Following Leonardo

2019 commemorates the 500th anniversary of the death of Leonardo da Vinci and there are many special exhibitions featuring this work. Ever since studying him in school and later at university, I have been fascinated by his work. Being interested not only in painting, but also in invention, drawing, sculpting, architecture, science, music, mathematics, engineering, literature, anatomy, geology, astronomy, botany, writing, history, and cartography, Da Vinci was a polymath or uomo universale. When we prepared our trip to Milan, I knew that seeing the Last Supper would be high on my wish list. Then I read about the special exhibit in the Biblioteca Ambrosiana which would be showing some of his civil engineering studies, which are a part of the Codex Atlanticus. Another must see was added to the list, and then my friend suggested visiting Leonardo’s Vineyard, situated across from the Santa Maria delle Grazie. The Last Supper, Santa Maria delle Grazie and the vineyard are all tied together.

Santa Maria delle Grazie, completed in 1497 is a beautiful church with magnificent paintings on the ceilings. Ludovico Sforza commissioned Leonardo da Vinci to paint a mural on a wall in the refectory of the convent. As payment for the painting of the Last Supper, da Vinci was given a vineyard across the street from the church.

To see the vineyard, one first visits the Casa degli Attelani, a renaissance house. The Attelanis lived there from 1490 until the 17th century, when the house was passed on. In 1919 the engineer and senator Ettore Conti became the owner and proceeded to make several architectural changes. The existing renaissance frescos were kept, although not all in the original spot where they were painted. The result is amazing, though.

During World War II, the area was bombed and not only the vineyard disappeared, but the refectory housing the Last Supper was damaged. Fast forward to the early 2000s. A oenologist  dug around the area in the Attelani garden where he suspected the vineyard to be and sure enough found the old vines. Together with a geneticist, the genes of the grape Malvasia Aromatica were extracted and grafted onto new plants. These plants where then planted where the vineyard once was and carry the green grapes Leonardo once saw growing there. More vines were planted in Piacenza as part of the project and these now produce a small amount of wine which can be bought in the shop.

12 Replies to “Following Leonardo”

  1. Aunt Gail says: Reply

    What a thrilling adventure! It blows my mind that one man could paint those beautiful paintings on ceilings and in such a large format. But then, he was truly a genius. And the story of the vineyard was unbelievable, that they could reproduce the same vines again! Thank you for sharing the so much about Leonardo and for the wonderful photos.

    1. You would have loved all the art.

  2. Meradeth Houston says: Reply

    What fun! Sounds like a fabulous trip and your photos are stunning, as ever 🙂 Makes me deeply want to explore the city!

    1. I’d love to show you around!

  3. Hi Juliana,
    I’m a friend of your Aunt Gail’s, who adores you. I love your blog posts and following your adventures. I am so happy for you to be having so many incredible adventures which your Aunt Gail’s friends enjoy vicariously through you. Have fun!

    Best Wishes Always,

    Leslie Elkan

    1. Thank you so much, Leslie! I’m glad you enjoy my blog.

  4. Gail Touzinsky says: Reply

    My dear Juliana, Thank you for sharing this magnificent trip. I’ve only been to Italy once & certainly did not explore all the treasures created by Leonardo! I’m astounded by his work in your pictures & thanks to you I’ve learned more about this incredible artist!
    Another one of your Aunt Gail’s friends(I’m a Gail also—-sending ❤️ From deep in the heart of Texas!

  5. Art Zendarski says: Reply

    LDV, the true Renaissance man…..master of both the left and right brain.
    I’ve viewed his beautiful artwork and marveled at his numerous scientific studies but I have never heard the story of his vineyard. A very interesting story. Thank you for sharing!

    Great blog,

    Art Zendarski

    1. Thank you! Da Vinci didn’t care much for money but being from Tuscany, he loved his grapes. It was the perfect payment.

  6. What a fantastic journey through Da Vinci’s world. Great photos, great art, and great story. Sounds like you had a wonderful day.

  7. Linda Thompson Lynn says: Reply

    I would love to receive your blog. Your Aunt Gail is my best friend. We’ve been dear friends since we were about 10 years old. Absolutely love your photos and the history you explained. Thank you. Linda

    1. Thank you! I’ll add you to the mailing list.

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