Conti Guidi Castle - Vinci


The Conti Guidi Castle dominates the historical center of Vinci, is reacheable following the motorway FI-PI-LI, exit at 'Empoli Ovest' and from here following the road signs.


Vinci rises at the southern slopes of the Montalbano mountain. The Castle, with its imposing structure, dominates the entire territory and great part of the Lower Valdarno. The first notices that regard it date the year 1164, its name is written on a diploma emitted by Frederick Barbarossa. Thanks to this document we can be sure that the castle was the first building to rise on site (together with a now disappeared parish church). However the origin of the 'castrum' of Vinci seems to go back to the High Middle Ages, when the Counts Guidi decided to construct here their fortified residence to expand their feudal power on this zone, important also for the interests of Florence, Pisa, Lucca and Pistoia.

The relations between the City-State of Florence and the Guidi were not always good. Between the 12° and 13° century the power of the feudal Family declined until the 1254 when they yield the castle to Florence spontaneously: the sale contract was signed the 12th August and Vinci became part of the Florentine peasantry.

In 1315 the native population rebelled, helped by soldiers of Uguccione of the Faggiola coming from Pisa and Lucca, but after alternate vicissitudes the Florentine reconquered Vinci and since the 1318 they start sending a constable to govern the castle. In 1320 Castruccio Castracani, Lord of Lucca enemy of Florence, destroyed Vinci, and only after the peace of Montopoli, of the 1329, came a short period of tranquility. In 1364 the village withstand a siege of the Pisane Army commanded by the English captain of venture John Hawkwood. When the skirmish for the territorial supremacy ended, the fortified stronghold of Vinci remained in the hands of Florence.

The original shape of the castle was altered by its various owners in the course of the centuries, until 1939 when the Conte Giulio Masetti da Bagnano, after a complete restoration, gave it back to the Municipality of Vinci. Today the aspect of the castle is in part returned the medieval one: a quadrilateral stone curtain, of not great dimensions, still partially crowned by guelphs crenellations and strong wall escarpments, endowed by two high towers, joined together to form a particular shaped keep, with one single gate opened near to the south-west angle. Very impressive is the south front , more modified the north. Its plan similar to a boat rendered it famous also like ' castello della nave' [castle of the ship]. To the inside is possible to find still intact some coats of arms, frescoes and art works, like the splendid enamelled ceramic of Giovanni della Robbia ' Madonna col Bambino'.

The complex today accommodates the Museum Leonardiano [ Museo Leonardiano di Vinci - Castello dei Conti Guidi - 50053 Vinci - FI - Ph. +39 0571-56055, opened every day from 9.30 am to 18.00 pm] founded in 1953, during the celebrations for the fifth centenary of Leonardo da Vinci, born in Vinci on 15th April 1452. Approximately two kilometres from Vinci, in the locality of Anchiano, rise the presumed native house of Leonardo.


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