Updated: Aug 19
Visiting the Last Supper fresco by Leonardo Da Vinci has been on CaptK and my "Life List" for a long time.The Last Supper is one the most iconic pieces of art in the world, standing with Michelangelo's David and Claude Monet's Water Lilies. It depicts the Bible story of Christ's final meal, capturing the emotions of the Apostles when he told them, "One of you will betray me."
This billboard size fresco has been the subject of countless conspiracy theory books including Dam Brown's best seller "The Da Vinci Code." In 1978, the fresco underwent a 20 year restoration. Since the museum reopened in 1999, the number of people allowed to view the painting has been significantly limited. Even before Covid-19, only 25 people are allowed to view the masterpiece at one time and your time with the painting is limited to 15 minutes. In planning for our trip to Piedmonte, once we purchased our plane tickets to Milan, I immediately went on line to get our tickets for The Last Supper.
The Fresco adorns one of the walls of the Refectory of the Santa Maria delle Grazie Monastery which was originally built as a convent. The artwork was originally commissioned by the Duke of Milan, Ludovico Sforza in 1495. Leonardo Da Vinci completed the piece in 1497. It has survived the invasion of Napoleon and the bombings of WWII. It's biggest threat in today's world is human interaction. Da Vinci painted The Last Supper in a fresco-secco style, tempura snd oil paints on dry plaster, not the traditional wet plaster of most frescos. Because of this it is very sensitive to changes in temperature and high humidity. Limiting the painting's exposure to humans increases its longevity. For this reason, The Last Supper can be reviewed by reservation only, Tuesday - Saturday 8:15 to 6:45 and Sunday from 2:00 - 6:45. Tickets can be purchased from their website, Museum Cenacolo Vinciano for 15 euro per person plus a 2 euro processing fee. There is a guided tour in English daily at 9:30 that allows you to visit the entire complex. This is an additional 2 euro. If tickets are not available when you would like to go, you can get tickets through a tour. I have list two options for you below. As you can see from the pricing, below, the least expensive option is to purchase directly through the museum.
Where to Stay
Milan has a wide range of choices when it comes to accommodations. We choose to stay as close to Santa Maria delle Grazie as we could. The Hotel Palazzo Delle Stelline is across the street and one block down from there. This 3 star Hotel offers king size beds and breakfast with your stay. It also has an elevator to reach the higher floors. We had an 8:30 reservation to view the fresco, after which we went back to the hotel for coffee and breakfast.
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What to See Besides the Fresco
Milan had never been on my radar as a must see in Italy. I have have always been drawn to the sunny southern coastal cities and Italy's wine regions. Shame on me. Milan is a beautiful city, full of stunning architecture and history. We spent an afternoon exploring the city center, which left me wishing we had booked a walking tour. Milan has a lot to offer, don't make the mistake we made, plan for at least two days so you can see all her beauty.
Where to Eat
We stumbled upon two outstanding restaurants on our Milan wanderings. I would highly recommend both, depending on what you are in the mood to eat. Pictured above are photos from our Northern Italy Food Tasting at Boccondivinio. Boccondivino is a set format restaurant that offer you a series of courses that give you a taste and sip of Northern Italy. You will taste meats, cheeses, a main course, wines and sweets that are an expression of the local cuisine. We went there our first night in Italy and it was an excellent introduction into the deliciousness ahead of us. For 30 euro each we had six courses, including the wine pairing, that gave us an overview of Norther Italian Cuisine. I would recommend it to anyone interested in exploring the local cuisine.
What is the food that almost every visitor to Italy eats, Pizza! We found a gem in Nico Pizzeria in Milan. Their food is fresh, fast and authentic. If you are looking for a true Neapolitan pizza near Santa Maria delle Grazie, Nico's is your spot. I could tell right away the food was going to be good because the restaurant was full of businesspeople on their lunch hour. They are located at Via Terraggio 20, in Milan. They do not have a website, however you can find more information about them on Trip Advisor.
If you are an art lover or a art history lover, The Last Supper is a must see. It is intriguing because of its fresco-secco style, its enormous size and Leonardo Da Vinci's ability to capture emotion and natural beauty with such realism. It is also intriguing because the fresco has been the centerpiece for so many conspiracy theories both factual and fictional. It is well worth the advanced planning it takes to view this masterpiece. While you are in Milan, take a day or two to explore her charms.
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