Itineraries through Valdarno
Around 1503, Leonardo must have traveled through and studied the Valley of the Arno for his projects for deviating the river and regulating its flow. He must have gone from Florence to Pisa, occasionally with an intermediate stop at Vinci, from where he could proceed along the roads that ran along the right or the left bank of the river. On the folios in Madrid Ms. II (2r, 15r, 16r) three itineraries take shape, with measurements of the distances between the main localities.
The localities of the first itinerary, from Florence to Empoli, are represented in particular on map RLW 12685, as well as on f. 23r of Madrid Ms. II; those of the other two are found instead on maps RLW 12683 and RLW 12278 and on ff. 22v and 52v-53r of Madrid Ms. II.
In the same Madrid Ms. II, on folio 1r, Leonardo took note of two more itineraries, one over the Pisa Mountains (from Sasso della Dolorosa to the fortress of Verruca) and the other along both banks of the Arno upstream of Pisa. As compared to the itineraries that were to be described later (from Vinci to Vicopisano and from Empoli to Pisa), the route indicated in the Madrid Manuscript presents the following differences in routes and distances: from Cascina to Vico (2 miles), to Bientina (1 mile), to Calcinaia (1 ½ mile), to Pontedera (1 mile), to Montecalvoli (1 mile), to Santa Maria a Monte (2 miles), to Castelfranco (2 miles), to Santa Croce (1 mile), to Fucecchio (1 mile).
From Florence a Empoli (along both banks of the Arno)
The itinerary that runs along both banks of the Arno touches on the following localities:
Badia a Settimo (left bank of the Arno) - Castelpulci (left) - Vingone torrent (left) - Lastra a Signa (left) - Ombrone (right bank of the Arno) - Signa (right) - Ponte a Signa - "Pescaia" (Porto di Mezzo, left bank) - Bisenzio (right) - Golfolina (the "Taglio", or cut, between the two banks, with Artimino above on the right and Masso delle Fate on the left bank) - "Pini" (Poggio alla Malva, right bank) - Brucianesi (left) - Malmantile (in the hills on the left bank) - "Monastero" (Torre alla Badia, near Capraia, right bank) - Pescaia (before Montelupo and Capraia) - "Fornaci" (Samminiatello, left bank) - Capraia (right bank) - Montelupo (left, at the mouth of the Pesa) - Pontorme - Empoli.
Leonardo specifies the distances from Florence to Lastra a Signa (6 miles), to Malmantile (3 miles), to Montelupo (3 miles), and to Empoli (3 miles), for a total of 15 miles, which is approximately the real distance as the bird flies.
From Vinci to Vicopisano (on the right bank of the Arno), with measurement of the distances
Leonardo calculates an itinerary of 18.5 miles as a whole.
Vinci - Cerreto Guidi (2 miles) - Fucecchio (3 miles) - Santa Croce (1 mile) - Castelfranco (2 miles) - Santa Maria a Monte (2 miles) - Montecalvoli (2 miles) - Montecchio (2 miles) - Calcinaia (1 mile) - Bientina (2 miles) - Vicopisano (1.5 miles).
In addition, Leonardo indicates a distance of 2 miles from Vicopisano to Cascina, on the other bank of the river.
From Empoli to Pisa (on the left bank of the Arno), with partial measurement of the distances
Empoli - Ponte a Elsa (4 miles) - San Miniato (2 miles) - Montopoli (not specified) - Torre a San Romano (n.s.) - Pontedera (n.s.) - Cascina (4 miles) - Pisa (7 miles).
It is interesting to note that on map RLW 12279 Leonardo calculates a distance of "56 miles by Arno from Florence to Vico (Pisano)" and only 44 miles "via the Pistoia Canal". On the same map are other contradictory annotations: "Via Arno from Florence to Vico 61 and by Canal 45: that is, 16 miles less", and again "from Florence to Fucecchio 40 miles, by water along the Arno 39".
Adding up the distances given in the 3 proposed itineraries gives a total of about 43 miles from Florence to Pisa, and about 22 from Florence to Fucecchio.
The most reliable measurements, among those referring to localities identified with certainty, are those of the second itinerary, from Vinci to Montecchio. The doubt arises that Leonardo may have applied different principles for measuring the distances, taking them in part from autoptic reconnaissance of the terrain, in part from approximate calculations or straight-line measurements.
Texts by Alessandro Vezzosi, in collaboration with Agnese Sabato
English translation by Catherine Frost
Last update 01/feb/2008