Milan attracts numerous tourists annually who come to see Leonardo da Vinci’s renowned masterpiece, the Last Supper, but few are aware of another remarkable gem left by the artist, located only a few steps away from his famous painting. Nestled amidst the verdant gardens of an exquisite residential property, the Casa degli Atellani, lies Leonardo’s Vineyard, or in Italian ‘La Vigna di Leonardo’. This tranquil small plot of land and vineyard offers a unique opportunity to add to your exploration of the Renaissance while in Milan.
Despite its small size, La Vigna di Leonardo offers visitors a peaceful escape from the hustle and bustle of Milan’s city center.
Leonardo da Vinci, born in Vinci, Tuscany in 1452, was a multifaceted genius of the Renaissance era. His abilities spanned beyond the realms of science and art, encompassing astronomy, engineering, cartography, geology, and botany. After mastering his skills in Florence, he moved to Milan in 1482, where he served under Ludovico Sforza, the forward-thinking Duke of Milan and one of his significant benefactors. For over two decades, Leonardo worked on several projects for the Duke, including designing the city’s canal district and producing thousands of sketches preserved in his Codex Atlanticus notebook.
During his time in Milan, he painted The Last Supper (1495-1498), situated in the refectory of the Santa Maria delle Grazie church. As a token of appreciation, Ludovico Sforza presented Leonardo with a small vineyard which the artist cared for while he worked on The Last Supper.
The Milan vineyard that Leonardo da Vinci received from the Duke of Milan, was given to him in 1498. Having been planted in the 15th century it is one of the oldest in Milan. Leonardo was fascinated by the cultivation of grapes and the production of wine. He spent a great deal of time studying and experimenting with various techniques in the vineyard.
However, French troops invaded the Duchy of Milan in 1499, causing Leonardo to leave Milan. After he departed, the vineyard was leased by the father of Leonardo’s former apprentice, Salai, and later confiscated by the French. In 1507, the vineyard was returned to Leonardo, thanks to the intervention of Charles II of Amboise, the French king’s lieutenant in Italy.
Leonardo left Milan for good in the early 16th century and died in 1519. Leonardo was especially attached to the vineyard and included it in his will at the end of his life. In his will, he left equal shares of the Milan vineyards to his apprentice, Salai, and to one of his most loyal servants, Giovanbattista Villani. After changing hands multiple times, the vineyard was virtually abandoned, along with the Casa degli Atellani, the dignified home adjacent to the vineyard. Sadly, the vineyard disappeared after fire and poor city planning took their toll in the 1920s. During World War II, the Casa degli Atellani, its gardens, and the vineyard suffered more damage during Allied bombing campaigns.
However, in the 1920s, Ettore Conti, an engineer and magnate of the Italian electricity industry, purchased the property and commissioned the famed Milanese architect Piero Portaluppi to restore the buildings. Despite the restoration, the remnants of Leonardo’s vineyard lay forgotten for years until the Expo Milan in 2015 prompted a cultural revival in the city. Portaluppi’s grandchildren, who currently own the Atellani House, decided to recreate Leonardo’s vineyard.
“The discovery of a good wine is increasingly better for mankind than the discovery of a new star.”LEONARDO DA VINCI
A year prior to the Expo in 2014, fragments of the original vineyard roots were located, allowing scientists to analyze them in a laboratory setting. With the help of an oenologist named Luca Maroni and the University of Agricultural Sciences in Milan, they studied the original grape variety, Malvasia di Candia Aromatica, and replanted the vineyard, maintaining the same pattern of vines that were present in the 15th century.
Fun Fact: The grape, Malvasia di Candia Aromatica, is believed to have originated on the island of Crete.
Today, the vineyard produces a limited amount of high-quality wine made using traditional methods.
Currently, the vineyard is operated by the “Fondazione Cenacolo Vinciano”, an organization that is dedicated to preserving the vineyard and promoting the cultural heritage of the area.
Leonardo’s vineyard is also an important cultural and educational resource for the city of Milan. It is a popular destination for school groups and educational programs, as it provides a unique opportunity to learn about the history and culture of the city.
The vineyard also hosts events such as wine tastings, wine-making workshops, and cultural events throughout the year.
Visitors can stroll through the vineyard and admire the beautiful gardens that Leonardo himself may have tended to centuries ago.
The garden is a beautiful place to explore, with its ruined columns, weathered statues and ornate ironwork, you could spend hours there absorbing all of the historic and eye-catching details.
“To such an extent does nature delight and abound in variety that among her trees there is not one plant to be found which is exactly like another; and not only among the plants, but among the boughs, the leaves and the fruits, you will not find one which is exactly similar to another.” -Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo’s Vineyard in Milan saw its first-ever harvest in 2018, thanks to a scientific project by the University of Milan. The grapes were harvested on September 12th and underwent fermentation in an underground earthenware jar, using the ancient Greek-Roman method. The resulting product, La Malvasia di Candia Aromatica – Anno I, was bottled in a unique 330 Decanter that draws inspiration from a sketch by Leonardo da Vinci in the Windsor Code.
These exclusive Decanters are produced by Alberto Alessi at his winery, Cascina Eugenia, and are progressively numbered and sealed with a guarantee stamp and wax lacquer. The first of the 330 Decanters will be showcased at the museum beneath the stunning ceiling painted by Bernardino Luini, serving as a symbol of the timeless bond between Leonardo and the city of Milan.
La Dama di Milano, the wine comes from the same and valuable grape, malvasia di candia aromatica – Leonardo’s Vineyard, still grow for us by the Castello di Luzzano. The wine is characterized by bright straw yellow color; intense aroma, with floral notes of acacia, cypress and mint; typically aromatic, balanced and soft flavor.
The Lady with an Ermine, painted by Leonardo da Vinci, is the portrait of Cecilia Gallerani, poetress and young mistress of Ludovico il Moro. You can find La Dama di Milano at the museum.
Looking for wines produced with the Malvasia Candia Aromatica grape? Here are a few producers: Ermacora in Friuli, Malvasia Istriana in Friuli (generally better quality, but not as perfumed and floral), La Tosa and Medici Ermete in Emilia Romagna, and Lunaria in Abruzzo. In the Lazio region, Malvasia Puntinata grape is used to produce wines similar to Leonardo’s, but less perfumed. Look for wines from Casale Marchese, Merumalia, Cantine Silvestri, Casale Vallechiesa, Poggio Le Volpe, and Tenuta Le Quinte. In the Colli Piacentini wine region, Malvasia is the most common DOC wine produced with the Malvasia di Candia Aromatica grape variety, with a characteristic aroma and a range of dry to sweet tastes. While it’s not easy to purchase wines from Leonardo da Vinci’s vineyard, you can try Tasto Atellano wine produced at the Luzzano Castle, previously owned by the Atellani family and closely tied to Leonardo’s vineyard.
Leonardo’s Vineyard is a fascinating and unique place to visit in the city of Milan and it still retains the atmosphere that the artist loved.
If you’re planning a trip to Milan and love wine, don’t miss the opportunity to visit La Vigna di Leonardo. To purchase tickets for the vineyard and Casa degli Atellani, please visit the Museo Vigna di Leonardo website to check the opening hours and make a reservation. If you’re also interested in seeing The Last Supper, be sure to secure your tickets months in advance through the official ticket website or consider purchasing them as part of a private tour. the Museo Vigna di Leonardo website
There have been many books written about Leonardo da Vinci but one of my favorites is “Leonardo da Vinci” by Walter Isaacson is a remarkable biography that beautifully captures the life and legacy of one of the greatest minds in history. Isaacson provides a comprehensive look at Leonardo’s life, from his upbringing in the Tuscan town of Vinci to his years working for the Duke of Milan and his later career in France. The book delves deep into Leonardo’s many talents, including his artistic genius, scientific discoveries, and engineering innovations. Isaacson paints a vivid portrait of a man who was curious, driven, and endlessly creative. The writing is engaging and accessible, making it a great read for both casual readers and those with a deeper interest in Leonardo’s life and work.
I hope that you enjoyed this glimpse of Leonardo’s Vineyard in Milan, I will be sharing more from my last trip to Italy soon. Until then thanks for reading and if you have found any other hidden gems in Milan, I would love to hear about them. Just leave me a comment. Cheers Everyone.
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