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Leonardo's manor house in France.

When he accepted a royal invitation to live in France in 1516, Leonardo da Vinci was 74. He packed up his notes and a few of his favorite paintings including the Mona Lisa-and headed for the court of Francis I at Amboise, on the Loire River. In the process, he brought the enlightened ideas of the Italian Renaissance to medieval France.

Visitors to the famous chateaux along the Loire will want to stop at Clos-Luce, a 15th-century manor house in the town of Amboise (between Tours and BIois), now a privately owned museum. Here Leonardo spent the last three years of his life, working primarily on inventions and engineering projects and discussing philosophy with the king. And here the French Renaissance was born.

Most rooms at Clos-Luce have been painstakenly restored to their original 1490 simplicity. Period furnishings fill a small chapel, a studio and hall where Francis I and Leonardo discoursed, a kitchen, and the bedroom where Leonardo died. Frescoes discovered on the walls were probably painted by Leonardo's students.

The most interesting exhibits are replications of his inventions, produced from his drawings by IBM engineers. Large-scale models include a breach-loading cannon, an armored tank, a portable suspension bridge, a barometer, and a three-speed gear, as well as several flyingmachines and even an air conditioner.

Museum hours are 9 to I and 2 to 7 daily (closed in January); admission is about $5, half that for ages 7 through 16. Tours (in French) take about an hour; there's a self-guiding brochure in English.

To drive to Clos-Luce, take the Rue Francois I turnoff from the main riverside highway (D751); go about 1/2 mile past the chateau to a fork in the road; you'll see the museum entrance in a garden wall on the right. Allow extra time to explore the landscaped grounds.

In Amboise, you'll also enjoy visiting the chateau, in the center of town. Though much of the chateau was destroyed over tbe years, it still includes the chapel where Leonardo is buried.

For details on touring the Loire Valley, write to the French Government Tourist Office, I Hallidie Plaza, Suite 250, San Francisco 94102; (415) 986-4161.
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Title Annotation:Leonardo da Vinci
Publication:Sunset
Date:Dec 1, 1988
Words:360
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