A simple idea, a unique experience

di Alessandra Borghese,writer and journalist

Photo Credit Alessandra d’Urso

Every time I come back to Montevettolini and look down on the Valdinievole with its village towers, Montalbano and the Padule (marshes) in the distance – I reflect on the beauty of these places, rich in history and still largely with an uncontaminated nature, similar to past centuries with the woods, olive groves and watermills.

This year, 2019, our thoughts naturally turn to Leonardo da Vinci, honoured worldwide with celebrations of the 500-year anniversary of his death.

While I am thinking about the great genius, I have his birthplace right in front of me. What a privilege! What can we do to keep the spotlight trained on this territory and instead use this important anniversary to start something dedicated to Leonardo?

Il Leonardino stems from a simple idea, to set out walking from Anchiano to Montevettolini, imagining that we are following in the footsteps of young Leonardo. We have therefore hypothesised and traced the itinerary that the carefree youth used to walk to the sound of the bells ringing in a nearby village. The inspiration for an itinerary among the valleys and woods of Leonardo’s birthplace came to me while I was admiring his first drawing dated 1473, with a note in his own hand “Di Santa Maria della Neve addì 5 daghosto 1473“. We do not know exactly what Leonardo wanted to represent, or exactly where he made the drawing, but some scholars have suggested that the young genius created it from his imagination as a bird’s-eye view over the Valdinievole between Anchiano and Montevettolini. In fact, on 5 August each year the Madonna della Neve used to be celebrated in Montevettolini. In Leonardo’s time – on the spot where today the 17th century church stands – there was only a tabernacle with a fresco of the Madonna and Child and the saints. Every year in Montevettolini a religious and popular festival was held on this anniversary. Therefore, most probably Leonardo’s first drawing is proof that he did pass through these sites and in order to pay homage to the young Leonardo, we have called the itinerary Il Leonardino, a familiar, child-like diminutive of his name. Some might think it a gamble, but as Antoine de Saint-Exupéry wrote in The Little Prince, “All grown-ups were once children, but few of them remember it”.

Il Leonardino therefore aims to offer a unique and living experience for learning about the young genius and his love of nature. While walking along Il Leonardino we will be able to inhale the fragrances of the woods, catch some of the glimpses, and admire the views, colours of the sky and outlines of the mountains that filled Leonardo’s eyes and moulded the child and young adolescent from Vinci. And who knows, if we walk slowly to the rhythm of our steps, we might even be able to enter into direct communication with nature, discover a hidden part of ourselves, and acquire cultural and environmental knowledge of so many different places.


Alessandra Borghese