Milan Italy

The Last Supper, Leonardo da Vinci, Milan, Italy

Visiting Milan, Italy – Part II

There is so much to see in Milan, one post cannot cover it all. This post covers three churches that really are worth a visit (in addition to the Milan Cathedral), along with a couple other spots we enjoyed, shown at the end of the post.

Santa Maria delle Grazie – The Last Supper

This is a 15th century convent, and home of Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper (known in Italian as Cenacolo), one of his most famous works of art and unfortunately one that has not stood up well to the test of time, due to the experimental technique Leonardo used – painting on dry plaster rather than wet. The fresco started deteriorating almost immediately. Also, the church was bombed in World War II but amazingly the wall with this painting survived intact – thank goodness.

Santa Maria delle Grazie, Milan, Italy

Exterior of Santa Maria delle Grazie, home of the Last Supper.

The Last Supper painting by Leonard da Vinci, Milan, Italy

The Last Supper (1495-1498) painting covers an entire end of the convent’s refectory (dining) room. Leonardo’s use of perspective gives the painting depth, almost like the scene is a continuation of the refectory. Some bright person decided to cut a doorway into the lower part of the painting back in 1652.

The Last Supper, Leonardo da Vinci, Milan, Italy

A closer view of the Last Supper – Jesus’ apostles asking “is it I?” when he announces one of them will betray him.

The Crucifixion, Giovanni Donato, Milan, Italy.

At the other end of the refectory is another painting, entitled the Crucifixion by Giovanni Donato, 1495. It does not receive near the attention of the Last Supper, but is another amazing work of art.

Santa Maria delle Grazie Convent, Milan, Italy

Main chapel of the Santa Maria delle Grazie Convent (which does not require any reservation or fee).

Santa Maria delle Grazie Convent, Milan, Italy

It’s worth spending a few minutes wandering around the main chapel of the Santa Maria delle Grazie Convent, there are many other beautiful works of art here.

Note: You must have a reservation to see the Last Supper; we booked our tickets in March for a May trip. Reservations can only be made 60 days in advance, and a limited number of people are allowed to see the painting at one time (groups of 25 or so). The small group was great, because it did not feel crowded in the room, but you are only allowed 15 minutes in the refectory and then ushered out. The site to secure your tickets/reservations is here. The Convent is west of the Milan’s center, we took a metro train to the nearest stop and walked about 15 minutes to the Convent.

Leonardo da Vinci statue, Milan, Italy

This statue of Leonardo da Vinci is just north of Milan’s main piazza and Galleria Vittorio Emanuele. He was an artist, inventor, scientist, and so much more.

Sant’ Ambrogio (St. Ambrose)

This church is named after a 4th century bishop of Milan. I loved this old Church, which is a bit off the main tourist route. It’s ancient (the current 11th century structure is built on top of the original 4th century church), and houses a priceless 9th century altar decorated with gold, silver and precious stones.

Basilica Sant' Ambrogio, Milan, Italy

Entrance to the 11th century Basilica Sant’ Ambrogio. There are Roman and Byzantine artifacts scattered around the covered porticos.

Altar, Basilica Sant' Ambrogio, Milan, Italy

The 9th century altar in the Basilica Sant’ Ambrogio, decorated with gold, silver, gems and pearls. In World War II, it was transported to the Vatican for safekeeping.

Sarcophagus, Basilica Sant' Ambrogio, Milan, Italy

Near the amazing altar, a 4th century marble sarcophagus sits underneath the pulpit in the Basilica Sant’ Ambrogio.

San Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore

This monastery, which no longer serves as a church, is now a free art museum. The interior is stunning, and it would take weeks to absorb all the artwork.

San Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore, Milan, Italy

Main chapel of San Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore.

Hall of the Nuns, San Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore, Milan, Italy

Hall of the Nuns, San Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore

San Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore, Milan, Italy

Close up of a painting of the story of Noah’s Ark, in the Hall of the Nuns, San Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore.

Sforza Castle

With everything else we were doing in our short time in Milan, we did not take the time to visit the interior of this castle which is now a museum. It is massive, and impressive from the exterior.The castle is just two metro stops northwest of the main piazza.

Sforza Castle, Milan, Italy

Exterior of Sforza Castle, with a dry moat.

Sforza Castle, Milan, Italy

Interior courtyard of Sforza Castle.

Milan’s Canals

If you really want to get off the beaten track, check out Milan’s canals. I didn’t even know that Milan had canals, but we discovered these in our exploration of Milan. No tourists out here, and we found a great little shop with a variety of Arancini (or Arancina) that we had to sample!

Canal, Milan, Italy

A canal in Milan. The canals are south of the central piazza about a mile or perhaps 1.5 miles. We enjoyed the walk through the less touristy part of Milan.

Arancini, Milan, Italy.

A shop with a tasty variety of arancini, they are breaded, deep-fried rice balls filled with a variety of items – meat, sauce, ham, cheese, etc. This fun food is originally from Sicily.

Milan Duomo, Italy

Visiting Milan, Italy – Part I

Milan feels a world apart from the other areas of northern Italy I’ve described in my most recent posts. The mountains, lakes and small villages of northern Italy seem a far away place when one is in Milan. Milan is to Italy what New York is to the U.S. – a center of fashion, business and finance. For the tourist, there is a lot to see, and Milan is worth a day or two for the tourist, before or after visiting the surrounding lakes and mountains. Listed below are just a few sights, I will cover others including the renown Last Supper fresco in “Visiting Milan, Italy Part II”.

A good place to start your visit is in the heart of Milan, at the Piazza del Duomo, home of the huge Milan Duomo (Cathedral) and the predecessor of today’s shopping malls – the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II.

Duomo (Cathedral)

This is the #1 tourist sight in Milan. The cathedral is huge – 514 feet long, 301 ft across. Highly recommended is a visit to the roof – you can walk on the roof among the forest of spires, statues, and gargoyle figures with great views of the surrounding Piazza and cityscape–almost like being the hunchback of Notre Dame! I can’t imagine how all the weight of the marble stone work (and people!) has been successfully supported for over 6 centuries! As shown in the images below, there’s lots to see above, below and in the main cathedral, so plan a couple hours for your visit to the Duomo.

Milan Duomo, Italy

One of the many interesting figures on the roof of the Duomo.

Milan Duomo roof

The massiveness of the Duomo is felt as you wander through the archways and flying buttresses on the roof.

Milan Duomo

Getting up close and personal with the beautiful stone work on the roof of the Milan Duomo.

Milan Duomo, Italy

A view of the Piazza del Duomo from the roof of the Duomo, looking west. The entrance to the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is to the right, under the short towers.

Milan Cathedral (Duomo)

Exterior view of the Milan Cathedral – it’s so large that it’s hard to get a good perspective on this marvel of engineering and art.

Milan Cathedral interior.

Interior of the Milan Cathedral – 52 pillars support the weight of the roof and expansive ceiling. The stained glass, statues, carvings and huge space all contribute to a feeling of awe.

Milan Catheral, Italy

Another interior view of the Milan Duomo. As can be seen, the restoration and upkeep work (with netting and scaffolding) on this size of building is never done.

San Bartolomeo, Milan Cathedral, Italy

A statue of San Bartolomeo (the apostle Bartholomew) with his own skin draped around him (legend says that his martyrdom was the result of his being skinned alive).

Milan Cathedral Museum, Italy

Your visit to the Duomo includes a visit to the interesting Duomo museum, well worth the time for a wander through. Some of the relics here are from ancient churches that existed on this spot prior to the present cathedral.

Milan Duomo Museum, Italy

Also in the Duomo Museum is a scale wooden model of the cathedral, used by the architects and engineers to build the actual cathedral. The model’s front facade is somewhat different from the final result.

Milan Cathedral Archeological museum, Italy

As is the case for many European cathedrals, the current Milan Duomo is built on top of earlier churches, and a visit below the current structure allows one to see excavations, such as this 4th century octagonal baptistry.

 

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II

Located just a few steps from the Duomo, is perhaps the world’s first covered shopping mall – the Galleria Vittoria Emanuele II, this symbol of Milan dates back to 1865 (completed in 1878). The Galleria is named after Victor Emmanuel II, the first king of the united Kingdom of Italy (1861 – 1878). It has an expansive glass ceiling, mosaic floors and expensive shops and restaurants (and of course a McDonalds!), and the occasional model posing, since this is the fashion capital of Italy (if not the world!).

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, Milan, Italy.

View of the interior of the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II with its beautiful 19th century architecture and glass ceiling.

Galleria Vittorio Emanuelle II, Milan, Italy

A photo shoot in the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, showing the mosaic floors along with this redhead model!

 

Street Scenes of Milan

Northeast of the Duomo is the where the high end shopping action is, and with the ‘guards’ at the store entrances, I didn’t even feel comfortable walking into the shops, plus in our travel clothes we felt a bit underdressed! The main ritzy shopping streets are Via Montenapoleone and Via Spiga. Bring your (fat) wallet and drive your McLaren up to the door and you’ll fit right in.

McLaren, Milan Italy.

Drive this little McLaren 720 S around Milan and you can park where you want while you do your shopping!

Milan, Italy Shopping

One of the window displays on Via Montenapoleone.

Milan Italy

Another window display along Via Montenapoleone.

Milan Italy

This chocolate display looks very tasty!

MIlan Italy

For those of us with dreams but few Euros, you can be entertained by the street performers in Milan.

In my next post we’ll cover some other interesting sights in Milan, including Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper (Cenacolo).