So many people overlook Milan.
The city is industrial, big, gray and, of course, not Florence, Rome or Venice.
Everyone knows about the Colosseum, the Duomo of Florence, the canals of Venice, but few can name a jewel of Milan.
In Milan you can see international models taking pictures in front of the world’s largest Gothic cathedral. You can see incredible art brought in from throughout the world in the Palazzo Reale, Mudec and other great spaces (thanks to Milan’s booming economy). You can see Italy’s fashion throughout the ages, on via Montenapoleone, the Prada Foundation or even fashion week.
There are gorgeous city parks, world-class universities and red-brick churches.
And of course, there’s the Last Supper
One stroll through the Monumental Cemetery shows that though gray, Milan is important and always has been. It’s long attracted people in search of fortune, whether economic, academic or artistic. Though Leonardo da Vinci has always been associated with Florence, the Renaissance man actually spent nearly 18 years in Milan, serving under Ludovico Sforza.
It was at Sforza’s request that da Vinci began work on the Last Supper in the Sforza’s parish, Santa Maria delle Grazie.
If nothing else convinces you to come to Milan, come for the Last Supper.
Unfortunately, it’s not always soooo easy to do.
Visits to see the Last Supper cost just 10 euro, but many tour companies snatch them up before the public is able to, effectively making it impossible to visit without booking through them. As such, there are two ways you can see the masterpiece:
- Plan in advance
- Take a tour
Though I’m constantly preaching the merits of research and planning before a trip, we looked into the Last Supper too last minute to purchase individual tickets, and instead got hustled into a sub-par tour that cost 40 euro each. Luckily for you, there are other options.
Plan in advance
To protect the deteriorating painting, only 30 people are allowed inside the refectory, or monastery dining hall, at a time. Beforehand, you’ll wait in an air-locked room and once in you’ll only have 15 minutes to admire the painting. Because of this, ticket’s are few and far between. If you know in advance about your trip, you can book tickets directly with the museum online at vivaticket or by calling+39 02 92800360.
Tickets are available online roughly three months in advance, and that’s the amount of time you’ll need to book in advance to ever hope to get a ticket. At the time of writing this, September through November was completely booked. Reservations for those months had been open since July. Check here to see when reservations open.
Take a tour
My bad tour experience aside, I think a tour will only enhance your visit if chosen well. The Last Supper is a complicated 15th-century masterpiece created by an equally enigmatic man. There is so much detail, so much symbology and so much history that the average viewer can hardly keep track during their 15 minutes of viewing time. Going with a tour means you’ll view the painting with the knowledge of your expert guide. The stress of reservations, tickets and research is taken care of by someone else.
And of course if you’re unable to get online tickets, this is essentially the only other way.
If you haven’t done either of the above, you could try for a hail-Mary pass: check the website or call the number on the off-chance that someone canceled. Alternatively, you can try waiting in line before the first appointment at 8:15 am to purchase tickets if someone doesn’t show up on time. Visitors must be at the ticket office 20 minutes before their visit to be admitted. Be careful though, online it says “reservation is compulsory” everywhere, and I have no experience to say how they respond to walk-ups.
The Last Supper is called the Cenacolo in Italian. It’s located in the refectory attached to Santa Maria delle Grazie church.
The church and ticket office are open Tuesday – Sunday 8:15 – 7:00 pm, with last admission at 6:45 pm. It’s closed on Mondays, New Year’s Day, May 1st and Christmas Day.
Admission costs 10 euro plus a 2 euro advanced booking fee. Guided tour price through the church is 3.50 per person more, but it’s only available at certain times (9:30 – 3:30 pm for English). Admission is free on the first Sunday of the month, but reservation is still compulsory and for those days available only by phone. You can only purchase a maximum of 5 tickets.
Note that you cannot bring luggage or large bags into the church or museum and that it is a church, so appropriate clothing should be worn. Photographs of the Last Supper are also prohibited.
Finally, whether you go with a tour or not, make sure to arrive at least 20 minutes prior to your scheduled time as any late visitors aren’t allowed entrance!
How to Get There
The Cenacolo is at Santa Maria Delle Grazie Basilica in piazza Santa Maria delle Grazie, 2. It’s a pleasant 20-minute walk from the Duomo.
Or, take the tram or metro to get closer.
Tram 18: stop Corso Magenta – Santa Maria delle Grazie
Subway: take the red MM1 line to Conciliazione or the green MM2 line to Cadorna. From there, follow Corso Magenta street to the Santa Maria delle Grazie church.