The birthplace of Leonardo da Vinci is overlooked by tourists

If you wanted to create an archetypal Tuscan town, this is what it would look like. Vinci’s terracotta roofs are punctuated by the bell tower of Santa Croce Church, where Leonardo was baptised. Allegedly, at least: we don’t know much about Leonardo at all until he moved to Florence as an adult.

The ‘Man of Vinci’ sculpture by Mario Ceroli in Vinci, Italy.

The ‘Man of Vinci’ sculpture by Mario Ceroli in Vinci, Italy.Credit: iStock

Still, to judge from his name scattered all over town, you’d have to believe he ate in the trattoria, bought trinkets in the souvenir shops, enjoyed pizza and stayed at the Monna Lisa Hotel.

A piazza features a recreation of a bronze horse Leonardo modelled on paper with the aim of producing the world’s largest equestrian statue. A terrace overlooking vineyards has a wooden three-dimensional replica of Leonardo’s famous Vitruvian Man sketch.

These are quiet, old-fashioned nods to tourism, though. The nicest thing about Vinci compared to other hilltop Tuscan towns like overrun San Gimignano is its ordinariness. Housewives poke zucchinis in grocery shops and old men grumble in cafes.

There aren’t many tourists about and no queue to get into the Leonardo Museum, which is jointly housed in a palazzo and castle at the town’s sunlit summit.


The museum’s exhibits and a small cinema room recount Leonardo’s life and work, but its chief attraction is the recreated models of his inventive machines and scientific instruments.

It’s a wander through the eccentric mind of a genius who designed siege catapults, a demountable bridge, a helicopter, mechanical clocks and an underwater diving apparatus. Above on the ceiling hang giant feathered wings on a contraption with which Leonardo hoped to fly.

At the very top of the castle’s tower is a terrace with a view fit for angels. Fortunately, Leonardo never launched himself off here in his endeavours to soar. His mind flew far beyond the confines of his childhood home, however. Pay homage on a visit, and get your mind going too.


Azamara has cruises of varying length in the Mediterranean that visit Livorno, the port for Florence and its surrounds, including Vinci. As an example, a 12-night Iconic Mediterranean voyage departs September 21, 2024 from Lisbon to Piraeus (Athens) and visits Gibraltar, Spain, France and Italy. From $4547 a person, including accommodation, dining and gratuities. See

The writer was a guest of Azamara Cruises.

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