The Last Supper
Considering the difficulty involved in accessing Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper – i.e. a two-week waiting list and a permanently engaged booking line, not untypical for Milan’s art galleries – it’s easy to feel defeated by a painting that everyone can picture anyway. But this fresco, completed in 1497, is all the more impressive having survived World War II bombing (after which it languished in open air) and being housed in a stable during Napoleon’s era.
Now, tightly controlled conditions (two airlocks and a maximum of 25 people for 15 minutes each) only add to the drama. Despite 12 years of restoration and its UNESCO protected status, the fresco is still perilously faint, making it atmospherically ethereal. Depicting Jesus’ announcement of betrayal, it was commissioned by the Sforza family to decorate the refectory of the Santa Maria delle Grazie convent.
The adjoining Renaissance church, designed in part by Bramante, is also open to the public. Occasional standby tickets are available, but the committed should book online before departing (English guides available). Failing that, there are enough tributes and parodies around the city to get the picture.