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Deep in the Tuscan countryside lays the remote gem of Vinci.  These small Tuscan towns seem shrouded in mystery and romance rising from the valleys.  Vinci is no exception.

This hilltop village offers a castle, a great museum, narrow twisting alleyways and all the ambiance in the world.   It is also the birthplace of the master Leonardo di Vinci. After visiting Vinci you understand what inspired him.

Park on the outskirts of town and explore on foot.  The first glimpse of Leonardo, a large wooden sculpture of the Vitruvian man welcomes you to town.  The square, overlooking the steep valley below, provides a spectacular view. Vinci’s origins go all the back to the Etruscans.

The castle, originally built in the Middle Ages, fell to Florence in 1254 and Vinci became a borough of the superpower.  It was the site of many battles between Florence and their enemies to the west such as Pisa.  Today Vinci looks almost the same as it did in the days of the Medici, but the 14,000 people living in Vinci and its surrounding hills enjoy a peaceful life.

The castle, known as “The Ship’s Castle” because of its shape, houses the fantastic museum Il Museo Leonardiano Di Vinci.   This truly unique museum focuses on Leonardo’s mechanical, scientific and engineering inventions.  The exhibits display Leonardo’s work through models constructed according to the original dimensions.

The pieces, displayed over two floors, are explained in a variety of languages including English.  Computers in every room give visitors a chance to view short video presentations, play interactive games or just read more information.

The models cover everything from constructing a domed building, to cars and planes, to underwater suits. Perhaps one of the most interesting features of this museum is Leonardo’s own notes and drawings are displayed showing his ideas from paper to reality.   For those who can’t get enough of the details of Leonardo’s work, across the street is the Leonardo Library which houses a complete collection of his notes and essays.  These museums allow visitors to glimpse the depth of Di Vinci’s genius.

The castle is the gateway to this great little village.  Near the museum stands the church of Santa Croce.  It is here local legend has it that Leonardo was baptized.  The Romanesque church modified several times over the years still retains its old world charm.  As with many Tuscan towns, simply exploring the tiny streets, stairways and alleyways is an attraction in and of itself.

Vinci is one town that should not be missed.