The village of Vinci in Tuscany

Travel can be good for your health.  Recently a good friend and I, at the end of a week that for both of us was filled with stress and problems, decided to get the heck out of Dodge for a day.

We left home for a day to wander in the wider, wondrous world of the outer sections of the province of Firenze.

We landed in Vinci, to see the village near the farmhouse where Leonardo was born.

For us, it was just what the doctor ordered.

Vinci is a very, very charming borgo:

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Of course the town is famous because the legendary genius Leonardo da Vinci was born in a nearby farmhouse. Every inch of this little village proclaims “Leonardo!”

The main attraction in the village is the Museo Leonardino, housed inside the building that was formerly the Castello dei Conti Guidi, originally built in the 12th century.

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The castle is located high atop the town’s highest hill. Inside the museo, you encounter a hologram of Leonardo:

 

The museum takes up 3 floors of the castle, showcasing a collection of the original designs found in Leonardo’s notebooks as well as 40 different models of various machines that were he designed.

Most interesting of all of these, to me, was the wooden paraglider that Leonardo created.

 

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Vinci is surrounded by the Tuscan hills and there are various vineyards and olive groves around the town which have remained the same since ancient times.

The town is spread over an area of 54 sq km and the population is close to 14,000. The economy of Vinci is based on agriculture, production of wine and olive oil, pottery and items like paper, clothes and furniture.

 

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After seeing the main exhibition space, you can also climb up to the top of the castle and view the surrounding countryside.

Before you are afforded the spectacular views, however, you must climb an endless set of stairs leading up, up and up.

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Trust me, the view above does not begin to capture the length and height of this stairway.  Several stops are needed on the way up to catch your breath.

The views from the top terrazzo of the Museo di Leonardo are as vast as they are gorgeous.  What a perfectly farmed section of Tuscany, filled with groves and groves of olives and grapes.  The groves are in perfectly formed lines, such as you never see anywhere else.  Wonder how that happened?

 

 

 

 

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Leonardo Da Vinci was born in a small farmhouse which is located just 3 km from the center of the town. You could walk it, if you have a lot of stamina.  On a day of 30 C., I didn’t.  We drove.

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Leonardo da Vinci's birthplace (3)(1)

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A good source of info on Vinci is this:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g187903-d8686322-r440453756-Castello_Dei_Conti_Guidi-Vinci_Tuscany.html#

 

Running circles around Florence

If you were a bird and could fly over the city of Florence, you would notice that there is a broad roadway that, in conjunction with the Arno river, encircles it.  This system of 4 to 6 lane highways are known as the Viali di Circonvallazione and it was constructed following the medieval walls that formerly encircled Florence.

Pretending you are a bird, this is what you see as you fly high over the city. Look for the yellow lines that surround the city with the Arno as the southern border.

 

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It might be easier to see it here:

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Starting in 1865, the medieval walls were demolished in an attempt to modernize and make Florence look more like other European capitals (especially Paris). Giuseppe Poggi designed an extensive urban plan for the city which was to create a Florence that was at same time more grand and more functional.

Many large tree-lined avenues, surrounding the historic center, were constructed in emulation of the grand boulevards of Paris.

When Poggi et al tore down the medieval walls, they fortunately spared almost all of the ancient gates to the city.  Large piazze were constructed near many of these gates, from which sprang wider and straighter roads.  Many residential palazzi were built to house the federal bourgeoisie that ran the newly united country.  I just happen to live on one of these leafy avenues now, and I send a silent but heartfelt thank you to Poggi up in heaven with Michelangelo and the rest of the artists I love.

A tramway was planned for Florence in 1873.  The trams made a circular route along Florence’s ring roads and provided transportation for the public. Line 19, for example, ran from Piazza dei Guidici near the Uffizi all the way along the Lungarni and ending at Piazza Vittorio Veneto on the east end of the Cascine.  This Google map will show you how the line ran along the Arno.

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Florence’s tram system was in operation until 1958.

Interestingly enough, Florence is in the midst of building a new electric tram system and all of us residents can’t wait until it is done and the construction sites are finally gone.

 

Women explorers: Marianne North

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It wasn’t uncommon for early women explorers to have a taste for solitude. Take Marianne North, the Englishwoman who in the 1800s circumnavigated the globe unaccompanied, spending thirteen years traveling and skirting Victorian convention.

Her paintings of flowers and landscapes hang at the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, outside central London.

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In her autobiography she recounts her travels, which she didn’t begin until she was forty.

In Nainital in the Himalayas in India’s Uttarakhand state, she liked sitting in the sun.

In Philadelphia, she walked the parks and Zoological Gardens enjoying idle days.

In the Bunya Mountains of Queensland, Australia, she said she enjoyed “my entire solitude through the grand forest alone.” Today, a genus of tree and several plant species are named for her.**

You can see North’s work here: https://www.kew.org/mng/gallery/

**Rosenbloom, Stephanie. Alone Time: Four Seasons, Four Cities, and the Pleasures of Solitude, Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Lorenzo de’ Medici’s sculpture garden

Lorenzo de' Medici and His Artists in the Sculpture Garden

 

Ottavio Vannini – Michelangelo Showing Lorenzo il Magnifico the Head of a Faun, surrounded by the other sculpture students

 

 

Young Michelangelo Carving a Faun's Head

 

Young Michelangelo Carving a Faun’s head by Emilio Zocchi

 

The Piazza San Marco on the former Via Larga, which is now Via Camillo Cavour, was where Lorenzo de’ Medici’s Sculpture Garden was situated in Florence. In the map below, you can get a sense of where the garden was in relationship to Piazza San Marco. The sculpture garden would have been where the words “Army Facility” show below.

 

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The Google map showing a satellite view, gives an even better sense of this former garden area.  Think away the Army building to the south end of the space, where Via Cavour and Via degli Arazzieri intersect, and you can see that there is still garden area in the site of the former Medici garden.

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Created with the hopes of becoming a great educational institution for studying art, Lorenzo de’ Medici curated a garden full of antique sculptures for artists to come and sketch as part of their artistic practice. Lorenzo also added sleeping and dining quarters so that students could easily live among the work they were studying. Francesco Granacci and Bertoldo di Giovanni are two of the many people to enter through its doors.

The most famous story of Michelangelo’s time in the Garden surrounds Michelangelo’s Faun statue. When Lorenzo saw this statue, he jokingly told Michelangelo that he looked too perfect to be an old faun. Michelangelo than took his drill and knocked out one of the teeth in the mouth of the Faun.

He showed his subtraction to Lorenzo who gained much amusement and pleasure from Michelangelo’s ability to listen and act on his critique.  Although the Faun statue has not been found, the two works of Michelangelo’s attributed to this time period are the Battle of the Centaurs and the Madonna of the Stairs. 

 

June 2, Republic Day in Italy

Festa della Repubblica (Festival of the Republic) is a national holiday celebrated in Italy on June 2 each year. It celebrates the day when Italians voted to abolish the monarchy in 1946 so their country could become a republic.

The day commemorates the institutional referendum in 1946, in which the Italian people were called to the polls to decide on the form of government, following WWII and the fall of Fascism.  With 12,717,923 votes for a republic and 10,719,284 for the monarchy, the male descendants of the House of Savoy were sent into exile and Italy became a republic.

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Each year, a wreath is laid at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on Republic Day. The tomb has an eternal flame that was added on November 4, 1921, even thought the tomb, which was designed by sculptor Alberto Sparapani, was not completed until 1924.

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To recognize this holiday, official ceremonies are held, as well as military parades, and the laying of a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, inside the Altare della Patria in Rome.

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The Altare della Patria (Altar of the Fatherland), also known as the Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II (National Monument to Victor Emmanuel II) or Il Vittoriano, is a monument built in honor of Victor Emmanuel, the first king of a unified Italy, located in Rome. The monument occupies a site between Piazza Venezia and the Capitoline Hill.

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Republic Day is a federal holiday in Italy and organizations and businesses that close include government offices, post offices, banks, schools and other educational institutions.

 

 

 

Can you imagine: art history taught without art images!!

It is hard now to imagine a world in which reproductions of paintings were scarce ([Charles Eliot] Norton taught his art history classes [at Harvard] without them) and in which cities rarely had public collections of paintings (those that did exist contained almost no original Italian works).

Americans, for the vast majority of whom travel to Europe was prohibitively time-consuming and expensive, got their first introductions to Italian art by reading.

Berenson would aspire to follow Charles Eliot Norton in being, not only a lover of art and a bibliophile, but a friend of writers and a literary man.

Norton was close to John Ruskin, one of the English writers most responsible for the new view of Italian art that emerged among certain writers in the mid-nineteenth century.

Rachel,Cohen. Bernard Berenson (Jewish Lives) (p. 42). Yale University Press. Kindle Edition.