Leonardo da Vinci • City of Vinci
(Illustration above by Ricardo Caria)
Did you know?
FIAT, founded on 11 July 1899 by Giovanni Agnelli, stands for Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino. In 2014 FIAT purchased Chrysler and the company became FIAT Chrysler (FCA), an extraordinary partnership between the United States and Italy. The company brands include Maserati, Dodge, Jeep and Alfa Romeo. Sergio Marchionne serves as the CEO of FCA and of Ferrari. FIAT began four years before Ford Motor Company was started in 1903. Oldsmobile was founded in 1897. A fully armed FIAT Panda SUV was driven by Daniel Craig in the 2006 movie Casino Royale. It’s an extraordinary coup d'etat for FIAT to replace the British Aston Martin that 007 drove in 19 James Bond films, starting in 1964 with Goldfinger. (FIAT “Favolosa Zero” produced in 1911 pictured in the center image below)
Leonardo Da Vinci was born on 15 April 1452 in Vinci, near Firenze. Master artist, sculptor, painter, inventor, architect, designer, engineer, brilliant scholar in science, philosophy and medicine, Da Vinci is most deserving of the title “Renaissance man.” Best known for his breathtaking masterpieces, such as Mona Lisa (or La Gioconda), The Last Supper, Adoration of the Magi, and self-portraits. His magnificent and realistic sketches of anatomy, and drawings of things to come – airplanes, helicopters, modern tanks and parachutes – are reminders that his genius is unmatched centuries later. Da Vinci died on 2 May 1519 in Amboise, near the French palace of King Francis I, who hired him to create some of his last masterpieces and talked with him almost daily. After Da Vinci died, Francis I was in possession of the Mona Lisa, and it remains in the Louvre in Paris to this day.
Precipitevolissimevolmente which means as fast as possible, was created in 1677. With 26 letters it is considered the longest word in modern Italian. There are longer words describing medical or obscure terms.
Places to visit
Vinci, where Leonardo Da Vinci was born, is a picturesque town surrounded by vineyards and olive groves. Tour the Museum of Leonardo da Vinci, http://www.museoleonardiano.it/eng the birthplace of the Renaissance Man and the Church of Santa Croce where he was baptized.
Il Piastrino http://www.ilpiastrino.it/eng/agritourism.html is an old farmhouse which has been transformed into a comfortable agriturismo. Daniela Carazzini and her family have provided guests with warm hospitality for three generations. Their restaurant features outstanding, Tuscan specialties. Swimming pool, mountain bike rental, horse riding, private parking, and a garden to enjoy the Vinci skyline. tel. +39 057156148 - fax +39 05711882161 - tel. cell. +39 3387342176
Cortona, the city made more famous by Frances Mayes’ “Under the Tuscan Sun”, is the quintessential Tuscan hill town where the author revels in the delights of buying and renovating her villa “Bramasole ” (in Italian: “to yearn for the sun”). Mayes makes the people, food, wine, olive and cypress trees-- in fact all that is beloved about Italy--come alive with passion. With towering views of Lago Tresimeno and beautiful sections of Tuscany and Umbria, this picturesque town of Cortona is unique. Don’t miss visiting the Enoteca Antica Drogheria, Via Nazionale 3 Tel. 0575.631076. Owners Benito and Marsilia Rossi serve a refreshing complimentary aperitif to guests and offer an excellent selection of Italian wines along with some dried pastas, balsamic vinegars, herbs and spices.
Trattoria La Grotta, Piazza Baldelli 3 (In historic town center near main clocktower off Via Nazionale), Cortona, AR Arezzo, Italy 52044 Tel./FAX 0575.630271. Mario and Rosa Maria Billi and their children’s families truly take gastronomy to a new level. It’s a touch of heaven when you eat the most divine gnocchi ever— delicate pillows of ricotta, spinach and potato are their long-time specialty either with pomodoro sauce or black truffles and olive oil. Be sure to try the pici which is also homemade. Pici is a long and thick Tuscan pasta prepared more al dente than most and with a zesty tomato sauce. Also mouth watering tagliata (filet) served with green peppercorns, olive oil and grilled rosemary. Epicurean desserts. Seven tables on patio and inside it’s cozy and warm. A favorite in Cortona for over 25 years. Excellent, friendly service and good local wine list. Michelin two forks. Closed Tuesdays. https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g187894-d1149294-Reviews-Trattoria_La_Grotta-Cortona_Province_of_Arezzo_Tuscany.html
Hotel San Luca ****. Modern hotel located in the town center of Cortona with spectacular views. Reasonable prices for a four star hotel. Open all year. Piazza Garibaldi 1, Centro Storico di Cortona, AR Arezzo, Italy 52044. tel. 0575630460. https://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g187894-d283842-Reviews-Hotel_San_Luca-Cortona_Province_of_Arezzo_Tuscany.html
Tentimenti Luigi d'Alessandro. Founded by Luigi d’Alessandro who bought the estate in 1967, his two sons Massimo and Francesco run the winery today. They have become the leading vintners to advance Syrah during the past decade and are one of the world’s best Syrah producers.
Italy Heralded by Mauro Battocchi, former Consul General for Italy in San Francisco:
Motor Valley Keeps the Pedal to the Floor
San Francisco loves the Italian Heritage Parade. Did you happen to see the line of Ferraris in Washington Square Park? If not, check out these spectacular machines in the video clip below. Not a bad lineup…
Let’s take a step away from Silicon Valley and look to Motor Valley, the epicenter of the Italian sports car manufacturing located in and around Modena. There, in the lush Po Valley, you’ll find the factories and headquarters of world-famous Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati, Pagani, De Tomaso and Ducati. These iconic brands are appreciated globally for their elegant design and ferocious power. Indeed, the V12 Lamborghini Aventador, produced in the small town of Sant’Agata Bolognese, can go 0-62 mph in 2.9 seconds. By the time you say, “Hey, are we going 60 yet?”, the answer is most definitely “Yes”!
The global success of the Motor Valley has humble, organic roots. Did you know that Lamborghini started out making tractors? That’s right…check out this beauty.
Having made good money producing tractors, the story goes that Ferruccio Lamborghini bought himself a Ferrari 250GT in 1958. After picking up a few more for his collection, Mr. Lamborghini concluded that Ferraris were too noisy to be proper road cars. Stories differ, but apparently Mr. Lamborghini encountered a clutch problem with his Ferrari and found that it was the same clutch he used in his tractors. Appalled, he requested a better replacement from Ferrari, who promptly informed him that he was merely a tractor maker and didn’t understand cars. (Another credible story says that Lamborghini had an altercation with Enzo Ferrari himself in an osteria in Modena.) At any rate, Lamborghini promptly sold his Ferrari collection and went on to found his own little company, Automobili Lamborghini.
Ferrari too had humble roots. Enzo Ferrari, the founder, was a blacksmith and mule-shoer for the Italian army in World War I. Maybe that’s the inspiration for the equine logo, though other sources say it was a suggestion from an Italian countess. At any rate, Ferrari went from primarily a racing company to a road car manufacturer with global reach. In 2011, Ferrari sold 7000 automobiles around the world. It’s not unusual to have the pleasure of seeing them on the streets in California.
Fiat owns both Ferrari and Maserati, which used to be bitter rivals but now go as far to share engines. Fiat, also headquartered somewhat nearby in Turin, is another feather in Italy’s auto manufacturing cap, having recently introduced the sleek Fiat 500 in the American market. Look how far they’ve come!
Next time you are driving the ancient Via Emilia near Modena don’t forget to stop off and have a look at these impressive car showrooms. Ferrari doesn’t allow tours of it’s factory, but to get a look behind the scenes check out this video.
And Ferrari wasn’t the only Motor Valley automobile on display at the Heritage Parade: the Fiat 500 was there in fine form as well.
A few basic tools for making your adventures in Italy more pleasurable:
Michelin Italia for the premier restaurant and hotel recommendations as well as “must see” places. A free “My ViaMichelin” account gives you exclusive access to the Michelin guides section in English to review a treasure-trove of information for the best restaurants, hotels, driving directions, maps, weather, traffic and more:
Simplified Michelin restaurant and hotel rating system:
- Being mentioned in Michelin equates to an establishment worth visiting.
- One to five forks, five being the most exceptional
- Stars are added to indicate a good restaurant in it’s category (one star); excellent cooking worth a detour (two stars) and exceptional cuisine worth a special journey (three stars).
- Bib gourmand designation means good food at moderate prices
Italian Wines by Gambero Rosso and Slow Food Editore – the Bible of Italian wines! Italy produces, exports and consumes more wine than any other nation in the world which is an amazing accomplishment given the country is smaller than the size of California. Italy has produced wine for 4,000 years and it’s current production, including more than 5,000 varieties, totals 8 billion bottles with some of the most popular and highest rated wines anywhere. Italy exported 17 million cases of wine to the United States in 2001. Gambero Rosso reviews 2,057 wineries and 14,691 wines with a team of 110 tasters that is unmatched in Italian wine media. For each annual guide, a herculean effort is made by conserving, masking and tasting thousands of bottles of wine before scores are issued.
No advertising appears in the guide. The rating system is from none to three glasses.
- Three: Excellent wine in its category = 90-99 of 100
- Two: Very good to excellent wine in its category =80-89 of 100
- One: Above average to good in its category = 70-79 of 100
- Listing without a glass symbol: A well-made wine of average quality
Most wineries recommended by In Love With Italy include reviews of Gambero Rosso’s “Italian Wines”.
One star is added to descriptions for cellars that have won ten Three Glass awards.
ITALY Eyewitness Travel Guide by DK Publishing provides excellent, succinct overviews of historical and cultural highlights for each region.
“Under the Tuscan Sun” by Frances Mayes for pure enjoyment and to make discovering Tuscany and Italy even more meaningful. “This beautifully written memoir about taking chances, living in Italy, loving a house, and, always, the pleasures of food, would make a perfect gift for a loved one. But it's so delicious, read it first yourself.” USA Today.