“The water that you touch from rivers is the last to come and the first to go. Like time.” Not much could be added to this reflection by Leonardo da Vinci, if the Genius hadn’t originated from Vinci and if he hadn’t spent the most important years of his life – his childhood – here. Treading the trails that climb up Montalbano, observing the streams that cut through the mountain and the mills with their wheels driven by a thin thread of energy bearing witness to the invention based on centuries-old origins, this is where Leonardo grew up.
Flight isn’t just a Leonardo thing; it affects the whole community. We’re not talking solely about kite flying and the plans that Leonardo based on the scientific observation of his trajectories. Centuries before, with the legend of Cecco Santi, the residents of Vinci had dabbled in the adventure of conquering the skies. With the Cecco effigy, which is thrown down from the tower of the Conti Guidi castle every year in the middle of summer, the community continues to celebrate its joy at a good harvest with its brilliant local red wine and golden Montalbano oil.
The flying machines, the oil mill, the flour mill, the tank; inventions of a past that predicted the future, as well as everyday tools that changed the course of human history. Who’s never used a fan-operated refrigerator or hurled a few choice swearwords before the relentless advancing of a clock? Leonardo was a genius because he thought of these things too and not just plunging humans down to the bottom of the seas or flying them high in the skies.
The automotor carriage, the automobile invented by the Genius of Vinci for spectacular theatre sets, is a reminder that future-looking thoughts have always been at home here. It reminds us about a place where innovation, technology and speed have always existed. The automobile. It might be a mere coincidence of course, but it’s as though we could still see him at the wheel of his rumbling red racing car “Italia”, Count Giulio Masetti da Bagnano, born and bred in Vinci and an icon of 1920s motoring, an embodiment of bravery and the living image of bygone speed. There was something mysterious, a passion between the Count and the “Targa Florio”, the most important car race of its time. It’s as though we could still see him, yes, but suddenly he’ll disappear around a bend, thrust into the future.
There are places that transport us and our imagination. There’s something indescribable, supernatural. Memories of those perfumes, colours, lights, sounds, noises are fixed in our minds, and sooner or later those places will call to us once more – it’s fate. The “pescaia” of Mulino della Doccia is one such place. “The slopes of the fishing kiddle,” stated Leonardo, “must be paved in large slabs, some flat and others at an angle, fitting together, so that they form a foundation for others.” Coming here we find Leonardo. In Vinci.