Florence has to be one of the most cultural cities in the world. This beautiful city is well documented for its famous architecture and distinct style of Renaissance art. Having been to Italy on numerous occasions, Lily-Belle was always saddened that we hadn’t taken her to the world famous Leonardo da Vinci Museum, Florence. The museum showcases Leonardo da Vinci’s famous works, including his life-size reproduction of The Last Supper. Florence, which is the capital of Italy’s Tuscany region; is also home to the iconic Dumo, a magnificent cathedral with a terracotta-tiled dome engineered by Filippo Brunelleschi and a bell tower by Giotto di Bondone. There are lots of famous sculptures in and around Florence, including Michelangelo’s ‘David’ sculpture on display in the Galleria dell’Accademia. A beautifully enchanting city and one that needs more than a couple of hours to explore in full.
PANORAMIC VIEWS OF FLORENCE
Prior to Florence, we spent 2 hours visiting Pisa taking the usual tourist photos ‘holding up the Leaning Tower of Pisa’. Journey time from Pisa to Florence is a mere 90 minutes by car but time wasn’t on our side. On route to Florence Mummy announced we had ‘one quick stop’ to make to grab that all-important ‘Instaworthy‘ photo. Stepping out of the car at Piazzale Michelangelo Square, in the district of Oltramo; the infinite sky was a hazy blue and the heat, a sweltering 34°C. Our ‘instaworthy’ photo was taken looking out at a panoramic view of Florence. Ponte Vecchio to our left, and Duomo di Milano to our right. The skyline was dotted with cathedrals, towers and opulent buildings of all shapes an sizes. One of the most magnificent views of a city we have ever seen! Piazzale Michelangelo Square would be the perfect romantic spot to watch a sunrise or sunset.
READ ALL ABOUT IT: OUR TRIP TO THE LEANING TOWER OF PISA
THE HISTORIC CENTRE OF FLORENCE
In the centre of Florence our main aim was to park as close to the Leonardo da Vinci Museum as possible. Unbeknownst to us, the historic centre of Florence, where the museum is located; is closed to all traffic with the exception of residents, taxi’s and buses. The ‘no cars’ zone, known as Zona a traffico limitato; is definitely mind-boggling, there are cars everywhere? Wasn’t long before we were driving in a one way system in the ‘no cars’ zone and signs everywhere saying fines will be imposed! I figured the fine would come anyway so in for a penny, in for a pound, and located a car park in the ‘no cars’ zone. Getting Lily-Belle to the museum before closing time was far more important than a fine! The fine arrived over a year later and I’ll say two words on the matter…daylight robbery!
LEONARDO DA VINCI MUSEUM TIMES TWO
Having parked the car we had a short walk to the Leonardo da Vinci Museum on Via Camillo Cavour. At the reception we were told that they were closing early but there was another museum dedicated to Leonardo da Vinci just around the corner on Via dei Servi. Why there’s two museums with the same name is beyond me? Doors were closing within ten minutes so Mummy hot-footed it ahead, I chose to amble along with the girls in tow. Thankfully we arrived in time and was reunited with Mummy who was already inside. Let the exploring begin!
READ ALL ABOUT IT: OUR TRIP TO PETRA WINERY IN TUSCANY
The Leonardo da Vinci Museum is educational with many of the exhibits encouraging interaction. Each exhibit is accompanied by an explanatory panel (written in Italian, French, English, Spanish and Russian) giving the exhibit name and a brief description of the item. Lily-Belle was fascinated at the many wondrous inventions spread out throughout the room. Matilda was drawn to a large tube with a handle, Archimedes Screw. This particular machine was used for transferring water from a low-lying body of water into higher-level ditches for plant irrigation. Lily-Belle was more intrigued by the Multi-Gym in the centre of the room. A large wooden machine with pulleys and heavy weighted sandbags attached. And no matter how hard Lily-Belle tried, she simply could not move a sandbag! I’ll have to start feeding her spinach!
NON TOCCARE – DO NOT TOUCH
Although most of the exhibits positively encourage interaction, a selection of the exhibits are cordoned off with ropes. Several of the smaller exhibits are displayed within glass fronted boxes accompanied by large warning signs…NON TOCCARE (Do Not Touch). Leonardo da Vinci was considered way ahead of his time with his inventions, probably none more so than with his invention, the Ornithopter.
“Once you have known the flight, you will walk on earth looking at the sky, because there you have been and there you will wish to return” – Leonardo da Vinci
This remarkable aircraft design seeks to imitate the flapping wing of birds and create flight with the use of pulleys or pedals. And although modern day aircraft use a different technology, they are all built on the same principal of birds in flight. I was more than intrigued at the Tank, a large circular wooden structure with gun barrels poking out of the side. This was no play toy, it was a machine designed to destroy and kill!
MIRROR, MIRROR ON THE WALL
Was Leonardo da Vinci a vain man? Well, he was intrigued with the reflective components of mirrors and the images they reflected in reverse. There is a small polygon mirror room in the museum where you sit and are surrounded by mirrors. No matter in which direction you turn, you are able to see yourself infinitely from all sides. Those standing on the outside of the polygon are able to peek through a conveniently placed hole to see within. If you’re vain, this is the room for you! If you’re claustrophobic, this isn’t the room for you! The girls had great fun pulling faces in the mirrors and giggled aloud at each other!
INVENTOR, ARTIST, SCULPTOR, GENIUS
Within the museum there are many documented journals of Leonardo da Vinci’s work. Innovative inventions that were deemed beyond capability, such as parachutes, ornithopter flying machine, triple barrelled canon, diving suit, life sized robot and much more. The thing I find quite amusing is that Leonardo da Vinci conceptualized parachutes long before helicopters and aircraft were a thing! What was he going to throw himself out of or off?
“I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.” – Leonardo da Vinci
As well as being an inventor, sculptor, architect and engineer, Leonardo da Vinci was also a renowned artist. His works include the well-known masterpieces; Mona Lisa (c. 1503 – 1519), The Last Supper (c. 1495 – 1498) and Vitruvian Man (c. 14.90 – ?). Arguably, Leonardo da Vinci’s most controversial painting, if indeed he was the artist (under critic debate and scrutiny for many years); is the Salvator Mundi portrait which, even in exceptionally poor condition; sold for a record-breaking $450.3 million at auction in 2017. The painting wasn’t characteristic of Leonardo da Vinci’s earlier paintings.
MASTERING THE MONA LISA
There are five rooms to explore within the Leonardo da Vinci Museum, sadly, not all were open. In one of the rooms the girls had the chance to colour a picture of the Mona Lisa. The original Mona Lisa painting, valued in excess of $1 billion; currently hangs on the wall in The Louvre in Paris. In the same room were puzzles to engage a child’s mind. There was also the opportunity to copy Leonardo da Vinci’s unique style of writing in reverse and mirror image. A great room for engaging, interaction and creative imagination.
A GRIM DISCOVERY
Leonardo da Vinci was fascinated with technology, propulsion and drive. He invented several mechanical drive systems, including a single speed chain drive similar to a modern day bicycle chain. Was there a more sinister side to the genius mind of Leonardo da Vinci? Corpses? Brains? Leonarda da Vinci was very interested in the human anatomy. In one of the rooms there was a macabre collection of topless heads with their brains on display, a heart and various dissected body parts. Many of the exhibits looked like props from the 90’s film Total Recall, which starred Arnold Schwarzenegger. Lily-Belle wasn’t too keen on staying in the room whereas Matilda was more than happy ogling the gruesome contents inside the display cabinets. Strange child!
ECCENTRIC, DEVIOUS OR A GENIUS?
Leonardo da Vinci was undoubtedly a genius, but he also had his eccentricities. Famed for writing left handed, in mirror form and in reverse, some Historians claim this was Leonardo da Vinci’s own shorthand, his own unique language! A writing technique he perfected so that others would be unable to read and steal his great ideas. Others say Leonardo da Vinci was meticulous and writing with his left hand, right to left, prevented smudging the ink when he wrote. However, when Leonardo da Vinci wrote to officials or dignitaries he wrote right-handed and legible for all to read. Eccentric, devious or genius…who knows?
- ROOM I – The first room is dedicated to Flying Machines and also showcases the life-size reproduction of The Last Supper, together with a reproduction Mona Lisa,
- ROOM II – Leonardo da Vinci’s Codices Arundel and Atlanticus, is a collection of Leonardo’s manuscripts which originate from every period in his working life (spanning 1478 – 1518). The manuscripts contain notes and drawings on a a wide variety of subjects including Mechanics and Flight,
- ROOM III – Leonardo da Vinci’s insights into Optics and Music,
- ROOM IV – Principles of Movement which include the Study of Chains and Bicycle Motion,
- ROOM V – The fifth room of the exhibition is home to Paintings, there are further paintings on display throughout the building.
WORTH HIS WEIGHT IN GOLD
The Leonardo da Vinci Museum exhibits many fascinating pieces of equipment, as well as beautifully detailed sculptures and paintings. Son of a lawyer, Leonardo da Vinci was born out of wedlock on 15th April 1452. Leonardo da Vinci was one of the wealthiest artists around in the late 15th, early 16th centuries. Documented journals state that in less than a year, he was paid 200 florins (3.54g of gold per florin) and 240 scudi (3.42g of gold per scudi) from Francois I, King of France. As of today’s gold price, that would give Leonardo da Vinci an annual salary of $72,465.28…not bad for doing something you love! Leonardo died at Château du Clos Lucé on 2nd May 1519, rumoured to be a stroke (not authenticated). Can’t help but wonder how much Leonardo da Vinci’s net worth would be today if he was alive?
WHAT WE LOOK LIKE AS THE MONA LISA
As you leave the Leonardo da Vinci Museum there’s a well-stocked shop for purchasing books, souvenirs and keepsakes. Beside the shop there’s a replica Mona Lisa painting with a hole cut out so that you can display your own face. A few quick photo’s before we left and our visit to the spectacular Leonardo da Vinci Museum was over.
WOULD WE GO BACK?
The Leonardo da Vinci Museum on Via dei Servi, although small; is very impressive and represents the genius of his works so well. Having arrived quite late in the day, we only managed to bag a little over an hour inside. If you have children who are full of curiosity for technology, inventions, ideas and history, then the Leonardo da Vinci museum should be high on your bucket list if you visit Florence. Looking forward to returning where we will explore Florence and the many museums in much greater detail.
LILY-BELLE SAYS (9)
The museum is great for children, lots of things to see and do. I liked the gym but couldn’t lift the bags as they were far too heavy.
MATILDA SAYS (3)
Daddy looked really funny when he put his head through the pokey hole.
Date of visit: 23rd July 2018
Entrance Cost: Adults €7, Children (age 6-18) €6
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