The Aretino (territory of Arezzo) was undoubtedly a destination and place of "passage" in Leonardo's travels during the early years of the 16th century and the time he spent in Rome (1513-1516).
Specifically, Leonardo scouted this area in the field for his hydrographic projects pertinent to land reclamation in the Val di Chiana (around 1502) and for the course of the Arno, as well as for reasons of strategic nature at the order of Cesare Borgia (the son of Pope Alexander VI, and a warlord often considered a threat to Florence), for whom he was the "Most Expert and Highly Cherished Family Architect and General Engineer" starting in January 1502.
It is also probable that Leonardo was interested in seeing the works of art and architecture present in the territory, such as the masterpieces of painting by Piero della Francesca in Arezzo and Sansepolcro.
The rivers in the Arezzo territory are indicated mainly on map RLW 12277.
As regards these localities, four itineraries extending into the Val di Chiana area are particularly interesting. Two of these, indicated on map RLW 12278, run from Arezzo and Pieve a Quarto to Cortona, in the direction of Perugia, and from Arezzo and Pieve a Quarto to Foiano della Chiana, through Ponte a Pietra. The next two, which depart in the radial direction from Foiano della Chiana and from Castiglion Fiorentino, are instead represented, with measurement of the distances, on map RLW 12682 and include localities indicated also on RLW12278.
Leonardo represents and indicates, on maps RLW 12278 and RLW 12277, the course of the Ambra, which traverses the Communes of Bucine, Montevarchi, Terranova Bracciolini, Castelnuovo Berardenga, and Gaiole in Chianti. Coordinates taken at the exact point of confluence with the Arno, in the Levanella locality.
Leonardo represents Arezzo on maps RLW 12278 and RLW 12682 and indicates it on map RLW 12277, in the Codex Atlanticus (f. 127r) and in the Codex Leicester (f. 9A-9r). It is one of the most significant cities in Leonardo's Tuscany, also as regards the studies he carried out for the planned deviation of the course of Arno starting at least from 1495. Arezzo also played a strategic role of particular importance at the time of Vitellozzo Vitelli and the ephemeral lordship of Cesare Borgia, around 1502. Important also for its role of meeting place of roads leading toward Adriatic Italy, the city was embellished by famous masterpieces such as the cycle of frescoes by Piero della Francesca visible in the Basilica of San Francesco, which Leonardo probably had occasion to admire.
Leonardo represents and indicates the stronghold of Bucine and indicates twice the presence of a Mill near it on the Chiani river.
By 'Cazano', Leonardo indicates the locality of Cozzano, near the torrent of the same name, which flows beside Castiglion Fiorentino.
Leonardo represents and indicates the stronghold of Fontiano, in the Commune of Arezzo, 'from which city it is 5 Tuscan miles to ostro' (Repetti, 'Dizionario geografico fisico storico della Toscana').
Leonardo represents the torrent La Chiassa, which flows through the Communes of Anghiari, Subbiano, and Arezzo. The coordinates were taken at Giovi, point of confluence with the Arno.
Levane (ponte a)
By 'Ponte a Levane', Leonardo indicates Levane, on the Ambra river, between Montevarchi and Bucine.
Leonardo represents and indicates the castle of Montebenichi, a twelfth-century medieval fortress, in the Commune of Bucine.
Leonardo represents and indicates the castle of Montevarchi, a centre of trade in relation to the Via Cassia. In the Museum of Religious Art are the monumental "Tempietto" by the Della Robbia, coming from the Collegiate of San Lorenzo. In the Paleontological Museum are remarkable fossils from the Pliocene era.
Pieve a Quarto
Leonardo sketches and indicates the Pieve situated four miles from Arezzo. Here begins the sign of the route that, through Val di Chiana, arrives at Passignagno sul Trasimeno.
Leonardo represents and indicates the stronghold of Pigli (in the past known also as Pilli), in the Commune of Arezzo, on maps RLW 12278 and RLW 12682 at a distance of 6 miles from Castiglione.
Leonardo represents and indicates the stronghold of Puliciano in the Commune of Arezzo.
Leonardo represents and indicates, on maps RLW 12278 and RLW 12682, the stronghold of Quarata, in the Commune of Arezzo, in proximity to the Arno and to the Buriano bridge, which has recently been hypothesised to be the bridge appearing in the background of the 'Mona Lisa' in the Louvre.
By 'Rughettino' Leonardo indicates the stronghold of Rigutino on map RLW 12278, while on map RLW 12682 he indicates the distance of three miles measured between Castiglion Fiorentino and 'Robuttino'.
Leonardo represents and indicates the castle of Montanina on maps RLW 12278, RLW 12682 (specifying the distance of 4 miles from "Castiglione") and in the Codex Atlanticus (f. 918r). It is an ancient fortress of the Tarlati family from Arezzo, built in 1117, of which there remain only traces and ruins on the mountain of the same name to the east of Castiglion Fiorentino. The ruins of the castle may be reached from Val di Chio and from Santo Stefano, continuing up to the road-fork for Cantalena and then following the signs for "Rocca della Montanina".
Leonardo represents and indicates the medieval stronghold of Rondine, in the Commune of Arezzo, on maps RLW 12277 and 12278.
San Giovanni Valdarno
By 'Castel San Giovanni', Leonardo indicates the fortified city of San Giovanni Valdarno, built by the Florentines in the 13th century to defend the Valdarno against Arezzo. The Palazzo della Podestà was built by Arnolfo di Cambio.
Leonardo indicates the course of the Vingone, which flows almost parallel to the Cilone, between Montecchio and Castiglion Fiorentino. The coordinates were taken in the Chiani locality near the point of confluence with the Master Canal of Chiana. Not to be confused with the Aretine Vingone.
Leonardo represents and indicates the stronghold of Vitiano in the Commune of Arezzo on map RLW 12278, while on map RLW 12682 he notes: 'From Castiglione to Vitiano two miles'.
Texts by Alessandro Vezzosi, in collaboration with Agnese Sabato
English translation by Catherine Frost
Last update 05/mar/2008