With the 500th anniversary of Leonardo da Vinci’s death approaching, thousands of tourists will be flocking to Milan to bear witness to his world-famous mural of the Last Supper. However, what many of those people will overlook during their stay in the north of Italy is one of Milan’s best hidden treasures, La Vigna di Leonardo (or Leonardo da Vinci’s Vineyard).
Located just across the road from the S. Maria delle Grazie Dominican convent (where the Last Supper is painted in the refectory) one can find Leonardo’s vineyard, where he relaxed after hours of painting his beloved fresco. The vineyard was given to the polymath genius by his patron, the Duke of Milan Ludovico Sforza, in 1498. The artist came from a family of winemakers, so owning and running a vineyard was no challenge for him, but the real reason for owning the piece of land was to gain Milan citizenship.
With the invasion of the French in 1499, Leonardo fled Milan. However, the vineyard still remained very dear to him, and Leonardo remembered to leave it to two of his favourite servants in his will. In the 1920s, researchers tried to restore the broken-down vineyard, but later had to drop their initial plans with the beginning of world war two.
La Vigna di Leonardo suffered under Allied bombings in the 1940s, but still managed to stay mostly intact. The refectory, too, was hit by bombs, but the Last Supper had been protected by sandbags and survived.
Now the vineyard has been completely restored to look as similar as possible to Leonardo’s descriptions. Scientists have also recreated the vines that Leonardo had grown during the Renaissance. While these grapes have finally bloomed, they are not meant to be consumed for another few years.
However, there are still plenty of things to do (and to drink) in La Vigna di Leonardo. There are tours around the vineyard for €10 per person (€8 for over-65s and under-18s; free for disabled and their carers). This will give you a chance to travel back in time and feast your eyes on the beautiful landscapes that Leonardo once roamed. Those visiting on Saturdays can also enjoy a Milanese aperitivo, with an additional charge of €5. The aperitivo will include “homemade” wine (not from the Renaissance) and various different appetizers for guests to nibble.
Lastly, history buffs will be glad to know that the grounds also offer accommodation built in the Atellani house. When the Duke of Milan had a vision of building a neighbourhood around the vineyard, the Atellani house was but a small part of that idea. It has now been divided into small boutique apartments that guests can stay in for around €150 a night. To learn more about Leonardo da Vinci’s vineyard, you can check out vignadileonardo.com/en
In collaboration with the American University of Rome