The hottest ticket in Milan is apparently Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper painting and like any good supper, you are absolutely not getting a seat without a reservation.
The painting is housed in the refectory of the Basilica Di Santa Maria Delle Grazie. This gives you the impression that you can stroll into the basilica any time of day and see The Last Supper. However, the painting has been sequestered into its own museum. And this is right up there with the Vatican Museum as one of the most sought after things to see in Italy. The difference is that if you didn’t book your tickets in advance for the Vatican, you can wait in a three-hour line and still get in. You’ll be packed like sardines in there, but you’ll get in.
However, due to The Last Supper’s fragile condition, the museum allows only a small group of people (less than 30) in to see it at a time for a maximum of 15 minutes. In total, that amounts to about 400 people a day. You can book ahead on the official website or by phone (02 92 800 360), but sometimes there are no timeslots available months in advance. So if this is high on your to-do list in Milan, I suggest you book your ticket online as soon as you book your flight.
Despite everything I read online, I stubbornly attempted to go anyway, not once but twice, to see if I would get lucky and get a ticket by waiting in line. On the first day, I arrived a little after noon and was told all tickets for the day were sold out. They told me I could come back the following day at 8 am or that I could call to try to get a ticket. I didn’t do either of things; I came back at 11 am and was delighted to see there was still a line, which gave me hope. The line was both for standby visitors, like me, and people with online bookings coming to pick up their tickets. It wasn’t until another person without a reservation made it to the front of the line that they announced to everyone that the only tickets remaining for the day were at 5 pm. Sadly, I had a flight leaving Milan at that time so I had to Charlie Brown sad walk out of there and miss it altogether.
From what I was told, the best way to get a ticket is to call, as the online reservation system will not show everything available for the day. So if you are not booking far enough ahead to get any available slots online, then your best bet is to get them on the phone and hope that something opens up.
That being said, you can also see The Last Supper as part of a tour on short notice, but instead of costing you 12 Euro, it will cost you closer to 70 Euro. For instance, you can book a variety of tours through Tickitaly.com, which all include guaranteed entrance to see the painting. The tours are typically coupled with other major attractions in Milan including the Duomo and Sforza Castle. So they’re basically two-hour walking tours that you can take for free on your own and a 68 Euro admission to The Last Supper.
As for me, even though I hardly need another reason to return to lovely Milan, this is a pretty good reason.