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The Loire Valley may just be the top place to visit in France this year — it’s abuzz with an exciting range of events honoring the Renaissance period and its principle doyen, Leonardo da Vinci.
A mere two-hour drive or one-hour train ride from Paris, the Loire Valley became the epicenter of France in the 16th century thanks to the arrival of Leonardo da Vinci. Invited by King Francis I, Da Vinci held the title of "the king's first painter, architect and engineer" for three years and was instrumental in launching the French Renaissance.
This year marks the 500th anniversary of the Italian polymath’s death on May 2, 1519, which is being celebrated with exhibits, concerts and other special events at castles and historic sites across the region.
Here’s how clients can participate in the Da Vinci French Renaissance festivities in the Loire Valley.
New Immersive Tours at Various ChateausLaunched at several castles in time for this year’s celebrations, the cutting-edge HistoPad virtually transports visitors back to the Renaissance era. Special tablet in hand, guests can view original decors and historic figures via the screen’s 3D recreations. Kids can also get in on the fun with the tablet’s child-oriented treasure hunts. The program is available throughout 2019 at the chateaus of Blois, Amboise, Chambord, Loches and Chinon.
Special Exhibit at Chateau d'AmboiseChateau d’Amboise is holding a special exhibit entitled "The Death of Leonardo da Vinci: the Construction of a Myth." On through Sept. 2, the exhibit uses Francois-Guillaume Menageot’s painting La mort de Leonard de Vinci, as well as historic engravings, to delve into the friendship between the king and the legendary artist. These are complemented with a modern touch of five large canvases inspired by the painting created by Andrea Mattoni (aka Ravo), an Italian graffiti artist.
A Contemporary Art Homage at Chateau du Rivau A lesser-known architectural gem of the Loire, the fairy-tale Chateau du Rivau is paying tribute to Da Vinci with an impressive exhibit of contemporary artwork. From now until Nov. 3, the castle’s rooms will feature artistic reflections on the Italian master by more than 30 renowned contemporary artists — an original way to bridge the past with the present.
A Major Exhibit at Chateau de Chambord The largest castle of the valley and apex of the French Renaissance, Chateau de Chambord is hosting the major exhibition, Chambord 1519-2019: From Utopian Idea to The Work, until Sept. 1. The exhibit brings together more than 150 models, art objects and rare manuscripts that retrace the castle’s history through the vision of Da Vinci, who is believed to have contributed to the building’s design. Clients can also admire some of the castle’s recent renovations that have been unveiled for the anniversary.
The Last Supper Tapestry at Chateau du Clos LuceFrom now until Sept. 8, the former residence of Da Vinci is displaying The Last Supper tapestry for the first time back in France since the 16th century. Originally woven for King Francis I, the 16-by-30-foot gold and silk tapestry was gifted to Pope Clement VII in 1533 and is currently within the Vatican’s collections. After visiting the tapestry exhibit, clients can view Da Vinci’s former workshop as well replicas of his inventions that are scattered around the grounds — which is a hit with the little ones.
New Renaissance Sound and Light Show at Azay-le-Rideau One of the Loire’s prettiest castles, the jewel-box Chateau d’Azay-le-Rideau comes to life in the evenings this summer thanks to a brand-new sound and light show under the theme of the Renaissance. Projected on the building and throughout the park nightly until Sept. 1, it’s a unique way for visitors to immerse themselves in the era.
European Festival of Renaissance Music Capping off the festivities in grand pomp, Chateau du Clos Luce will host the prestigious European Festival of Renaissance Music from Sept. 27 to 29. Conductor Jordi Savall will lead the musicians of Le Concert des Nations in a series of concerts performed in the newly restored exhibition hall.
The Details Loire Valley Tourism Boardwww.valdeloire-france.com
Viva Leonardo da Vinci 2019www.vivadavinci2019.fr