In former times, Vinci was
inhabited by the Etruscans, and later became a Roman "castrum".
The primitive castle building dates back to the height of the
Middle Ages and, around the year 1000, was dominated by the Conti
Guidi, whose possession was confirmed in 1164 by Frederick
Barbarossa and in 1220 by Frederick Il of Sweden. On August 12,
1254, Vinci succumbed to Florentine dominion and was transformed
into a borough.
As it was situated on the western borders of the state, Vinci was
contended by Florence's enemies; it was also directly involved in
the events caused by those factions which tormented life in the
capital. In 1315, Uguccione della Faggiuola's troops fought under
Vinci's walls; in 1320-26, John Hawkwood, dubbed "The
Acute", was at the head of the English mercenaries hired by
Through the centuries, the original
structure of the Conti Guidi Castle underwent various alterations
by its numerous proprietors. It was returned to the borough of
Vinci by Count Julius Masetti da Bagnano, in 1919, for the
restoration of the Leonardo Museum. The museum, which dates back
to 1953, was composed of a series of machines inspired by
In the new arrangement, the models have been inserted in a larger,
more comprehensive exhibition and are accompanied by descriptive
notes. The series of reconstructions using real dimensions
compares Leonardo's designs in relation to movement on land, sea
and air to analogous mechanisms thought up by technicians and
inventors before, during and after Leonardo's lifetime.
The Conti Guidi Castle is commonly referred to as "The Ship's
Castle", due to its long shape and tower which recall the
outline of a sailing-boat. Here you can also find the frescoes and
sculptures of the various coats of arms, which evoke the former
podest�, and Giovanni della Robbia's splendid ceramic, "The
Madonna and Child".
"The Man from Vinci", a large wooden sculpture by Mario
Ceroli, inspired by Leonardo's Vitruvian man, was erected in the
square opposite the castle in 1987.
Near the Conti Guidi Castle lies Santa Croce Parish Church. It is
filled with relics of great local historical interest and is of
Romanesque origin with various modifications; the bell tower dates
back to 1852, the interior and fa�ade to 1929, the new baptistry
to 1952, containing the salvaged baptismal font where, according
to tradition, Leonardo was christened.
About 3 km from Vinci, at Anchiano, lies
the house where Leonardo was born. It was restored in 1986 and adds an
interesting finishing touch to a tour of the museum. The landscape
surrounding the house is still very similar to the one Leonardo had
contemplated and drawn since childhood. That is why it was decided, during
the repairs, to decorate the house with examples of how Leonardo was able
to "see" and interpret nature. Inside the house are the
reproductions of several drawings representing views of the Tuscan
countryside and a map of the Arno valley, traced by Leonardo himself.
At present, a new museum building is being prepared in the proximity of
the Conti Guidi Castle to host the "Leda di Vinci", a superb
painting from the school of Leonardo, assigned to the borough of Vinci by
the Minister of Fine Arts. The new museum will be devoted to the theme of
Leonardo the painter, thus completing and encapsulating the Leonardian
itinerary of the museum, birthplace and library.
The arrival of the " Leda" at Vinci will thus fill "the gap
caused by the lack of any original work by Leonardo or his group in his
The Vinci itinerary is completed by Leonardo's Library, which now
represents an authoritative reference point for the study of the works and
thoughts of Leonardo and his times. The collection includes the complete
series of reproductions of Leonardo's manuscripts and drawings and a
detailed documentation in many languages of the most important
publications and monographs.
Since 1972, the Museum of the Agricultural Community has stood in Via
Montalbano, in the historical centre . It forms a part of the great Castle
Cellars and includes the collection of a vast range of antique farming
implements. After large-scale renovations, the new "Ideal Leonardo da
Vinci Museum of Art and the Utopia of Science" has also been
dedicated to the exposition of material from various exhibitions on
Leonardo which have taken place in recent years both in Italy and abroad.
Apart from Leonardo, other famous people are associated with Vinci:
another great artist from the same family was born here, the sculptor
Pierfrancesco da Vinci, known as Pierino (around 1530 - 1554), Leonardo's
nephew to whom Vasari dedicated one of his famous "Vite"; at
Dianella there are the house and tomb of the poet Renato Fucini; the
national hero Giuseppe Garibaldi lived, in 1867, as a guest in the two
historical villas of the Ferrales and the Martellis.
Again within the borough, 4 km from the chief town, is the "Pieve di
San Giovanni in Greti" at San Ansano. Mentioned in a diploma of
Ottone III in the year 998, it stands as one of the most interesting
monuments of Romanesque art in the Tuscan countryside.
Moreover, Vinci is famous for the excellence and authenticity of its local
products, its extra virgin olive oil and wines (Chianti Putto Montalbano,
Chianti D.O.C.G. ).
Vinci promotes various cultural events throughout the year: the Leonardo
celebrations in April and the July Fair which, in the past few years, has
revived the traditional historical commemoration of the "Flight of
Cecco Santi" from the Castle Tower.