Italian President Sergio Mattarella joined France’s Emmanuel Macron on Thursday to mark the 500th anniversary of the death of artist and inventor Leonardo da Vinci.
The two presidents, accompanied by Macron’s wife Brigitte and Mattarella’s daughter Laura, arrived just after midday at the Clos Luce chateau in the Loire Valley town of Amboise, where the Renaissance genius breathed his last on May 2, 1519.
Leonardo, an Italian, spent the last three years of his life in Amboise as a guest of France’s King Francis I, and was buried in the chapel of the town’s royal palace.
The joint visit appears designed to mend fences after the Leonardo centenary celebrations got drawn into a long-running spat between the liberal Macron and leaders of Italy’s populist government.
The Italian government has sought to renegotiate a loan agreement that would see a number of Leonardo works sent to the Louvre in France later this year for a major exhibition.
However, Italian Culture Minister Alberto Bonisoli also moved to calm the waters last month, saying, “If I can help France, I will” in return for French loans next year, when Italy marks the 500th anniversary of the death of the Renaissance painter Raphael.
Mattarella, a former Christian Democrat minister and constitutional court judge, has sought to emphasize his country’s place in Europe faced with the euroscepticism of the governing coalition.
Macron and Mattarella were scheduled to have a private lunch together at the Clos Luce chateau before heading to Chambord, another Loire Valley chateau.
There they were due to join several hundred young French and Italian citizens who are due to take part in workshops on architecture, literature and science.
Earlier on Thursday, Mattarella visited Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, which lost its roof and spire in a devastating fire last month.