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Golden Day Seventy-One: Visit The Last Supper in Milan

February 28, 2012

If you are anywhere near Milan, make plans to visit Leonardo Da Vinci’s masterpiece, The Last Supper. Sure, you’ve seen copies all over the place, but when you actually stand in the room with it, you’ll be astounded by how this Renaissance genius captured such a deep range of emotions in one of the Bible’s most dramatic moments: Immediately after Jesus makes the “One of you will betray me…” announcement.

Also astounding is the fact that this mural has even survived. Always the experimenter, Da Vinci decided to try oil painting on dry wall, rather than follow the fresco style that everyone else was doing in the Renaissance. The result was disastorous–paint started peeling just 60 years after he completed it. Over the centuries, dampness further damaged the painting, slipshod restoration work was done, a doorway was built through the bottom middle of it, and a World War II bomb nearly destroyed it. Finally, in the late 1970s, a serious, scientific restoration project began that took 21 years. Now you’ll stand in what was once the dining hall of lucky Dominican monks, to admire what comes closest to Da Vinci’s original vision.

Be sure to also check out the adjoining Santa Maria delle Grazie church and cloister designed by the master Bramante, the architect of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

ATTENZIONE! Reservations are required to visit The Last Supper and you must get your reserved ticket in advance–at least a couple of weeks is preferred to get your desired time, since travelers from all over the world want to see this. I’ve found the best way to get tickets is through the Select Italy website. AND coincidentally, I just found out Select Italy is offering FREE LAST SUPPER TICKETS to Women on Thursday, March 8, in honor of International Women’s Day. Grazie!

Andrea Sertoli, a Rome native, created Select Italy in 1997–it’s a great blend of technology and custom travel planners which consistently gets raves from clients and is a Travel + Leisure A-Lister. Sertoli has personal connections with experts up and down the boot, so you can hop on to the website for detailed info for travels all over Italy, connect with the company’s agents for trip arrangements–from hotel, villa, and apartment rentals, guided tours, cooking classes, winery visits, yacht charters, to wedding and honeymoon planning. I’ve appreciated their services over the years for museum tickets and also loved a guided tour of the shopping scene in Milan, from their fashionable expert, Alessandra. And they have a fab, entertaining blog with up-to-the-minute Italy info.

Where to eat after you see The Last Supper? Andrea directed me to the company’s huge T4T database, with excellent insider’s travel advice, which you can find on the Select Italy Facebook Page. As far as restaurants in the area, here are two delicious options:

For upscale and elegant, there’s Ristorante Orti di Leonardo (Via Arstide De Togni 6/8, 02 498 3197, Closed Sat lunch and Mon). It’s named for the vineyards and vegetable gardens that Ludovico Il Moro gave as a gift to Leonardo da Vinci while he was painting The Last Supper. Formerly a 17th century convent, its vaulted ceilings shelter beautiful dining rooms, decorated with a contemporary flair. Come here to feast on the creative Italian cuisine of Chef Luca Cubetti. A particularly good value is the 4-course Menu del Mercato, priced at 36,00 euro; it changes weekly, depending on what’s in season.

For something more casual, there is the Trattoria Meneghina, (Corso Magenta 78, 02 581 09204, closed Mon), a family-run restaurant that serves delicious but unpretentious Milanese home cooking in a narrow, dark-wood-paneled dining room. The cotoletta alla milanese is served bone-in, as tradition requires, and it’s so tender that it melts in your mouth. Stuffed peppers, artichoke salad, risotto, hearty soups and an excellent cassoeula round out the menu of the day that is posted on a blackboard, or recited by your waiter (but son Camillo speaks English). Friendly service and a good wine list complement the home-cooked food.

It’s easy to reach The Last Supper by Milan Metro: Take the Green or Red Line to Cadorna, and then it’s a 5-10 minute walk.

Grazie Andrea, for a hassle-free, delicious Last Supper experience!

And remember, if you or any of your girlfriends are around Milan on March 8, get your FREE Last Supper tickets through the Select Italy website!

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