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Destinations · Europe · italy · Milan · Museums and galleries ·

Leonardo da Vinci’s vineyard

Author: Anothertravelguide.com0 COMMENTS

Leonardo da Vinci’s vineyard

Well known are the legends of Milan's secret gardens, of green spaces hidden behind the outer walls of its buildings. For example, did you know of the vineyard almost directly across from the famous 15th-century Renaissance-style Santa Maria delle Grazie Church? The church houses Leonardo da Vinci's The Last Supper (II Cenacolo Vinciano), one of the world's best known works of art. More than 500 years ago, the vineyard belonged to da Vinci himself. The Renaissance genius lived in Milan for 25 years and is one of the city's most famous residents.

Supposedly, da Vinci was given the vineyard by Ludovico Sforza, the Duke of Milan, in 1498 as payment for the above-mentioned fresco, which took the artist two years to complete (1495–1497). The duke and da Vinci were both approximately 30 years old when Sforza commissioned The Last Supper. The rectangular vineyard is relatively small, 175 metres long by 60 metres wide, and holds 16 rows of grapes. We do not know how meticulous a gardener da Vinci was, but it is said that he visited the vineyard every evening after finishing his work on the famous fresco. Considering the fact that he was born in Tuscany (and, according to some sources, into a family of wine makers), there's no reason to doubt that the vineyard meant a lot to him. As he wrote himself, “I believe great happiness awaits those who have been born where one can find good wine.”

Rumour has it that Sforza commissioned The Last Supper because he hoped that the church would eventually become his own mausoleum. But Sforza's plan fell apart when the French army invaded Milan in 1550 and arrested the duke. Da Vinci was also forced to leave the city at that time. The father of Gian Giacomo Caprotti (also known as Salaģ), da Vinci 's former student, took over care of the artist's vineyard, but the French soon confiscated it. As the result of various diplomatic twists and turns, da Vinci was able to regain his vineyard in 1507. In 1519, shortly before his death, he bequeathed one half of it to Salaģ and the other half to his loyal servant, Giovanbattista Villani. Five years later, Salaģ was killed in a duel near the vineyard, but no one knows the reason for the conflict. After that, the vineyard changed hands countless times, being sold, gifted and eventually forgotten, along with the Casa degli Atellani, the aristocratic residence adjoining it.

The edifice was originally built for the Atellani family, which was known for its skilled diplomats and courtiers to the Sforza family. It is said that the duke's second unfulfilled dream was to create a neighbourhood around the church in which all of his closest friends and colleagues would live. However, not many of the duke’s associates, aside from the Atellani family, succeeded in settling there. The family lived in the Casa degli Atellani until the 17th century, after which time the home passed several times from one owner to another.

Finally, in 1919, it came under the management of industrialist Ettore Conti, whose son-in-law was Piero Portaluppi, Milan's most famous architect. On Conti's request, Portaluppi restored the building, bringing the old frescoes and many other ancient artefacts back to life, while supplementing them with historical replicas that he skilfully made himself. This mix of genuine and reproduced items was later named one of the architect's masterpieces. However, the fate of the property continued to be unstable. Da Vinci's vineyard, or, rather, what was left of it, was destroyed by fire in 1920. Subsequent bombing during the Second World War destroyed any remains of the vineyard.

As time went on, da Vinci’s vineyard became a distant memory. Then, in 2014, archaeologists miraculously found fragments of grapevine roots, which permitted them to determine the original layout of the garden. After many scientific tests, they also identified the variety of grape grown there – the Malvasia di Candia Aromatica. New vines were planted, and time will tell whether the harvest is eventually used to make wine. But the vineyard and the Casa degli Attelani, which boasts a series of frescoes depicting the signs of the Zodiac, is open to the public via guided tours. Those who yearn for an even more authentic feel and wish to be transported back to Leonardo's day can stay at one of four apartments that the museum rents out, experiencing an extraordinary backdrop for their visit to the city.

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