The Rondine hamlet is located on the right shore of the Arno River and is surrounded by the Natural Reserve of Ponte Buriano. It is the painted background in Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa.
The Rondine castle, whose construction dates to around 1020, stands in the heart of the reserve. An Arezzo outpost toward Florence, it was the scene of two bloody clashes between the two cities, which led to the chronicles of the time affirming in several instances that the “the Arno turned red”.
For one night, on the 24th of January 1503, the castle hosted Saint Francis of Assisi’s robe which had been stolen from the Montauto Castle and then triumphantly brought to Figline, and finally Florence. During the same period, Leonardo da Vinci visited the castle and included it in his painting of geographical maps; he was so fascinated by the landscape that he used it as the background for the Mona Lisa and Virgin of the Rocks.
The period of decline started during the sixteenth century: the citadel, built and fortified during the Middle Ages, crumbled and its rocks were used to build a little hamlet nearby. Protected by the great oaks and left unscathed by the passage of the front during the Second World War, its history is brought to life today with all its ancient allure, including its five-storey tower with a radius view of dozens of kilometres and the central space that hosts tall, 400 year-old box trees and rare animals, such as a unique bat species studied by the Faculty of Botany and Zoology at the University of Florence.
The ancient patrician villa, the little seventeenth century church, and the houses once inhabited by the peasants are grouped around the castle, connected by narrow alleys. During the 1960s, the hamlet was completely abandoned and doomed to decay and destruction. In 1976, the Rondine founders discovered it and started its reconstruction.
The little houses are inhabited by the guest-citizens; the ancient stables, preserved in their simplicity, over the years have become evocative locations for studying and meeting (including the Leonardo room and the Gioconda room, named in honour of the Tuscan genius). Rondine has become the Citadel of Peace, transformed from a closed-off and defensive citadel, to a citadel that is open to and integrated within the entire planet on the doorstep of the third millennium.