Since it is 500 years after the death of Leonardo Da Vinci, Italy is celebrating the anniversary with exhibitions, pageants, and local theatrical performances. The country is floooded with events and is encouraging all of us to explore new places and lesser known facts about Leonardo.
Photo credit- Museo della Battaglia e di Anghiari.
I had taken up the opportunity to combine my love of hiking on an easy trail between Anghiari and Sansepolcro to follow the itinerary of the Florentine soldiers in the crucial Battle of Anghiari of 29 June, 1440. The Battle, played out on the plain between the two towns, was to be colorfully recounted by various local actors along the trail. Unfortunately the performance was cancelled due to stormy weather predictions.
However curiosity had got the better of me and I drove to Anghiari early morning well before the storm and spent a very pleasant few hours exploring the nooks and crannies of this beautiful medieval village. Along the way to set the mood I stopped at Ponte Buriano bridge to contemplate the scene with Da Vinci, since it is this bridge which features in the background of the Mona Lisa.
Garibaldi welcomed me into the historical centre of Anghiari, a popular statue in towns all over Italy. Shortly after I was to cross the moat, or where it was once, through the drawbridge gateway that protected it from foreign invaders.
I had stepped back in time; winding alleyways, opened onto intimate piazzas, overlooked by medieval buildings now incorporated into Renaissance palaces. It was beautiful!
A few quirky spots like the access to the town’s well now included in the wall of the Agostinian convent of the 15th century. The well built in 1323 accessed local spring water that was hauled up here or retrieved in the underground tunnel in the town’s protective walls.
A ‘medieval’ cat lazed on a roof top near the Renaissance ‘bread window‘, the balustraded window of the Brotherhood of Mercy through which the brotherhood provided bread to the poor.
The battle victory for the Florentines was a critical one against the Duke of Milan and his troops who had taken control of Sansepolcro and hoped to expand. Helped by around 4000 Papal troops, 300 knights from Venice and local Anghiarians, the Florentines battled for a day and a night and won, taking control over the entire area. Machiavelli is known to have described the battle techniques as poor since many troops were mercenaries with little real commitment to the cause, and in fact only one soldier died in the battle….. because he fell off his horse and was trampled! Historians believe more troops were probably killed amongst the foot soldiers, however it was such a brief battle it was unlikely to have been a bloodshed.
Whatever the facts, the battle was considered so important that Leonardo Da Vinci painted the scene on the wall of the Palazzo Vecchio – the town hall of Florence. Only copies by other painters attest to Da Vinci’s masterpiece. The painting has been controversial as the same walls are now covered by the frescoes of the 16th century painter Vasari. A search for the painting behind the frescoe caused a furore in 2012 and while convincing evidence was gleaned from the tiny exploratory perforations the mystery still remains. (For the complete story of the research see National Geographic)
As the storm rolled in, it was time to leave Anghiari but not without the thought that it’s an area I will come back to explore. Off the tourist trail but definitely worth a visit and am sure there are more delights to discover.