There is no better way of getting to know the life and times of Leonardo da Vinci than going on a walk in the countryside around his birthplace of Vinci on the Montalbano. Here are the long, spectacular views over the Arno plain towards the mountains of the Garfagnana (stll with snow at almost the start of May!) and the gentler hills of Volterra. Here too are the terraced vineyards and silvery olive groves and the house where he was brought up. Yesterday was glorious weather (clear and not too hot), the meadows filled with flowers, the forests with buds satiated by weeks of rain and now impatiently bursting open under the longed-for sunshine. Starting from walled Vinci, with its twin turrets of the church where Leonardo was baptized and the castle of the Conti Guidi, we took CAI path 14. That number was to be with us throughout our five-hour walk. Sometimes it was a broad forest path, at other times a narrow goat track, in parts macadamized in others a bit muddy, but number fourteen always took us through the most enchanted scenery. Moreover, although we had to sacrifice a little of the forest shade (since the leaves were not yet completely unfurled) we were treated to spectacular distant views which later would have been obscured by the foliage. For a lunch stop we chose a lawn filled with the largest daisies and near the sound of a soft purling stream. Our half-way point at Faltognano was an ancient and majestic holm oak – the largest leccio we have ever seen and dating back to the eighteenth century – near the church of Santa Maria with its moving memorials to sons killed in the first world war – so many in such a small hamlet… .
This was a thoroughly enjoyable start (and in the company of dear friends) to our season of spring and summer walks. Despite having had some previous problems with our physique we completed the itinerary without any problems and are confident that we can now tackle more demanding ones. Furthermore, we felt that we had, in some osmotic manner, got to know Leonardo better for surely he must have known these paths from his earliest childhood when he went on nature strolls with his favourite uncle, or when he observed the flight of birds and wondered how he could achieve the same, or when he remembered those landscapes and incorporated them into the background of several of his paintings. One doesn’t just learn about great men by reading their books or those volumes about them but, more intimately by walking through those landscape so familiar to them – and so sweet and pleasurable to us.