The challenge: although it’s quite a hassle to visit The Last Supper, read these tips to make it a piece of cake
Unlike many other iconic works of art, The Last Supper by Leonardo Da Vinci has never been part of a private collection… mainly because it was painted on the wall of a small church in Milan, which made it too hard to move (or steal). But just like many other iconic works of art, it’s quite tricky to visit.
Thousands of tourists arrive and leave Milan without having glimpsed the famous painting, because you need to reserve your ticket, sometimes months in advance. Here’s how to break the Da Vinci Code and organize a smooth visit.
Where is the Last Supper painted?
Few people know that this famous work by Da Vinci was painted on the wall of the refectory of the Convent of Santa Maria Delle Grazie in 1498. It was commissioned by Ludovico Sforza, the patron of Leonardo Da Vinci. It measures 4.80 x 8.80 m (15.75 x 28.9 ft) and its name in Italian (if you’re looking for signs to follow) is Cenacolo Vinciano.
Why are so few people allowed to see the Last Supper?
Because of the techniques and materials Leonardo used for painting, the work started crumbling as early as 1517. It has suffered from damage several times through the centuries, most recently during the WWII bombardments. From 1978 until 1999 the refectory was rebuilt as a sealed, temperature and humidity-controlled room in place of its original design. Visitors enter the refectory after they have passed through a humidity-controlling transfer room, in groups of no more than 30 people. They are allowed to remain inside for no more than 15 minutes.
How can you buy a ticket for The Last Supper?
You need to buy your ticket in advance – you can do it online from the official ticketing website here. You can buy a ticket three months in advance and the new tickets are released online around the 10th of the month (but dates vary so check online). Tickets cost 10 euro per person (5 euro for EU citizens between 18 and 25 years old) + 2 euro booking fee.
Why are there so few tickets available?
It may seem that there are very few tickets available when you look at the monthly chart. The reason for that is that travel agencies buy many of the tickets for their tourist groups or resell them later (and add various fees to the price, of course). Some agencies claim that it’s impossible to buy a ticket for The Last Supper individually and try to make you pay for a guide, or package your visit with tours to other attractions in Milan. Don’t fall for this – it’s not true.
What else should I know?
There is no written information in the hall where The Last Supper is displayed, so find some information about the painting in advance or get an audio guide (you can book it together with your ticket or get it when you arrive). Your ticket will have a fixed date and time printed on it, and you should arrive 20 minutes before the start of your session.
What if I can’t find tickets? Is there another way to see it?
Not really. Unless you count the little-known fact that there’s a copy of The Last Supper painted by one of Leonardo’s apprentices and it’s completely free to visit at Basilica di San Lorenzo. One amazing fact: some parts of this copy are better preserved than the original!
How can I get to the Convent of Santa Maria Delle Grazie and The Last Supper?
Trams 18-24 stop at Corso Magenta – Santa Maria delle Grazie. Subway MM1’s stations Conciliazone and Cadorna will get you close, as well as MM2’s Cadorna station.