One of the major attractions of Milan is certainly the Museo del Cenacolo Vinciano , born around Leonardo Da Vinci’s masterpiece, The Last Supper . Located on the wall of the former refectory of the Dominican Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie, the painting can now be visited in small groups (maximum 35 people every 15 minutes) to avoid further deterioration; the work has in fact already undergone several restorations, due to the technique used by Leonardo (applying the color on the dry plaster instead of the fresco). Here is everything you need to know to better organize your visit.
What to see and how to visit the Last Supper
The first tip is to book your visit in advance: the demand is high, and tickets are limited. You can book the visit on the official website, or choose a complete guided tour that includes both access to the Last Supper and a visit to the adjacent Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie. More complex tours are also available that include visits to other museums and attractions in Milan, such as the Pinacoteca Ambrosiana . In this article, we will briefly outline the characteristics of each attraction, so that you can organize your visit according to your preferences.
1 – Ultima Cena
We naturally start from Leonardo Da Vinci’s masterpiece, The Last Supper . Built between 1495 and 1495 on the wall of the refectory of the Monastery of Santa Maria delle Grazie, the Last Supper has undergone dangerous deterioration over the years; This is because Leonardo, renouncing the fresco technique typical of the period, experimented with a type of “dry” painting directly on the refectory wall, also adding details such as gold and silver foils, to make the work more realistic. The last restoration dates back to 1999, where the original colors were brought to light. For more info see The Last Supper Guided Tour
2 – Convento di Santa Maria delle Grazie
Sanctuary belonging to the Dominican order, it is one of the greatest exponents of Gothic and Renaissance architecture in Northern Italy. The Last Supper is located on the wall of the former refectory of the complex, both declared UNESCO heritage since 1980 . In addition to the refectory containing Leonardo’s masterpiece, noteworthy are the numerous chapels, the tribune (built as a mausoleum by Ludovico il Moro in 1492 and a very high example of Renaissance architecture), the Cloister of the frogs, the Bramante Sacristy. For more info see Guided tour of the Last Supper + Convent of Santa Maria del Grazie
3 – Pinacoteca Ambrosiana
Institution founded by Federico Borromeo in 1618, it houses paintings by Leonardo, Botticelli, Titian, Caravaggio, Hayez and many others , as well as works from the collection of the founder himself, arranged along an exhibition path of 23 rooms. For more info see Tour in the footsteps of Da Vinci: Last Supper + Ambrosiana Gallery
Timetables and prices
- Hours : From Tuesday to Sunday, open all day from 08:15 to 19:00 (last admission at 18:45). Closed on Mondays, January 1st, May 1st, December 25th.
- Ticket cost: € 10.00, plus € 2.00 for compulsory reservations. In case of a guided tour, the price is subject to an increase of € 3.50.
- Reductions : € 2.00 for children aged 18 to 25, € 5.00 for EU teachers (€ 2.00 is added to both for compulsory reservations).
- Free : for students and under 18, the entrance fee is not paid, but the € 2.00 of the booking is valid.
Useful tips for visiting the attraction
- Book in advance : entrances are limited to 35 people every quarter of an hour, and often you are placed on a real waiting list. During the holidays it may happen that the first available date is after a few months. Plan your visit well in advance.
- Ticket collection : remember to show up to collect your tickets 20 minutes before the time of your visit, or you will lose the entrance
- Watch out for pre-sales : in some periods of the year pre-sales open for the spring and summer months. Then monitor the official website
Where is it and how to get there
- On foot : from the central station, head northwest through via Vittor Pisani; on foot it takes almost an hour, so we recommend taking the metro – Get Directions
- By metro : the closest metro station is Cadorna (8 minutes on foot – 1.2 km), served by metro lines 1 and 2. From the Centrale metro station, take the green Abbiategrasso line 2, get off at Cadorna (fifth stop) and continue on foot.
Historical notes and curiosities: what to know in brief
The Last Supper was commissioned by Lodovico Il Moro, who arrived in Milan in 1482, and soon became, together with the church in which it is housed, a symbol of the power of the Sforza family, to which Lodovico Il Moro belonged. The genesis of the work, in which the Last Supper before the death of Jesus is depicted, is famous; as is known the particular technique with which Leonardo composed it, and which in part allowed a rapid deterioration. However, it was also the prolonged open-air exposure during the Second World War, due to the bombing that destroyed the roof of the convent, which caused the work to be increasingly ruined.
The notoriety of the Last Supperand the alleged mysteries behind the work have aroused the interest of many historians, researchers and novelists, and inspired acclaimed productions, including Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code . In the novel, for example, the belief of a union between Jesus and Mary Magdalene is reported, presumably supported by the fact that John, in the painting, appears as a slender and effeminate figure, so much so as to make one believe that he is, in fact, Magdalene.
Another mystery linked to the work concerns the alleged heresy of Leonardo Da Vinci, who in addition to hypothesizing a union between the Messiah and Magdalene, is accused of not having painted the wine and the Eucharist. The explanation, however, exists: the moment represented in the painting, in fact, is the moment in which Jesus announces that one of his disciples will betray him (which explains the dismayed and surprised faces of the apostles), for which it precedes the consecration of the bread and wine.