Friday, February 13, 2009

Da Vinci Would Have Hiked With Us


I’ve been thinking about Leonardo da Vinci lately. As a weekend tinkerer with a soft spot for art, I can’t help but to be fascinated by this man. Many people know about da Vinci’s famous painting the Mona Lisa, but do they know about some of his more obscure works and inventions? Consider the robot lion, for example, which walked across court under its own power and presented a bouquet of flowers to the French King 500 years ago. Da Vinci developed an underwater breathing apparatus a full 300 years before inventors would realize the concept and take men to the bottom of the sea. Perhaps most fascinating are da Vinci’s flying machines. Flight fascinated da Vinci, and he spent many hours in the countryside researching the mechanics and the physics behind it.

One of the regions that da Vinci traveled regularly was the area known today as Lombardy. It’s a corner of northern Italy that borders Switzerland to the north, the Trentino-Alto Adige to the east, and the Piedmont to the west. To put it bluntly, Lombardy rests comfortably against the three primary alpine landscapes that Ryder-Walker calls home. Lombardy offers a delightful mix of alpine and pre-alpine zones, undulating foothills, meandering rivers, and scenic lakes. Milan is the capital of this region, and it served as Leonardo da Vinci’s home for more than a decade.

We recently developed a tour that explores this inspiring countryside. We call it the Italian Lakes District: Como to Bellagio. This self-guided tour offers a wonderful excuse to wander the enchanting outdoor studio that lent creativity to one of mankind’s greatest geniuses.

The above photo, shot by our own Porter Teegarden, offers a brief glimpse of the winding passages, mysterious alleys, and hidden doorways that da Vinci would have known. In fact, most of the villages that we visit pre date da Vinci by centuries, and in some cases, millennia. Roman footpaths and tranquil olive groves characterize this little slice of Italian heaven, while hill top chateaus and medieval harbors make our trip a veritable journey back through time.

Milan is the gateway for this tour, but a must-do for any da Vinci enthusiast is a post trip down through Florence and the neighboring village of Vinci, Leonardo’s boyhood home. Leonardo’s last name, da Vinci, literally means “from Vinci.” Both Vinci and Florence offer enough da Vinci museums to satisfy the hungriest weekend tinkerer and artist, but you don’t have to like museums, or Leonardo for that matter, to enjoy this tour.

The Italian Lakes District combines quality mountain hikes, lakeside relaxation, delicious Italian cuisine, and a unique historical perspective in a tidy little package. The mild climate also makes this a great trip for spring, summer, or fall, and the location offers a great jumping off point for Venice, Florence, Pisa, and Rome.

Please contact Ryder-Walker for a detailed itinerary or for more information.

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