Celebrate 500 Years of Da Vinci by Following in His Famous Footsteps
Widely regarded as one of the greatest minds in the history of the human race, Leonardo da Vinci not only created sketches for machines that were centuries ahead of his time, but he also produced some of the world’s most beloved and iconic pieces of art. As 2 May 2019 marks the 500th anniversary of the Renaissance master’s death, special events and exhibitions are planned all across Europe to pay homage to his life and legacy. Whether or not this is the year you plan to take that bucket-list trip to Milan to see The Last Supper for yourself, to honor this moment in time we have put together a list of five phenomenal stops across Europe where you can revel in da Vinci’s artistic and scientific contributions. Following in his footsteps from his humble beginnings in Tuscany to his last happy days in the French countryside is sure to put much more than just a Mona Lisa smile upon your face.
Often described as the world’s biggest open-air museum, Florence is an alluring mixture of the traditional and trendy. Whether you’re an amateur archeologist, a student of sculpture or a greenhorn historian, you’ll find your dream museum here, as visiting museums it is by far the most popular activity among visitors to the city. In that spirit, to celebrate the 500th anniversary of Leonardo da Vinci’s death, the city is hosting several unique exhibitions throughout the year. A couple of highlights include an exhibition dedicated to his beautiful fresco The Battle of Anghiari at the Museum of Palazzo Vecchio and a collection of the artist’s extraordinary machines at the Leonardo da Vinci Museum.
Where to stay: Residenza D'Epoca In Piazza della Signoria is a beautiful family-run bed and breakfast set in an elegant 15th century building that features original frescoes and wood-beamed ceilings, perfect for putting you in the proper mood for your Renaissance-inspired journey. Located directly on the famous square for which the property is named, the Piazza Della Signoria has served as Florence’s political centre for centuries, gathering locals and tourists alike who come to admire the Renaissance sculptures that are on public display there.
While not actually the place of his birth, Vinci is the city of his namesake and is just a short drive to the west of Florence. Housing one of the most extensive collections of Da Vinci’s inventions and machines, the Museo Leonardiano Vinci is also presenting a specially temporary exhibition organised in collaboration with the Uffizi gallery from 15 April to 19 October 2019, focussing on one of the earliest known works signed by the artist himself, Paesaggio (literally landscape).
Interested in seeing da Vinci’s actual birthplace? Make it a road trip!
If you’re looking for the best possible way of exploring the famous rolling Tuscan hills, there’s nothing like having your own wheels. While Vinci is only around 35 kilometres west of Florence, if you’re travelling by car, you can take the scenic route and explore some of Italy’s lesser-known traditional towns along the way, immersing yourself in the landscapes that feature prominently in the background of da Vinci’s most famous paintings.
Stop off in Prato for a dose of historic architecture, in Pistoia for views of the Apennine mountains, or in Empoli for a relaxed wander around its picturesque streets and squares. Regardless of which route you choose, we guarantee you won’t be disappointed. Before reaching your accommodation in Vinci, a guaranteed must is a visit to the farmhouse in Anchiano where Leonardo was actually born.
Where to stay: Also located just outside Vinci, the Agriturismo Il Piastrino is a traditional property for travelers who want to immerse themselves in the rustic charm and beauty of the Tuscan countryside. The property makes for a convenient homebase to explore the hills and villages that influenced the master’s formative years.
Set in a former royal palace on the Seine’s Right Bank, the vast complex of the Louvre is probably best recognised by the modern glass pyramids that rise above its 14th-century courtyard. The world’s biggest art museum is also home to what is probably the most famous painting in the world, Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. After you've braved the crowds for a peek at the most notorious smile in history, you can admire what amounts to one third of da Vinci's known works, which are also on display in this massive museum. In the fall of 2019, the Louvre will present a unique exhibition bringing together additional drawings and paintings from the master’s oeuvre, as well as new insights based on the latest research into his life and artistic output.
Where to stay: Set in the bustling 1st arrondissement with cosy cafes, traditional bistros and trendy restaurants at your doorstep, Apartment Sweet Inn - Rue de l'Amiral de Coligny is just around the corner from the Louvre. You can start your day with a fresh croissant from one of the nearby Parisian boulangeries before exploring the museum’s exceptional collection of Leonardo’s masterpieces.
Clos Lucé, Amboise, France
The Château of Clos Lucé in Amboise was where Leonardo Da Vinci spent the last years of his life at the invitation of King François I and where he died on 2 May 1519. In addition to a special exhibition celebrating the 500th anniversary of his death, you can visit the spaces where he lived and worked from 1516 to 1519, as well as take a stroll through the same garden that he enjoyed during his final, happy days in the Loire valley.
Love history and art? Make the most of your side-trip to Clos Lucé:
Travelling to Clos Lucé from Paris takes just over two hours by train or car, and three hours if you decide to take the bus. If you’re feeling a little adventurous and want to do a bit of exploring, here are two different routes you can take on your spontaneous road trip:
Versailles: Steeped in opulence and political history, the famous palace at Versailles is an essential part of any visit to Paris or the surrounding region. While it’s an hour out of the way to get to Clos Lucé, you may still want to spend a few hours here, checking out your reflections in the impressive Hall of Mirrors or exploring the palace’s legendary and extensive gardens.
Chartres:. Home to one of the best-preserved Gothic cathedrals in Europe, Chartres is also particularly interesting for art lovers, as it gives you the chance to marvel at the quirky and unusual La Maison Picassiette, a mosaic-covered house built in the 1930s by a cemetery sweeper, a labor of love that took over 30 years to complete and a true hidden gem. Again, it’s an hour out of the way, but well worth a visit.
Where to stay: Surrounded by peaceful gardens with century-old trees, Manoir du Parc is in the heart of Amboise, just a short walk away from Amboise Chateau (formal residence of the French monarchy) as well as Clos Lucé. The area where da Vinci spent his last years is also home to several vineyards, ideal for sampling some modern gastronomic science at work. In addition, and although not one of the machines the master is credited with inventing, the surrounding countryside is also perfect for a bike ride - a wonderful way to soak up the inspiring Loire landscape.
While not a place that featured in da Vinci’s life, Buckingham Palace is one of the most sought-after sights for visitors to London. And to celebrate the anniversary of Leonardo’s death, The Queen’s Gallery is hosting the exhibition "Leonardo da Vinci: A Life in Drawing", which will present more than 200 of the Renaissance master's drawings in the Royal Collection from 24 May to 13 October 2019.
Where to stay: Just a short walk away from Buckingham Palace, VI Castle Lane’s stylish apartments will make you feel like a true Londoner, with plenty of trendy restaurants and cafes outside where you can ponder the genius of Leonardo over a cold pint.