Vinci is located on the slopes of Montalbano, between the provinces of Florence and Pistoia in the heart of Tuscany, and a small distance from the major cities of Florence, Pisa, Pistoia, Lucca and Siena.
In ancient Italy, Vinci was inhabited by the Etruscans. When Rome conquered the region it became a Roman "castrum".
In the middle ages Vinci was dominated by the Conti Guidi, who around the year 1000 constructed a small castle. On August 12, 1254, Vinci succumbed to Florentine dominion and was transformed into a borough.
Since Vinci was in the edge of Florence's borders, it was contended by its enemies and in 1315, Uguccione della Faggiuola's troops fought under Vinci's walls.
The original nucleus of the castle of Vinci consists of the tower, dating back to the first half of the twelfth century. When Vinci passed under the jurisdiction of the municipality of Florence, it was sold together with the other castles of the lower Valdarno, in 1254; after the battle of Montaperti (1260) the Counti Guidi took possession of the castles again, including Vinci, but in 1273 they finally sold them to the town of Florence. The fortress eventually became the seat of the podestà, a Florentine official, and the meeting room for community councils.
In 15 April 1452 (old style) Leonardo was born in Vinci, son of a wealthy legal notary and a peasant. He spent his first five years in the house of his mother and between 1457 and 1466 with his father. After that, he moved to Florence and became a marvel of several areas of knowledge including, but not limited to painting, engineering, architecture, anatomy, sculpting, several sciences, music, mathematics, literature, geology, astronomy, botany, writing, history and cartography. He has been called the father of palaeontology, ichnology, and architecture, and is widely considered one of the greatest painters of all time.
In 1774 the municipality of Vinci was abolished with the subsequent aggregation of its territory to the municipality of Cerreto Guidi. In 1808, with the beginning of the French domination, there was a restoration of the local administration. At the end of the French domination, in 1814, Vinci was confirmed in the chief town of the municipality. Gustavo Uzielli and the painter Telemaco Signorini, two visitors to the birthplace of Leonardo, described Vinci in their diary "Gita a Vinci" as so: "The town of Vinci consists of two towers and a bunch of houses that cling to them. One of the towers is modern and the other ancient. The houses belonging to the old Vinci recall what must have been in the past the character and the modern ones all resemble modern houses."
In the middle of the 1930s a more complex project began that involved the entire historic centre with the explicit intent to explain and concretise the idea of authenticity and of the historical identity of Vinci as "Leonardo's birthplace". In the early '30s the reconstruction of the Church of Santa Croce took place, according to an expressly neo-renaissance project.
In 2 September 1944 Vinci was liberated from the Germans by the anglo-american effort, to which a plaque was erected in the city centre to commemorate. After World War II the architect Arata, a member of the National Committee established in 1947 to promote and organise the celebrations of the fifth centenary of the birth of Leonardo, designed the accommodation of Piazza della Libertà, providing the location of the "Monument to Leonardo."
On April 15, 1953 the first nucleus of the Museum Leonardiano was inaugurated, expanded with a new installation in 1986.
Vinci has no train station and it has to eventually be accessed by road.
The nearest airports are Florence's Amerigo Vespucci international airport (IATA: FLR) and Pisa airport (IATA: PSA). Either way, anyone going to Vinci will have to get a transport to Empoli or drive all the way.
The nearest train station is in Empoli. Empoli is easily accessible by most towns and cities in the vicinity, because it is in the middle of the Florence-Pisa-Livorno route. Several trains are available from these cities daily. Trains from Florence to Empoli average €4.60 (as of July 2018). Empoli is also easily accessible from Siena and usually a hub for changing trains in the region.
To get to Vinci from Empoli without a vehicle a bus has to be used.
Always remember to validate your ticket. That can not be done inside the train, only in the station. The penalty for using a non-validated ticket is €5.
The easiest route to Vinci by road is from the north of Empoli, taking the Via Leonardo da Vinci and the Via Provinciale di Mercatale. Empoli can be accessed from Florence, Pisa and Livorno via the SGC Firenze - Pisa - Livorno.
An alternative route is to go to Pistoia and take the SP9 and SP16 south. Finally the SP123 approaches Vinci from the north. Pistoia can be accessed from Florence via the A11. From Pisa, instead of Pistoia, a shorter route can be made going to Lucca and from there taking the E76 (Autostrada Firenze-Mare).
A bus to Vinci leaves every hour from Empoli bus station, located next to Empoli train station. Tickets can be bought at the bus station, but it may happen that the station is closed. In this case, the tabbachi inside the train station can also provide tickets, the cost is €2.30 (as of July 2018). It takes approximately 30min to get to Vinci.
The bus station has different stops, each has it's own route information, so if there is no one about, read the signs. Pay attention though, there are several buses leaving the same bay as the one going to Vinci. The destiny is displayed in front of the bus, and some buses can go through Vinci and carry on further. If you are in doubt, ask the driver.
Always remember to validate your ticket. That can be done inside the bus.
The urban space in Vinci has about 0.6 square kilometres. The whole town can be explored by foot in a single day.
Some transportation may be necessary to visit Leonardo's childhood home, which is 3km (1.86 miles) out in the countryside. That can be arranged by the museum (see below).
Bicycles may be a good way of exploring the hilly area around Vinci.
Vinci is well served by local restaurants that offer fresh pasta and local wine.
Vinci is a small town and criminality is, for all purposes, nil. It is a hilly area, though, and there are some narrow roads about. The nearest hospital is in Empoli. So be always mindful of where you step and be careful to avoid clumsy mistakes that can lead to traffic collisions. Take any medications you need with you to avoid being stranded in Vinci without access to it.
To leave Vinci by car, do the same route backwards.
To leave by bus, you can go to the bus stop in Via Montalbano 11, not too far from the tourist office (in Via Montalbano 1). Tickets can be bought in the tabachi nearby.