has became an important pilgrimage site, where scholars and tourists have flocked to.
The farmhouse has been restored, and is now a museum where you can find reproductions of his drawings and a life-sized hologram of da Vinci himself who narrates the events of his life and work (the hologram speaks in both Italian and English).
Make sure you do set time aside for exploring the town of Vinci as well; there are many sites here that are connected to Da Vinci, including the Leonardo Museum, with reconstructions of his projects and paintings, the Church of Santa Croce where he was baptized, and a wooden version of the Vitruvian Man behind the castle of the Conti Guidi.
Leonardo da Vinci Museum, Florence
A great place to discover more about the range of work undertaken by da Vinci is at the Museo Leonardo da Vinci in Florence. The museum is split into five sections to exhibit all of his different inventions and machines.
Just around the corner from Piazza Duomo, the museum is an interactive space where they have brought to life real machines from Davinci’s original drawings.
There’s the Earth section, which has interactive exhibits like printing machines, an oil press, a rolling mill, and a revolving crane. And then there’s a water section which includes inventions like the hydraulic saw, the Archimedean scew, the water floats, and the webbed glove.
In the section for air you’ll find all of Leonardo’s flying machines; his parachute, the hornithopters, the wing trial, the anemometer, and anemoscope, the hygrometer, the comedy bird, etc.
And then there is a section for fire, or war, which displays a range of artillery machines that were ispired by the Atlantic Codex. Among these are the mortar fire and the machine gun.
Image: Sailko [CC BY 3.0] via Wikimedia Commons
The Louvre, Paris
An obvious choice but one which simply could not be ignored. The Louvre in Paris is of course home to the famous Mona Lisa, probably da Vinci’s best-known single piece of work.
The iconic painting continues to intrigue people to this very day and is thought to be of Lisa Gherardini, the wife of a Florentine cloth merchant.
It was painted in 1503, and is the earliest Italian portrait to focus so closely on the sitter in a half-length portrait. Though this became his favorite painting, and Leonardo would continue to work on it for the rest of his life (he died in 1519).
Upon his death, at which point he was living in France, da Vinci’s assistant sold it to King Frances I, and it has forever remained in the French Royal Collection; today on display for more than 6 million people per year.
Monte Ceceri, Fiesole
Fiesole is only 20 minutes out of Florence, so this is a great opportunity for a day trip, to travel out and see the hill where da Vinci tried to fly.
In 1506 on a hill called Monte Ceceri, da Vinci conducted one of the first experiments of human flight. He was testing his flying machine, which, while went on to be one of his most famous inventions, didn’t end well on this particular flight.
Da Vinci’s flying machine was created to be a two-winged device with a board in the center for the pilot who would lie face down and crank a pulley system to power the wings. It did actually work once it was in the air, but in 1506 they were having problems getting it off the ground.
To solve this problem da Vinci came up with the brilliant idea to jump off Monte Ceceri – though he was genius enough to strap his assistant to the machine as a crash dummy for the first flight. And crash he did.
The machine did fly – it successfully glided for around 1,000 meters, but then ended up nose diving into the town below, which left his assistant with several broken bones.
Once you get to the top of the hill look out for the stone marker that shows the exact spot where they made the jump. There are now a lot of trees that cover the hills, though this was a clear open space 500 years ago. Also keep an eye out for the plaque on the road where they crashed.
Image: Juliette Jourdan [CC BY-SA 4.0] via Wikimedia Commons
Discover More About a Cultural Icon
Leonardo da Vinci is a truly fascinating figure and visiting these sites will give you a chance to learn a little bit more about the great man and his range of work.
There are of course many other locations you can head to, but we think those above are absolutely essentially for anyone seeking to discover just what made the genius tick.
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