Via Leonardo da Vinci


During the centuries of the independence of the Piombino Principality (over four centuries, from 1399 to 1815), there were many artists, kings and popes who visited the City. The most famous was Leonardo da Vinci, so it is not by chance that his name has been given to this road which, starting from the Landside Door, encloses and fortifies the Cittadella, the Residence of Princes.

In 1504, Leonardo da Vinci was sent to Piombino by Pier Soderini, a lifetime Gonfaloniere (banner thrower) from Florence. Soderini, taking advantage of the presence of Leonardo for the project of the fortification of the city, tried to mend the (broken) relationship with the Appiani, by virtue of the changes in political circumstances. From 1501 to 1503, Piombino had been left to itself and was subject to Cesare Borgia, followed, in 1502, by Leonardo da Vinci. Leonardo's mission of 1504 was, therefore, a political mission as well as an engineering one.

The genius was in Piombino both in 1502 and in 1504 as documented by his writings, drawings and projects, enclosed in his Madrid Code II and now preserved in the National Library in Madrid.

So his stay in 1504 was a diplomatic ploy implemented by the Florentine Republic in an attempt to reconnect with the Appiani, but Leonardo also made the most of the nearly two months of his stay in the city.  

He produced many projects and designs, the most important of which were those for the defence of the land side of the Cittadella and the Castle. The project comprised the wall along the street that now bears his name, designing a path of walls that were more open to the outside in order to better connect with and defend the Cittadella. He lowered the hill of Santa Maria (where in 1900 a Franciscan monastery would be built) so that the enemy would not find easy shelter directly in front of the Cittadella. He planned the construction of the bastion of the solid, high tower at the Castle ramparts.

The Appiani Lords valued his drawings in the following decades, and completed the long wall that started at the top of this road and ended landside of the Cittadella where Lords resided. Here they built, again on the basis of the genius’ drawings, another wall protected by three bastions.

In the mid-sixteenth century Cosimo I de 'Medici took an interest in increasing the influence of Piombino.  His engineers built fortresses to reinforce the defence of the town: The Rivellino was expanded internally with a platform that would allow the proper use of new ‘wheelers’ (holes) for cannons, following the demolition of previous battlements. Another fortification was built in the middle of Via Leonardo, to better defend the long route. The Medici platform was designed by Nanni Ungaro and completed by Francesco da Sangallo and Giovanni Camerini, the architect who also built the star-shaped Medici fortress by the Castle.