Leonardo da Vinci in the Loire

Cruising on board Nymphea last summer Silver Travel Advisor journalist Helen Jackson enjoyed the Chateau du Clos Luce on one of the many stops along the Loire Valley’s River Cher. Few people realise that it played host to Leonardo da Vinci for the final years of his life.

The château was the home of Leonardo da Vinci for the last three years of his life from 1516. He’d travelled by mule from his Italian home across the Alps, at the invitation of King Francois 1, with three of his most famous paintings, including the Mona Lisa, wrapped in his leather saddlebag.

Leonardo da Vinci’s bed

The building was a stunning mix of white tuffeau stone, local to the area, and pink brick. We climbed a narrow spiral staircase to the first-floor gallery and wandered through the bedrooms of Leonardo and Marguerite de Navarre (Francois 1’s eldest sister).

Back on the ground floor we followed the well-marked route starting with the Oratory of Anne de Bretagne (wife of Charles VIII).

Oratory of Anne of Bretagne

Through the kitchen where his cook, Mathurine, prepared meals for the vegetarian Leonardo. His regimen was ‘do not eat unless you feel inclined’, something we could all follow!

In the grounds we found a beautiful Renaissance Garden, with insect boxes and a pond lined with cypress, pine and yew trees.The adjoining park had large-scale models of some of his inventions, including; the aerial screw, bridges and multi-barrelled gun.

Aerial Screw

As with many of the places we visited from the Nymphea, it would have been easy to while away a whole day.

Leonardo da Vinci’s workshop.

I’d always known Leonardo for his art but not realised he was also an engineer, visionary and architect. Models and videos were spread across many rooms and included: a parachute, lots of machines with cogs and wheels, and a life belt which has not changed in design. There was a brief explanation of each in four languages.

There was something for all ages, as lots of the exhibits were inter-active.For more details of cruising on Nymphea see this page.


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