Leonardo Da Vinci’s portrait, “The Last Supper,” is arguably the most influential work of art ever made. It’s right up there with his Mona Lisa or Michelangelo’s David.
Entire books, conspiracy theories and countless tacky souvenirs have been inspired by this masterpiece. Those unfamiliar with the history of the painting might be surprised to know it’s not on canvas, but rather on the wall of a church located in Milan, Italy.
Santa Maria Delle Grazie
“The Last Supper” adorns the Santa Maria Delle Grazie church, located about a 15 minute walk from the Duomo. The miraculous thing about the painting is that it remains despite being bombed during World War II. All other walls on the church collapsed, except this one. The monks took precautions to protect the wall in case of an attack, but the feat of survival is an impressive, if not divine, one nonetheless.
Unlike many works by Da Vinci’s contemporaries, this is not a fresco. It’s tempera and oil on plaster, which allowed Da Vinci to take his time perfecting the image, whereas fresco pigment would have needed to be applied quickly before the plaster dried, precluding alterations.
The painting was originally overlooking the dining hall for monks of the church, thus the supper scene.
If you’re planning a visit to Milan, or any Italian city within day trip distance to Milan, then you absolutely cannot leave the country without seeing this painting. The problem is, that’s easier said than done.
With limited ticket availability and demand spanning out for months, getting in to see Da Vinci’s “The Last Supper” is not easy. Here’s 12 things you need to know before you get there, one for every Apostle:
- The moment you know you’re going to Milan, buy your ticket in advance. The website is called TickItaly and will let you know what is available for your desired dates. I cannot stress this enough–the TripAdvisor page is filled with 1 and 2 star reviews from would-be patrons that did not plan accordingly and missed this sight on their visit. Tickets go on sale a few months out so check back constantly.
- If possible, get a ticket for admission just to the Last Supper, no tour or extras. They only allow 20 people every 15 minutes and a lot of the tickets are booked ahead of time by tour groups.
- If tickets are already sold out, try book a city tour since the price of the tour includes your ticket to see “The Last Supper.” You don’t want to miss this opportunity if you can swing the highly inflated price of 70+ Euro.
- Plan your transportation ahead of time. Taxis are not easy to catch when departing the church, but there is a cable car stop nearby. You can walk, but I wouldn’t recommend this in extreme weather.
- The room in which “The Last Supper” stands is hermetically sealed. You have to go through two sets of doors to enter and everything closes promptly behind you.
- The 15 minute time period for observation and pictures is strict.
- You cannot take video of the painting. It’s against the rules and if you do it will come out like you’re videotaping a computer screen.
- You can take photos of the painting, without flash.
- The painting has been restored and renovated many times, so the colors you see today are likely different than the ones Da Vinci originally chose.
- The visit can feel rushed, so try to sit and enjoy the moment as much as possible. There are pews provided for you to simply reflect and admire.
- There is another painting on the opposite wall but honestly time with the Last Supper flew by so quick I didn’t get a good look at it or hear much about its history.
- Don’t miss out on the views of Santa Maria Delle Grazie itself from the outside. The architecture is stunning and the church literally glows at night.
Book early! Like yesterday! This is one of Europe’s most in-demand attractions, and for good reason.
That’s all for this adventure, feel free to share your thoughts or comments below!
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