This May, Italy and the world around it will honour the death of one of the most influential people that has ever lived – Leonardo da Vinci. There’s probably not a single person in the world who doesn’t know his name. Not only was he a genius with a paintbrush, he was also a skilled inventor, scientist, mathematician, musician and writer to name a few. The term ‘Jack of all trades, master of none’ definitely doesn’t apply here – he was a master of all. A proper egghead!
500 years have passed since his death and since then, his artwork has gained even more honour year on year. Italy are hugely proud to call him theirs and if they had the chance, they would’ve kept his entire collection to themselves. But alas, great things are only so when they are shared. Now, his artwork is spread all over the world. If you’re interested in history or art, or even just happen to be travelling to these parts of the globe, stop off and take in the brilliance of the paintings to discover what a true masterpiece really is.
Santa Maria delle Grazie – Milan, Italy
One of the most famous paintings in the world ‘The Last Supper’ is housed in the beautifully adorned Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan. Honestly, if you don’t even like art, you would still appreciate the beauty of this place! The fame of ‘The Last Supper’ only grew more after Dan Brown published ‘The Da Vinci Code’ which claimed the painting disguises an array of secrets, hidden between the brush strokes…
National Museum – Krakow, Poland
If you’re lucky to experience the cultural charm of Poland, a trip to the National Museum is a must. As well as many other famous works of art, Leondardo da Vinci’s portrait ‘Lady with an Ermine’ is one of the major draws to this museum. It is believed that this is a portrait of Cecilia Gallerani – the mistress of the Duke of Milan, Lodovico Sforza. The National Museum is just a stone’s throw away from Old Town – a beautiful, atmospheric district dripping in historic culture.
The Louvre – Paris, France
Impressive does not begin to describe The Louvre. Holding over 35,000 masterpieces, it is the largest museum in the world. And nestled in it’s antique lined walls, are 3 of Leonardo da Vinci’s paintings. ‘St John the baptist’, the ‘Portrait of Isabella d’Este’ and one of the most famous paintings in the world – the ‘Mona Lisa’. This masterpiece is so precious that it has its own bodyguards stationed either side of the canvas and was once stolen, back in 1911. The Louvre is a stunning building in itself and one of the most popular attractions in all of Paris.
The Uffizi Gallery – Florence, Italy
The Uffizi Gallery is always listed as one of the top attractions in Florence. Located in the historic centre, it houses one of the most interesting collections of Leonardo da Vinci’s artwork. 13 of his paintings are displayed in the relatively new ‘Leonardo da Vinci’ room. All of which were created before he turned 30 and fled Italy in favour of France. If you feel like you’ve only just scratched the surface of this famous genius, there’s also the nearby Leonardo da Vinci museum which takes a look at a different side of him – his bizarre but amazing inventions!
National Gallery – London, UK
In a city renowned as being a bit harsh on the wallet, it’s great when you find something for free! And in this case, it’s the National Gallery. ‘The Virgin of the Rocks’ is actually one of two almost identical paintings. One hangs here, the other remains in the Louvre. The National Gallery also houses another famous artwork by da Vinci – ‘The Burlington House Cartoon’, drawn on eight sheets of paper and glued together, using charcoal and chalk. The National Gallery sits on the famous Trafalgar Square amid giant lion sculptures and flowing fountains. It has a pretty good cafe too!
Vatican Museum – Rome, Italy
Isn’t it ironic that the smallest state on the globe, holds some of the biggest treasures? Besides being one of the holiest places in the world and the official residence of the Pope, Vatican City is home to some of the most precious pieces of art in the world. One of which is the famous, albeit unfinished painting of ‘St Jerome in the Wilderness’ by Leonardo. Vatican City is a marvel in itself from the grandeur of St Peter’s Basilica to the otherworldly Sistine Chapel, and definitely not a place to miss if you happen upon Rome.
Alte Pinakothek – Munich, Germany
The only work of Leonardo da Vinci in Germany has the pleasure of residing in Alte Pinakothek in Munich. It’s one of the oldest and largest art galleries in the world, and even looks a bit like a castle! The ‘Madonna of the Carnation’ depicts baby Jesus trying to grasp a carnation (the symbol of the Passion) and is considered to be one of his first autonomous works of art. If you plan a trip to Munich between the end of September and the first weekend of October, make sure you don’t miss out on Oktoberfest!
Gallerie dell’accademia – Venice, Italy
An unassuming gallery in the heart of Venice holds one of the most studied drawings of our time – the ‘Virtuvian Man’. As with everything in ‘The Floating City’, you will likely just stumble upon the gallery whilst finding your way through the labyrinth of side streets. Leonardo da Vinci believed that the workings of the human body are synonymous to the workings of the universe. And the ‘Virtuvian Man’ was drawn show the proportional relationship between the two.
Hermitage Museum – Saint Petersburg, Russia
The Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg is a must-see of Russia. The grandeur, the opulence and the sheer class of this place is beyond words. With its iconic horses and carts stationed outside, it’s a true picture of decadence. But inside its walls lie the treasures! Leonardo da Vinci’s ‘Benois Madonna’ is one of the most copied pieces of art in the world. Artist after artist have attempted to replicate the beauty of this painting and none have come close. The Hermitage Museum also owns ‘Madonna Litta’ – a depiction of the Virgin Mary breastfeeding baby Jesus.’
Biblioteca Ambrosiana Library – Milan, Italy
One of Milan’s best libraries holds the ‘Portrait of a Musician’ by Leonardo di Vinci. Inside this unassuming building lies frescoed adorned staircases, lines of statues guiding the way and rows of books like you’ve never seen before. The Biblioteca Ambrosiana is a treasure chest of artefacts. From ancient love letters to manuscripts from Greece and Syria to the oldest copy of the Kitab Sibawahaihi. And if you’re a bit of a bookworm, the library room at the back is simply, heaven!
Tucan Travel run some incredible tours to Europe. ‘London to Rome’ takes 21 days, passing through UK, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Czech Republic, Austria, Switzerland and Italy. If you want to venture east, one of our most popular eastern Europe routes ‘Moscow to Warsaw‘ takes you through Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Russia in just 14 days.
Roxy is part of the marketing team for Tucan Travel. She has been travelling solo for years, predominantly around Asia, Indonesia and Europe. You can find her on LinkedIn here.