Day 2: Milan to Venice; The Last Supper



Dan did not sleep well at all last night. But he’s sleeping now (it’s 11:17pm local time as I start this) so that’s a good thing. Hopefully he’ll catch up. I finished posting the rest of yesterday’s pictures to yesterday’s blog since we’ve got no internet problems today. Our room In Venice has it hardwired so I’m liking that a lot.

So on to today! We went down for breakfast about 8am despite Dan’s lack of sleep. I offered to do the first thing without him because it was definitely “my” thing so he could get a little more sleep. But he was a trooper and in the end he was glad he joined me.

What was this thing? Leonardo’s Last Supper. If you’d asked me before we started planning this trip where it was, I couldn’t have told you, and would probably have guessed Rome or Florence, Naples maybe. Never did it occur to me it was in Milan. And once I learned that I was like “oh yeah, we’re going.” It was my first experience with “you MUST reserve a specific time in advance.” They only let people in for 15 minute increments, and only about 25 at a time. You have to make an appointment and if you miss it, oh well. It was closed yesterday, we are leaving for Venice today, so early morning was the only option. We had a 9:45am appointment and they were clear about getting there 20 minutes ahead of time.

So away we went after breakfast. It was about a 30 minute subway ride away, in a could-be-anywhere-in-Europe sort of neighborhood, nothing special about it, although quiet and well kept.

 The church is Santa Maria delle Grazie. He painted it on the wall of a refectory of the convent in a side building.
We’d gotten there right at 9:25 as instructed, so had a little time to kill after we collected our tickets.
 It was actually pretty dark but iPhone does wonders. It was a nice church, normal sized.
 Because it attracts so many tourists, the actual parishioners use a side chapel. There was a mass in progress.
Beautiful side altar.

At 9:40 we went into the room where we had to wait for our appointment. There was some history there that was interesting. Leonardo used a different style of painting with this work than a typical fresco, one that didn’t require him to work so fast. Starting in 1495, it took him 3 years to complete it. However, it’s probably the style that he used that lead to such early decay, which was evident as early at 1522. They’ve been trying to save and restore it ever since.

That said, the only way to describe what happens next is we were taken through a series of locks. The next set of doors don’t open until everyone is in and the doors you came in through are shut. The building is temperature controlled and kept humid. As soon as we walked in my glasses fogged up. It’s actually pretty impressive the effort they put into managing the maintenance of this thing.

I’ll also add that the reviews on this are definitely mixed. Everything from “greatest spiritual experience of my life” to “what a complete rip-off!” We were prepared for the worst.

And were completely and very pleasantly surprised.

Unlike the Mona Lisa where everyone goes “it’s only ‘this’ big” (and it isn’t; it’s a decent size but not massive), this is an impressive size. Literally the entire wall of a good sized hall. You can see the people in the photo below for perspective. And, having dealt with the chaos that is the viewing of the Mona Lisa, we were very grateful they only let in 25 people at a time. 15 minutes is more than enough.

The colors were in much better shape than we had anticipated, too.

 

Something we learned in the history room that made this interesting was Leonardo painted this as if Christ had just said “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.” He wanted to capture the expression of each apostle after that moment. “Who is it? Is it me? It’s you! It’s him!” It all makes sense now.

We just watched “The Da Vinci Code” again a week or so ago, so of course all we see here is Mary Magdalene. You can’t unsee it once you do.

 

And similar to the Mona Lisa, here’s a painting on the opposite wall that gets hardly any attention at all, despite being impressive in it’s own right. In the Louvre it’s The Wedding at Cana by Paolo Veronese. This is The Crucifixion (obviously) by another artist you’ve never heard of, Giovanni Donato da Montorfano. The Wedding at Cana is better, but this ain’t exactly shabby.

Mission accomplished. We were very glad we did it and that it turned out much better than expected. Low expectations are a good thing.

We went back to the hotel to get our bags and headed to the train station. Milan’s Central Railway is a “real” train station – massive building, beautiful architecture, mall-like shops and restaurants. Just the way we like train stations.

Venice is a 2.5 hour train ride from Milan. It was a pleasant ride. It snowed most of the way. The train was pretty crowded until the stop just before ours, and then it looked like this. Very comfortable ride and it was pretty fast.

As we walked out of the train station, this was the first thing I saw and I literally started laughing. This is so wild. We’re in Venice! And not Venice Beach! This is more surreal to us than Paris was.

 Also from the steps of the train station.
Dan went to get tickets for the boat ride we would take to the hotel. It was cold – about 30 degrees – but I stood on the outside of it for most of the trip anyway. It was too hazy and choppy to get very good pictures though.
 The gray lines just above and to the right of “Venice” is the train station. the blue dot is us on the boat at the time I snagged this. We are going all the way to the bottom then right to the Hilton.

The one good shot I got from the boat. Just thought it was a cool building. Shortly after I took this I was able to read the sign on it that says “Stucky.” This is our hotel!

 View from our room.
We dropped off our bags in the room and went down to the Executive Lounge (perks of traveling with Dan) for free snacks and something to drink since it was now about 4:30pm and we hadn’t eaten lunch. We explored the rest of the hotel a bit then picked up a 5:20 boat ride the hotel provides to San Marco island.
St. Mark’s Square. When we got here we were like “oh wow.” We’ve seen this in So Many paintings since we’ve been traveling we can’t even count. It was great to see it in real life, and of course we will be back tomorrow.

We’d downloaded a walking tour online and sort of followed that around the island. Mostly we were just wandering, checking things out.

 The top of Rialto Bridge, which is covered in retail. It’s undergoing a huge renovation now so not much to look at. Notice the umbrellas. It was raining the whole time we were out. We didn’t care.

 

 There were So Many people in the shopping areas we were happy to find a quiet street. We ended up finding a hole-in-the wall restaurant for dinner that had a very local vibe to it. Just the kind of thing we like. There weren’t a lot of tourists there and the menu was not in English (something we look for). The food was great, simple pasta dishes cooked perfectly. We were so into it we forgot about pictures.
 We got back to the hotel about 9pm. This is the bar area off the lobby, and behind is where we’re sitting is the Executive Lounge.
We stopped for some hot chocolate before going up to our room.
First time you’ve seen me without a jacket all weekend.
It was a great day in Italy today. Looking forward to more….

0 thoughts on “Day 2: Milan to Venice; The Last Supper”

  1. Steve Haas says:

    And it's Florence I'm most looking forward to. Venice is done, so that comes next!

  2. Jon Scott says:

    I just love when you guys travel. It is like I get to go along. I keep wanting to click "Like" under the pictures and comments. Jajaja Looking forward to more Venice and then Rome.

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