Most people hope to master just one craft in their lifetime, but Leonardo da Vinci wasn’t most people. The man was born into 15th-century Italy, but da Vinci’s legacy in the fields of art, engineering, and invention is still significant today. The life of the polymath provides a worthy focus for a trip, with art and culture lovers likely to find much to savour as they retrace some of his footsteps through Italy.
Vinci and Florence: the early years
If you’re keen to try and follow da Vinci’s achievements in chronological order, then there’s only one place to start: Vinci in Tuscany. Visit Tuscany details the many attractions that you’ll find in da Vinci’s hometown, from the L’Uomo de Vinci statue to the Museo Leonardiano. Your tour of Vinci should also take in the wooden sculpture of the Vitruvian Man, a novel representation of one of his most famous drawings.
From Vinci it is a short journey to Florence, Tuscany’s capital. Here, da Vinci honed the skills that would eventually cement his legacy, and he began to work on the portrait of a certain Lisa del Giocondo - this is now commonly known as the Mona Lisa. Some of da Vinci’s paintings are hanging in Florence’s iconic Uffizi Gallery, a place which houses masterpieces by every Renaissance artist of note.
Milan and Rome: the height of creativity
From Florence, you can either head north to Milan or south to Rome. Milan is home to The Last Supper, with the legendary painting preserved in the refectory of the Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie. If you’re keen for a change of pace from art, then you can find over 100 models of da Vinci’s inventions on display in the Museo Nazionale della Scienza e della Tecnologia.
You’ll find a similar mix of art, culture and science in Rome, which is further proof that few, if any, individuals could inspire a trip as eclectic as this one. The Museo Leonardo da Vinci Experience boasts an impressive 4.5/5 rating on Tripadvisor, with reviewers appreciative of the insight given into the man’s creative processes. On the art front, the Vatican Museums are a must-visit for anyone stopping in the Rome area, where you’ll find da Vinci’s unfinished Saint Jerome in the Wilderness.
Completionists should also venture into the Loire Valley in France, to gain perspective on da Vinci’s later years. Le Château du Clos Lucé in Amboise was da Vinci’s final residence, a grand residence befitting the Italian’s achievements. Completing the journey from Vinci to Amboise is a suitable homage to a man who left a significant mark on humanity.
An inspiration to the entertainment industry
The tourism sector isn’t the only industry to pay tribute to the man, as da Vinci has been the subject of several depictions and references in the entertainment industry. While a tour through the life of the man gives an insight into how he lived, these tributes by the entertainment industry offer new perspectives to da Vinci - although not always grounded in facts!
The most well-known modern reference to da Vinci comes in Dan Brown’s 2003 novel The Da Vinci Code, which drew criticism for its plethora of historical inaccuracies but still became a worldwide phenomenon. If you’re more interested in works that deal with truth, The Guardian has compiled a list of books that provide fascinating insight into da Vinci’s life. That includes Martin Kemp’s Living With Leonardo, which tackles the modern celebrity of the man. Da Vinci has unsurprisingly captured the imagination of scriptwriters and directors, with the fictionalised TV series Da Vinci’s Demons accumulating a score of 8.0/10 on IMDb.
There are also more left-field homages to da Vinci within the entertainment industry. For example, there is a Da Vinci Diamonds slot available at some online casino sites, with its commitment to Renaissance themes in stark contrast to the modern pop culture and fantasy tropes that inspire many slots. Another unlikely, but equally dedicated, tribute to da Vinci comes in the form of Leonardo (the Absolute Man), a progressive metal concept album that features the vocals of Dream Theater’s James La Brie.
An incredible legacy
One track on that album is titled ‘Mona Lisa’, with da Vinci’s iconic painting one reason why he will never fade into obscurity. We’re reliant on so many of his works as cultural touchstones, with the Mona Lisa, for example, instantly identifiable to those who may otherwise have no knowledge of his life. It’s easy to focus on one or two aspects of his work, but da Vinci’s entire life was full of wisdom that deserves to be passed down through generations.
Da Vinci will always command a degree of passive remembrance, but actively engaging with modern media portrayals, or even embarking on a physical tour, are effective ways to commemorate the life of a remarkable man. By travelling through some of Italy’s most popular cities, you can develop a huge appreciation for the works of da Vinci.