Milano: Leonardo, Duomo & Gelato

In Milan, there isn’t a whole heap to do. We were at the end of a month-long trip to Greece (1 week) and Italy (3 weeks) so we were getting tired, anyway. I was very excited for one thing in particular: seeing Da Vinci’s ‘The Last Supper’ in person.

Those of you who don’t know me need to know I’m an art enthusiast. I’m an artist and an art teacher, so seeing famous artworks is important to me, and a real thrill. When we came through Milan the first time in 2015, we did so around the Easter holidays, so many things were closed. Also, we were short on time. I was pretty disappointed that we were missing out. You see, when I was in high school, I did a research science project on this artwork and why it was deteriorating. This isn’t super scientific or much of a mystery—the paint Da Vinci used was a bit of an experiment and was already not performing well during his lifetime—but my science teacher let me go ahead with my report anyhow. He knew I wasn’t much of a science person, so let me do it to keep me happy.  

So when I knew we would be visiting northern Italy on this trip, I wanted to make visiting Milan and this artwork a priority. Such a priority, that we probably had too much time in Milan. I planned for contingencies such as sudden museum closures, travel issues, etc. We bought our advance tickets a few months before (always a good idea for this particular site) and everything ran smoothly.

The Last Supper’ depicts Jesus’s last meal with his disciples before being betrayed by Judas. The exact moment depicted by Da Vinci is when Jesus has just revealed to his followers that he will be betrayed by one of them. This massive mural is on the wall of a dining room in the convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie. This convent has now been turned into a museum with the church still operating today. The painting is 15 feet tall and over 28 feet wide. It was last restored in 1999 by a painstaking process which took 20 years to complete. To continue to preserve it, the museum is maintained at room temperature, the lighting is quite dim, and there can be no more than 25 people at a time in the room. This restriction was appreciated, as it means there is room to walk around, go up to it, take steps back, and take lots of (no flash) pictures. Visits are also limited to 15 minutes and are welcomed via a tour guide only. While our tour guide was giving a visual analysis of the artwork I was taking it all in.

The tour begins outside the church, then enters the museum. We were lead through a pass-through with sliding glass doors where we were told a bit about the museum, the artwork, how it was protected during the wars, and of course about the painting itself. Then, when the tour guide was given the cue, we were led into the room. Callum did a sneaky thing and blocked the entrance for a split second or two so I could be the first one to enter. I was alone with this masterpiece for 3 whole seconds and it took my breath away. I knew it would be stunning but pictures never do anything justice. I got quite emotional as well, because this piece is something I’ve known about and looked at since I was thirteen or fourteen. Also, my faith may have had something to do with my emotion. Jesus is an important person to me. Trust me, I’ve seen my fair share of religious artwork. I’ve also been completely overwhelmed with the shear number of Jesus paintings I have seen in a single day…it can get a bit much. There is just something special about ‘The Last Supper’. I hope you make an effort to go see it.

The rest of the tour we learned a bit about the restoration process, and whatever else. To be quite honest, I didn’t take much in after that. We were lead around the building to view the architecture and to see the courtyard on the inside. It was a good tour. Well worth it.

After our tour, we chilled out for the rest of our time in Milan. You only need about a day and a half for Milan. We went to see the duomo of course, but didn’t go in. I hope that wasn’t a faux pas and we’ll have to go back one day. We sat in some shade and watched all the people trying to take attractive pictures of themselves in front of the truly impressive and beautiful building. I also tried to get Callum to take a nice picture of me our last evening there, but the guy was sort of pictured-out. Understandable.

We saw the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, Italy’s oldest active shopping gallery (built 1865-1877). It’s a four-story double arcade right next to the duomo and is very impressive. Lots of luxury brands have their stores within this mall and ten million tourists walk through it taking boujee pictures and videos of themselves. The highlight of our people watching, though, was seeing a dog being pushed around in a pram.

We ate lunch nearby where the coperto wasn’t ridiculous (the fee charged to sit down in a restaurant in Italy), normally about 2€ a person. In the mall it was more like 5€ per person. I then stood in line at ‘Cioccolatitaliani’, to buy a gelato. I chose a three-scoop combo in a fancy cone and paid about 4.5€. Guys, I must tell you that this was THE BEST GELATO I had on our entire trip to Italy. Perhaps even in my whole life. It was sooooo creamy and taste-bud-tingly delicious. If you are ever in Milan wondering what to do: rain or shine, go eat that gelato. I had milk chocolate, egg cream, and hazelnut. I enjoyed the heck out of that gelato. The production was quite involved too. Here is a quick clip of the process. The only regret I have is that the guy scooping my gelato with so much style was named ‘Kevin’. C’mon. Just pretend your name is Luigi or something. For the people.

Our final day in Milan I had wanted to take the train to Bologna or something in order to take a cooking class. Alas, this was never to be. It was so expensive to catch a train from Milan, even though the journey would only take an hour. All the cooking classes were super expensive as well. Our day would have cost over 300€ if we had pursued it. We spent about two hours in our hotel room looking up what to do the next day…and came up with nothing. We didn’t care to venture far and to see new things. We were spent. When I told Callum what I honestly wanted…what I would do if I was single and on my own…he was happy with it.

So, we spent our last morning in Milan sitting in a Starbucks. A nice way to round out our trip. If you didn’t read my first post from this particular journey, you’ll know that on our first day in Athens, we went to Starbucks. This one in Milan is somewhat fancier and more of a big deal in Milan, though. Near the main piazza with the duomo and galleria, there is a Starbucks Reserve. It’s the only Starbucks in Italy, actually, and one of the world’s most beautiful Starbucks stores. Just the interior alone is worth a visit.

Our prime objective in going was to find a big and busy café with internet and electrical outlets near our seats. I wanted to write for this blog and edit photos, and Callum just wanted to people watch and chill. So that’s what we did.

Our time in Europe was wonderful and we are so lucky that we got to go. I look forward to visiting Italy (and other European countries) in my final season of the year which I have not seen yet: Autumn. One day, we will go back to Tuscany in the fall and do a cooking class or two. This time, it was so nice to enjoy it in the summer for the happy busy vibes and great weather. Milan in particular was not disappointing, but nearly three full days was probably too much at the end of a trip. Keep that in mind when you go on your own adventure. Ciao!

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