A Renaissance villa, a secret garden, a beautiful story to tell: let’s discover Leonardo’s vineyard in Milan together!
Discover the secrets and hidden beauties of the city where you live: a real passion for anyone who is curious about nature and loves exploration. Discover the secrets and hidden beauties of the city where you live: something that, probably, we should all do a little more often; me first !! I have been living in Milan for several years but there are still many items in my “Milan Wishlist” to tick : I want to get to know perfectly all the historical testimonies that have made Milan, my adopted city, what it is today.
Fortunately, a few weeks ago I had the opportunity to eliminate one of the items on my list: the visit to Leonardo da Vinci’s vineyard . I’ve always wanted to see it because I’m a huge fan of Leonardo, and I finally did it! In this post I would like to tell you the beautiful story of this oasis in the center of Milan, show you my photographs and give you all the useful information for the visit and for the purchase of tickets with Musement , with which I found myself very well
The history of Leonardo’s vineyard in Milan
You may not be interested in the historical aspects of the attractions you visit but, believe me, the history of this place is really worth reading 🙂
The vineyard is located at the bottom of the garden of Casa degli Atellani, a historic residence located right in front of Santa Maria delle Grazie , where the famous Last Supper is located. Leonardo probably lived here just in the period in which he painted his admirable Last Supper: at that time he was working for Ludovico il Moro, lord of Milan, and it was the latter who gave Leonardo a plot of land planted with vines, around 1498. : a gesture of gratitude for “the various and admirable works he performed for the duke” , as stated by Luca Beltrami, art historian and leading scholar of Leonardo’s Milanese period.
These sixteen “poles” (equivalent to about one hectare) of vineyard right in the heart of the city were not a casual gift: from the notes, sketches and shopping lists, we know that Leonardo was a true passionate of viticulture – he came from a family of winemakers -, and the gift was therefore particularly appreciated. For this reason, the Genius was always very attached to this plot: he claimed the rights following the French occupation of Milan (when Charles II of Amboise called him back to Milan to finish the works, he replied that he would only do so if the confiscation of the vineyard had been canceled!) and, on his death, he inserted it in his will leaving it to two heirs: one part went to his pupil Gian Giacomo Caprotti, known as Salaì, and one to his faithful assistant Giovanbattista Villani.
Many centuries passed and, despite all the changes and upheavals in the center of Milan, the vineyard remained intact almost by a miracle . In 1919 the villa was bought by the industrialist Ettore Conti, who called the architect Piero Portaluppi to restore it; a part of the vineyard was preserved by him, but the bombings of the Second World War destroyed it definitively.
But the story of Leonardo’s vineyard has a beautiful and unexpected happy ending . In 2015, on the occasion of Expo and on the basis of the photographs and studies of Luca Beltrami, Confagricoltura, the Portaluppi Foundation, the University of Agricultural Sciences of Milan and other institutes worked to recover the roots, hidden under meters and centuries of earth , bringing to light the original vineyard and identifying the grape variety : the ancient Malvasia di Candia Aromatica, a grape of Greek origin widely cultivated in the sixteenth century.
La Casa degli Atellani
Leonardo’s vineyard is only a small part of the visit, the last one; first, there is the wonderful Casa degli Atellani to visit – only the ground floor, as above it is still inhabited by the descendants of Portaluppi! -, a true jewel of Milanese style and architecture .
The house, originally made up of two buildings, was donated in 1490 by Ludovico il Moro to the Atellani family, his faithful servants, and was one of the most worldly houses of the Milanese Renaissance; we are in the district that, at that time, was called Borgo delle Grazie , where Ludovico intended to gather all his most trusted courtiers. After Leonardo’s vicissitudes, I told you that Conti asked Portaluppi to restore the house in the early 1920s and then again after the bombings of 1943.
At that time the property was a real wreck: it is said that, on seeing it for the first time, Conti’s wife was shocked, but her husband told him not to worry because, after the renovation, she would live like a queen. Well, to see the house now I can hardly believe it! The nice thing is that Portaluppi was given total freedom: he restructured the villa as he pleased, giving value to every corner of the house, the courtyards and the garden.
Casa degli Atellani e Vigna di Leonardo: la visita
The two adjacent courtyards will be the first thing you will see, and I think you will fall in love with them instantly: it’s like setting foot in a surprisingly different, ancient, poetic Milan!
The inside of the house is also a sight; the first particular room that we find is the Hall of the Zodiac , with the symbols of the stars painted in the lunettes of the ceiling: once it was used to do so because it was believed that the movement of stars and celestial bodies could influence what happened on Earth. Find all the signs of the zodiac on the vault and dwell on Taurus: you will find Portaluppi’s motto, faire sans dire (it is no coincidence that the renovation of the house was completed in just 3 years!). Below, there is the Hall of Portraits: raise your eyes and you will find yourself face to face with the copies desired by Portaluppi of the original portraits, now kept in the Castello Sforzesco, which the Atellans commissioned from Bernardino Luini to celebrate the Sforza dynasty. Then there is the Sala dello Scalone , with many fascinating details and a map of Milan in the 1700s, and my favorite room: Ettore Conti’s Studio . This is an example of how a studio should be: warm, full of books, welcoming, precious. Dwell on the portraits of the Conti spouses and on the great Tower of Babel painted by the Flemish Marten van Valckenborch.
From the villa you enter the outdoor area: the Garden of Delights , a wonderful green rectangle in the heart of Milan. A silent and peaceful place, where you can sit for a few minutes on the benches and do what we did: we looked around and, at 360 °, we did not find even a tiny clue that we were in Milan. No traffic, no skyscrapers, no modernity: incredible, right?
Between statues and fountains, Leonardo’s Vineyard is right down there, with its bunches delicately wrapped one by one to better preserve them: are we sure we are really in the heart of the chaotic, modern Milan?
I loved this place, for two main reasons : the possibility of taking a real leap into the Renaissance and that of entering for a moment into a more intimate and human dimension of that great genius that was Leonardo da Vinci.
Musement, Leonardo’s vineyard and other attractions in Milan
Sometimes, I don’t know, it seems to me that it is somehow “tiring” to go to a place, enter, buy the ticket and visit. I don’t know if I mean it, it’s just that sometimes I’m simply too lazy to do it, and then in any case in Milan there are always so many things to see that I never know what to dedicate my time to! With Musement , things change: directly in front of the computer or on the app, it is easy to type in the name of the city that interests us and have dozens of experiences to live in an instant. In Milan, with Musement, you can do many things: cultural attractions, guided tours, skip-the-line tickets … and, to stay on the Leonardo theme, even the ticket for the Last Suppercan be purchased on Musement. In the end, just choose what interests us, check all the info, enter your details and book! The ticket is ready immediately and there is no need to print it: just show the app to the staff. I found myself well and I have already bought another ticket to use in Milan… I hope soon 🙂
– How to get there : Leonardo’s Vineyard and Casa degli Atellani are located in Corso Magenta 65. The nearest metro station is the MM1 / MM2 Cadorna, less than 10 minutes away on foot. You can also get there by bus (18, 50, 58, 94) or by tram (16, 19).
-Opening: open every day from 09.00 to 18.00 (you can enter every half hour, until 17.30; Saturday and Sunday you can enter every 15 minutes, until 17.45).
– Admission : the ticket, to be purchased online or at the ticket office, costs € 10 (adults) or € 8 (students, over 65 and children aged 6 to 18).
– Musement : with Musement you can choose the visit to Leonardo’s Vineyard that interests you the most, define the day and time of the visit and present yourself directly with the voucher in the app, skipping any queue. Find the tours related to the Vineyard at this link .
– Services : there is a small gift shop and the Bistrot, open every day and where to stop even if you do not visit. Here it is possible to taste the “Atellano Key” the Aromatic Malvasia which is produced at the Castle of Luzzano, an ancient fief of the Atellani and restored by Portaluppi (the castle is located in Rovescala in the province of Pavia, halfway between Pavia and Piacenza). On the property of Casa degli Atellani there is also Atellani Apartments, a complex consisting of four holiday apartments.
– Audio guide : it is possible to carry out the visit with a guide, or with the highly efficient audio guide available in several languages. You will be given a smartphone with the app ready (or you can download it directly to your mobile phone! Search for “Leonardo’s Vineyard” on the App Store or Play Store), and you can visit the entire property at your own pace, listening to the story and curious insights on the spot.