The Last Supper or Cenacolo Vinciano, the famous painting of Jesus’ last meal with his disciples, shows the moment after he announces one of the them is going to betray him. Painted between 1494 and 1498, its use of composition and perspective, combined with subject matter, makes it one of the most recognizable and important paintings in the world.
It covers one of the walls of the refectory next to the Santa Maria delle Grazie church. It was supposed to be a fresco, but Leonardo used a slightly different and experimental technique which, combined with the fact it was painted in a thin exterior wall that absorbed humidity, caused the painting began to deteriorate very soon after it was painted. It suffered many failed restoration attempts and benign neglect, and came close to being completely destroyed by a bomb in WWII that collapsed the roof of the room where it is housed. A new effort to preserve the badly deteriorating work began in 1978 and lasted over 20 years. The restored masterpiece is stable enough to be shown to the public in a very controlled environment for 15 minutes in groups of 30 people at a time, and plans must be made well in advance to ensure you can visit during your time in Milan.
The Biblioteca Ambrosiana founded in 1607 is considered one of the most important libraries in the world, with an incredible number of books, maps, prints and manuscripts. Among the most important of these manuscripts is the Codex Atlanticus is a twelve-volume set of Leonardo’s drawings and writings comprising nearly 1,200 pages and dating from 1478 to 1519. The Codex covers a wide range of subjects from aviation to armaments, musical instruments to anatomy, mathematics, botany and physics. It is one of the most important documents from Leonardo that exists, and is a true testimony to his incredible genius.
Next to it is the Pinacoteca Ambrosiana which contains, among many important works of art, “The Musician”. This is the only known male portrait painted by Leonardo. It is unfinished, and the identity of the sitter is still unknown. The portrait is in three-quarter profile, rather than standard profile as was common in Italy at the time, and remains a mystery to Leonardo historians.
The Museum of Science and Technology Leonardo da Vinci is the largest of its kind in Italy, and was opened in 1958. It is a must-see collection for any fan of science and technology, and particularly as the history of groundbreaking innovation relates to Leonardo’s genius. The 14,000 square foot museum profiles sectors like transportation, communication, energy, and material science with compelling, informative and fun displays. The collection also includes 3D scale models of Leonardo’s inventions recreated from his drawings, including various flying machines, hydraulic devices, and weaponry.
La Vigna di Leonardo or Leonardo’s vineyard, located in downtown Milan and not far from the Last Supper, was given to him by Ludovico Sforza in 1498. When the French invasion forced Leonardo to abandon Milan, he rented the vineyard to the father of Gian Giacomo Capriotti (Salai), his close confidant. It was given back to Leonardo on his return to the city, and he tended his beloved vines until his death. When Leonardo died, the vineyard was given half to Salai and half to Batista di Villany, another of his servants. The restored vines and buildings can be visited in a guided or self-guided tour lasting approximately 30 minutes, and it is well worth a visit to experience this beautiful place that was central to Leonardo’s time in Milan.