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The small village of Vinci, in the rolling landscape of vineyards and olive groves between Pistoia and Empoli in northern Tuscany, might go unremarked among many similar villages in the region if it was not for its unique claim to fame: Leonardo da Vinci was born here in 1452 and lived here until 1469 when he left for Florence.
You can now see his birthplace and a museum dedicated to his ideas in and near the village, and absorb the atmosphere that influenced one of the greatest minds of the 20th century.
Exploring Vinci in Tuscany
The village of Vinci itself would be pleasant to stroll around even if it were not for the association with Leonardo da Vinci - but it certainly would attract substantially less visitors! The village is something of a 'pilgrimage' destination for da Vinci enthusiasts from all around the world and can get very busy.
The village actually copes very well with the visitors it receives and has been awared the Orange Flag award, granted to destinations where tourism is sensitive to the village and surroundings.
The principal attraction in Vinci itself is the 13th century castle which now holds the Museo Leonardino. Here you can see numerous recreations of da Vinci's inventions such a bicycle, a car, a helicopter, a parachute and a tank and the drawings that inspired the wooden models, along with various pulleys and gears and other contraptions.
Elsewhere in the town you can see various other 'Leonardo inspired artworks' and sculptures which enhance the village and make a visit more interesting. Among our favourites was a large sculpture of the famous sketch in which he shows a man with outstretched arms and legs (called 'Vitruvius Man'), and the large horse statue he had planned but never built.
You can also see the Church of Santa Croce in Vinci where Leonardo was said to have been baptised.
Leonardo was born as an illegitimate child after a liaison between Ser Piero, a Florentine notary and local small landowner, and a local maid.
Leaving Leonardo behind for a moment - not always easy here - be sure to also explore the traditional village beyond the castle and museum. You will see a couple of attractive small churches in the romanesque style as you stroll along the picturesque narow alleys of the medieval village centre, and enjoy some lovely far-reaching views across the Tuscan countryside from various places in Vinci.
Anchiano: birthplace of Leonardo da Vinci
About two kilometres from Vinci at Anchiano you can see and visit the house where Leonardo was born on 15 April 1542. His birthplace has now been converted into a modern exhibition space that exlains his paintings, his life and inspiration through modern multi-media devices.
The most attractive way to get from Vinci to Anchiano is to walk along a picturesque trail through the olive trees and countryside called the Strada Verde, which takes about half an hour to walk.