Da Vinci’s relatives found by Italian history buffs

Italian researchers said on Thursday they have discovered living relatives of the Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci,despite the loss of his body centuries ago.

Da Vinci's relatives found by Italian history buffs
Italian researchers have tracked down the relative of Leonardo Da Vinci. Photo: Vincenzo Pito/AFP

Historians Alessandro Vezzosi and Agnese Sabato told a press conference in Florence they had uncovered modern-day relatives of the 15th-century painter, engineer and mathematician – among them a star on Italy's contemporary art scene.
Their research, which began in 1973, led them to track down some 35 indirect descendants of the man behind the world-famous Mona Lisa portrait, including Italian film, opera and television Academy-award nominee Franco Zeffirelli, according to media reports.
Vezzosi, director of the Leonardo da Vinci museum and Sabato, president of the international da Vinci association, told journalists they made the discovery after studying documents in Italy, France and Spain.
There was no DNA to test as da Vinci's remains were lost in the 16th century during religious wars following his death in 1519, but the pair painstakingly trawled through church, council and estate papers to draw up a family tree.
Da Vinci himself never had any children but he had many siblings and it is their descendants who have been traced. Previous attempts to trace da Vinci's line had left out crucial documents on female relatives, they said.
The news of blood-ties to the Italian polymath, often credited with such inventions as the parachute and helicopter, came as a shock to locals in the town of Vinci in Tuscany, many of whom learnt of their connection just days before the press conference.
“My mother Dina was right, she told us about documents and letters written backwards that you could only read in the mirror,” Giovanni Calosi, one of the descendants, told La Stampa daily, in an apparent reference to da Vinci's penchant for writing in mirrored script.
“We never gave any importance to those documents, which were lost and sold. What we thought was a legend passed down through generations turns out to be the truth,” said Calosi, who began collaborating on the project with Vezzosi nine years ago.

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La Bella Vita: Pasta, coffee, and the signs you’re becoming Italian

From how your eating habits become more Italian (without you even realising it) to the best ways to prepare and drink coffee, our new weekly newsletter La Bella Vita offers you an essential starting point for eating, talking, drinking and living like an Italian.

La Bella Vita: Pasta, coffee, and the signs you're becoming Italian

La Bella Vita is our regular look at the real culture of Italy – from language to cuisine, manners to art. This new newsletter will be published weekly and you can receive it directly to your inbox, by going to newsletter preferences in ‘My Account’ or follow the instructions in the newsletter box below.

The longer you spend in Italy, the more you might find yourself adapting to Italian culture in ways you didn’t expect. For Brits like me, that might mean swapping your tea with milk for black espresso. For Americans it could be that your tastebuds have slowly become less accustomed to spicy foods (good tacos are, sadly, hard to find in Italy). And you’ve heard all about the tomatoes, but are you eating more lentils yet?

Once you find yourself eating pasta on an almost daily basis and reacting to the idea of fast food with a heartfelt ‘che schifo!’ you’ll know there’s really no going back. These are just some of the eating and drinking habits you might see change over time:

17 ways your eating and drinking habits change when you live in Italy

With all that pasta in mind, if you want to make sure your favourite recipe is executed in truly flawless Italian style we’ve got some expert advice on nailing the technique for saucing all of your pasta dishes correctly every time – and there’s more to it than you might expect.

Ask an Italian: How do you sauce pasta properly?

And then there’s the coffee. Whether you prefer yours from an espresso machine or the iconic stovetop moka coffee pot – personally I find it hard to pick a favourite – everyone who’s spent even a short time in Italy knows there’s an art to preparing and drinking coffee all’italiana

This rich tradition comes with a set of rules and norms that can be hard to navigate if you weren’t born in the country, so here’s our complete guide to where, when and how to drink coffee like a true Italian.

Where, when and how to drink coffee like an Italian

A shot of dark, velvety coffee is more than just a quick caffeine hit: Italy’s espresso is a prized social and cultural ritual the country considers a part of its national heritage. (Photo by Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP)

The weather has taken a turn for the worse this week and many parts of northern Italy are experiencing freezing temperatures and snow. It sounds obvious now, but before I moved to Italy I didn’t realise just how bitterly cold it gets, and my first winter in Tuscany was a bit of a shock. Luckily, Italians from around the peninsula share a love of talking – or complaining – about cold and wet weather so there were plenty of people ready to commiserate.

Here are ten Italian phrases you can throw into your weather-related conversations during these chilly days:

Ten phrases to talk about cold and wet weather in Italian

And have you noticed how some Italian translations of English-language film titles bear very little resemblance to the original? I first realised this when an Italian friend told me how they always watched something called ‘Mamma ho perso l’aereo’ at Christmas, and described the plot, which sounded identical to that of Home Alone…

From the very literal to the improbable, here’s a non-exhaustive list of our favourite Italian movie title translations.

Puns and plot spoilers: How English movie titles are translated into Italian

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Is there an aspect of the Italian way of life you’d like to see us write more about on The Local? Please email me at [email protected]