Some experts claim Balze del Valdarno, between Florence and Arezzo, in Tuscany, provided the backdrop to some of Leonardo da Vinci’s most famous paintings.
Some see them beyond the mullions behind the “Madonna of the Carnation”; some catch a glimpse of them in the rocky peaks behind the “Madonna of the Yarnwinder”; some even claim they are the mysterious background of the “Mona Lisa”. Not to mention the panoramic views immortalized in “The Burlington House Cartoon” and “The Virgin of the Rocks”…
Many have recognized the rocky landscapes painted by the great artist and scientist as the natural sculptures along the path of the Arno river, a basin that formed millions of years ago after the extinction of a Pliocene lake.
It is a beautiful ochre yellow canyon with crevices up to one hundred meters deep and amazing profiles, especially close to the slopes of Pratomagno, north-west of Arezzo – the work of weather and rivers’ slow erosion, which has produced spectacular geological formations made of layers of clay, sand and gravel.
After all, Leonardo knew these places well: by observing them, he was the first to understand the geological phenomena of erosion and sedimentation at their origin.