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  • Rosanne Knorr

"Viva da Vinci" in 2019

To me, the Loire Valley is authentic France for its tranquil way of life, its local vineyards, farm-fresh produce, historic villages, and country lanes (great for biking.) Tourism exists, of course, but it seems to be relegated to the range of châteaux (magnificent, medium and family-sized) for which the region is famous.

The quiet is about to change this year as publicity ramps up for the Loire Valley’s celebration of “Viva da Vinci,” the 500th anniversary of what is considered to be the beginning of the French Renaissance as marked by Leonardo da Vinci’s death at Amboise in 1519. He had lived there at the Château du Clos Lucé since 1516 under the patronage of King Francis I who lived a stone’s throw away at the Château d'Amboise.

The region is using the anniversary to celebrate its artistic, scientific and intellectual heritage as witnessed by its châteaux, gardens, and historic figures including Francis I, Catherine de’ Medici and a host of notables. Clos Lucé ,with its Leonardo connection is an epicenter of celebration, of course. From June 6 to September 9, thanks to the Vatican Museums, it will feature a tapestry interpretation of “The Last Supper,”the first time since the 16th century that the piece will be displayed outside of the Vatican.

A digital show “Viva da Vinci, 500 Years of the Renaissance” will interpret some of the great man’s art; it will travel to various cities throughout the region until September 15th.

The Château of Chambord (which began construction in 1519) is marking the occasion from June 28 thru July 13 during its ninth annual Chambord Festival by focusing on Italian performers as a tribute to da Vinci. Chaumont-sur-Loire will display a Catherine de Medici’s room (she was born in 1519.) And, of course, if you're there be sure to enjoy the International Garden Festival held every year with a different theme, this year's being "Gardens of Paradise." Château de Chenonceau will open a restored version of Catherine de Medici’s apothecary.

Other exhibitions, an international architecture competition, guided tours, Renaissance balls and banquets, and a plethora of special events are being planned. For a schedule click here.

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