“Prego, prego,” my tour guide said, motioning for the group to follow her along the tour route of La Vigna di Leonardo. As the tour commenced, I noticed that our guide kept calling the great artist and former owner, Leonardo da Vinci, “Leonardo,” which threw me off. Maybe that’s what people call him here, but it felt to me like calling my middle school teacher by their first name instead of “Mr. Jones;” it just wasn’t right. I mean, it could be a slippery slope — next it would be “Leo,” and then all of a sudden they’d open a cocktail bar inside the monastery where The Last Supper was painted.
La Vigna di Leonardo
I was in Milan taking the PlacePass tour of “Leonardo’s Vineyard.” La Vigna di Leonardo is a recently-opened showcase of the estate where da Vinci stayed while painting his masterpiece, The Last Supper. The estate is incredible — exactly as I would have imagined a Renaissance-era house to be, complete with ivy creeping up the walls and elaborate frescoes coating as many walls as possible. Our tour guide explained how the estate had changed over time, having passed from family to family over the years. Walking through the estate you will notice cobblestones from the Renaissance, frescoes revised by da Vinci’s students, an original brick wall, tiles on the floor from the 1900s.
Amazingly, the estate has been inhabited since the days of da Vinci, even though a variety of families have owned it since then. The da Vinci vineyard is just a teeny fraction of what it used to be — a few dozen square meters compared to what was once a hectare — but the really cool thing is that people have been so careful in restoring the site. The current tenants analyzed root remains in the soil beneath the vineyard and discovered the actual kind of grapes that da Vinci planted. For historical accuracy, they planted the same kind, although it’ll be a couple more years before they produce any fruit.
A Mix of Old and New
My whole time in Milan involved a mix of old and new, a prevalent theme throughout my time in Italy. There aren’t many square meters of Italian ground that haven’t already been walked on by some Roman warrior, Renaissance man, archbishop or the like. They built on top of what’s already there, like the tiled floors of the foyers, which date back to the 1920s that mirror the original Renaissance fresco on the ceiling.
“It’s a mélange,” our guide told us. Even a majestic coat of arms in one of the studies of the da Vinci vineyard, despite looking like a single painting, had elements from the fifteenth century, additions from the seventeenth century, and more modern restorations.
Milan at Large
This summer, there’s a program going on called “Piano Milano,” where pianos are stationed all around the city for concert pianists to use for mini-performances. There was one such event at La Vigna when I took my tour, adding a Chopin-esque backdrop to my experience. There were also plenty of lights, recording instruments and wires, supplementing the contrast to the ancient, faded décor.
I really enjoyed seeing La Vigna di Leonardo during the PlacePass tour of “Leonardo’s Vineyard. It humanized da Vinci in a way that you kind of miss when you just see his paintings.
Ready to take a trip to Italy to see the da Vinci vineyard? Check out these other great activities in Milan!
Want to hit up multiple cities while you’re in Italy? Take a look at our blog post on Venice.
Written by: Joseph Winters, a Let’s Go! researcher-writer
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