Montefeltro Renaissance Valleys Piero della Francesca e Leonardo da Vinci


Montefeltro is a territory with an evident cultural calling. It therefore needs a competent and efficient planning to unveil some unique content aspects.

The “temporary resident” of this portion of the national territory loves unfrequented areas, nature and Landscape, authentic traditions and typical products, art and the possibility of activities that combine discovery with psychophysical well-being in a preserved and true environment.


Montefeltro territory inspired famous paintings by renowned Renaissance artists such as Piero della Francesca and Leonardo da Vinci

Some art historians used to believe the landscapes of Renaissance paintings were imaginary.  Others, instead, tried to identify them geographically.

Scholars Rosetta Borchia and Olivia Nesci, aka the “landscape hunters”, found them in 2007 in Montefeltro, a territory between Emilia-Romagna, Marche and Tuscany.

These researches led to the discovery that the landscapes painted in the greatest masterpieces of Italian Renaissance are to be found among the peaks and the calcareous cliffs of Valmarecchia and the sweet hills of Metauro valley.

The adventure started with the identification of a first element in the landscape behind Federico da Montefeltro in the Diptych of the Duke and Duchess of Urbino by Piero della Francesca (Uffizi Gallery, Florence), the background being the valley of Metauro river in the territory of the ancient Urbino ducky.

Due to the exceptional nature of the discovery Rosetta Borchia, painter and art landscape expert, began a series of historical and artistic researches. Together with the scientific studies by Olivia Nesci, geomorphology scholar at Urbino University and physical landscape expert, the research resulted into the identification of all backgrounds in the Diptych (portraits of Battista Sforza and Federico da Montefeltro and The Triumphs).

The methodological approach, totally innovative, tested for the first time on painted landscapes, lays the scientific foundation for future researches aimed at finding other backgrounds of paintings by Piero della Francesca in the whole territory of Montefeltro

(Saint Jerome and a donor, The Baptism of Christ, The Nativity and The Resurrection).

The painted backdrops portray the landscapes Piero saw while traveling on the usual paths from his Sansepolcro to the Courts of Urbino and Rimini.

As assiduous and meticulous frequenters of the territory, the two researchers gained experience and enhanced their experimental method, combining the historical and artistic aspects of the territory with the biographies of the artists, with the documents by their commissioners and with math, ecology and climate evolution, to explain all possible changes of the landscape over time.

Using computer technology, the territory was measured and analyzed; diagnostics, through the use of drones, allowed flying at high altitude to observe with the same “point of view” as renowned painters who, as we know, used what we call “bird view”.

After publishing Il Paesaggio Invisibile. La scoperta dei veri paesaggi di Piero della Francesca (Il Lavoro Editoriale Ed.), the two experts presented their studies to national and international conventions and published them in many scientific journals.

In 2008 the “hunters” made an amazing discovery: they found the

landscape of La Gioconda by Leonardo da Vinci,

in a territory spread among Romagna, Marche, Tuscany and Umbria regions.

In 2012 Electa-Mondadori published the book Il Codice P, atlante illustrato del reale paesaggio della Gioconda, and for all subsequent studies the “landscape hunters” had the scientific support by Centro dell’Ateneo di Urbino (“Urbino e la prospettiva. L'umanesimo scientifico da Piero della Francesca e Leonardo da Vinci alla rivoluzione galileiana”), of which Olivia Nesci is teacher and founder.

The clamorous discovery is today also validated by the studies of renowned Carlo Pedretti (the most esteemed Leonardo historian in the whole world), who already in the 1950s stated Gioconda was a lady from Urbino.

These studies have been recently built on by Prof. Roberto Zapperi (former Director of Treccani Encyclopedia), who in his last book Monna Lisa Addio (2012, lit. “Goodbye Mona Lisa") narrated the whole story of Pacifica Brandani, La Gioconda.

In his book Zapperi confirms the theory of Pedretti and explains the origin of the most famous painting in the world.

Montefeltro Vedute Rinascimentali (MVR), born from these studies, is a project of high historical, cultural and ultimately touristic value, which was successfully presented in various institutional and cultural contexts with conferences in Amsterdam, London, Sofia, Lyons, Manama, Helsinki, Cracow, and Beirut. Paris and Johannesburg will follow in 2017, thanks to the collaboration with Italian Cultural Institutes.

Last 11th of April 2016 these painted landscapes were the subject of a conference organized by Isabelle Mallez, director of French Cultural Institute and honorary consul in Florence, with the presence of Neville Rowley, Piero della Francesca expert, teacher at Ecole du Louvre in Paris and Conservateur pour l'art italien des XIVe-XVe siècles at Gemäldegalerie and at Bode-Museum in Berlin, and of Paolo Fabbri, internationally renowned semiologist from Rimini who held office at prestigious cultural institutions, both in Italy and abroad.

We are now about to finalize important agreements with Louvre museum and with the French Tourism National Institute in preparation for 2017 celebrations of 500 years of Leonardo in France.

We will design a new Touristic Product through many travel proposals which, starting from Montefeltro, will reach the Castles of Loire and Paris.

MVR project, carried out by its namesake Association thanks to the support by Emilia Romagna and Marche Regions, developed new forms of cultural approach which, through the creation of art and landscape routes and a staff of experts and dedicated guides, take “committed travelers” inside the “mysterious landscapes” of the famous works of art, exhibited in national and international museums. This represents a new and alternative concept of museum, and an entirely innovative format for an integrated reading of the territory.

Piero della Francesca balconies

Seven balconies on seven art backdrops creating a museum that spreads among valleys, hills, cliffs and peaks:

La Gioconda Vista Points

Installation of many vista points within Montefeltro territory, backdrop of the famous painting.

The two most recent points were installed in Pennabilli (RN) and in Villagrande di Montecopiolo (PU).

These observation points represent the right side of the painting; in particular the first section below shows the area of the bridge on Marecchia river and the hamlet of Pennabilli.

Since 2013 we have been organizing guided tours and events with a very special guest: Piero Della Francesca, played by a professional actor, who arrives on a horse and narrates his life, the landscapes, his journey and his paintings.

The two vista point on La Gioconda also started welcoming tourists in 2016, with dedicated guides and the collaboration of professional actors during an “impossible interview to Gioconda”.

Montefeltro, famous for its beautiful and charming natural setting, was described by Antonio Paolucci, director of Vatican Museum, as «the finest valley in Italy». It was also dearly loved by Tonino Guerra and Umberto Eco, and has become a renowned destination for knowledge and a heritage for future generations that needs to be defended, protected, preserved and promoted. 

Let us keep in contact!
Subscribe to our newsletter to be updated on the latest news