There are a lot of things I’ve never done, but there are a few things I kick myself for never doing. In all my travels to Milan, as frequent as once a month or as sparse as one as year, the one thing I ‘ve never done that I kept saying I would ~ nope, it’s not glamming it up for a photo shoot, late night dancing with Giorgio Armani, running in Parco Sempione, hanging out at the top of the Duomo, nor visiting Milan’s underground, I’ve done them all ~ my one thing never done is visit the Cenacolo –Leonardo da Vinci’s incredible and impossible Last Supper, a painting that has survived bombings and bad restorations, and whose humble 21st century request is that you book your visit in advance. And every time I come back from a visit to Milan, I feel guilty but obviously not enough to reserve my 15-minute slot. That is until two months ago.
Backstory: December 2016 and I’m sipping wine at Colbert, a special cocktail event hosted by Mastercard for its Priceless Cities subscribers. The event and setting were lovely and piqued my curiosity as to what else Mastercard thought was Priceless in Italy. Scrolling through Priceless, I came across rooftop dinners, cooking courses, gala events, a historic walks, vabbè…. and there it was – the Last Supper, an hour-long visit to see Leonardo’s fresco and walk through the adjacent Chiesa di Santa Maria della Grazie. 22 euro and no navigating through the Cenacolo’s website, it was about time to get back to Milan.
Pigrizia cenacolosa, Last Supper laziness, a close cousin of pigrizia sistiniana– living in Rome without having ever been to the Sistine Chapel. That’s what I quickly learned when chatting up the 20 some PricelessCities guests who were waiting with me in Piazza di Santa Maria delle Grazie. All but one of them had never seen the Cenacolo, and most of them lived in Milan. No biggie, and I totally I get it, I thought as we lined up single file to enter a hermetically sealed waiting space before the big reveal. It’s not always easy to visit the most important art historical site in your city, much less your country, especially when you live in the neighborhood.
We stepped inside and the 15 minute countdown began. The room itself is plain, two frescos on both ends of what was once the convent’s dining hall. The Last Supper is incredible…. large ( 29 feet long by 15 feet high) and incredibly detailed. I loved looking it at from the center of the room- the orthogonals pull you to the table, but the closest you can stand is about 8 feet away. For the first ten minutes, the base of the painting was crowded, everyone looking for Christ’s feet and Mary Magdalene. Me too, but I didn’t join the rest as they looked at the second, non-Lenardo fresco, so I enjoyed five minutes of the Last Supper all to myself. It blew my mind- the movement, the figures, the details. I started to wonder if the models were his friends, and if so, who?
I walked out of the room kicking myself for not having been there before, every “before” that I’ve ever had in Milan, and headed to the Bramante-designed basilica and sacrestia, but I’ll be honest, it was a beautiful blur since my mind was on the Last Supper.
To answer my three most asked questions:
- Yes, you must reserve your visit – and I think via Priceless Cities is the best way to do so. Once you sign up (free!), all you have to do is reserve the event on the site, Priceless Cities takes. PS- rrom what I understand, any Priceless subscriber (in any city) can sign up for events in other cities, so no, you don’t have to live in Italy.
- Yes, photos are permitted but without flash.
- And yes, those fifteen minutes (plus train ride) were worth it.