What's going on around the globe The underwhelming prose of Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code is responsible for many horrors - the lumbering movie of the same name being the worst - but thankfully an exhibition in Rome's Sale Del Bramante isn't one of them. Il Genio di Leonardo da Vinci is a collection of wooden models of the Renaissance man's inventions, constructed from his notebooks. It's an instructive and entertaining introduction to the technological genius of one of history's most accomplished polymaths. Da Vinci was born in Florence in 1452 and is best known for his work in the arts, but his scientific inventions prefigured many 20th-century technologies. His detailed plans included designs for a tank, helicopter, glider, calculator and robot. The technological processes of the time meant it was impossible for Da Vinci to assemble most of his works. But here they are, neatly assembled in small working models, a testament to the man's foresight and genius. I've generally avoided the recent spate of Da Vinci mania, but, caught without an umbrella on a rainy day in Rome's Piazza Del Popolo, Il Genio di Leonardo da Vinci beckoned as a well-needed shelter. It proved to be a pleasant surprise. Far from being a touristy cash-in, the exhibition was put together by a group of official bodies and universities. The exhibits are well displayed and the organiser, Modesto Veccia, sits behind a desk ready to answer questions. Nonetheless, there is a hook with the best selling novel. Those intrigued by the arcana of the code will probably be intrigued by the codices - the notebooks in which Da Vinci drew his plans. He was held in low regard by scientists of his time and the codices were never published. Instead, they became scattered around the globe in various book collections - the Codex Leicester, for instance, belongs to Microsoft's Bill Gates. Some of the codices are on show here, so viewers can see Da Vinci's plans in his own hand. But the models are the main draw. The flying machines, constructed from a codex that analysed the flight of birds, are the most fun. Da Vinci's first idea was to make a machine that had beating wings like a bird. He developed this into the idea of a glider, a wide bat-winged machine that hangs from the ceiling of the show. This, apparently, would have worked successfully, like a modern-day hang glider. The most intriguing flying machine is his 'hornicopter', a prototype helicopter that attached beating wings - which look like paddles - to a kind of wooden boat. This giant beast, alas, wouldn't have flown. Many of Da Vinci's inventions are more down to earth. He worked as a military architect for Cesare Borgia, and designed some prototype pontoon bridges. He invented a movable assault ladder - an extension device manipulated by cogs that could be used for attacking castles. He also made improvements to the traditional catapult. Tom Hanks, eat your heart out.