Sunday 20 October 2019

Leonardo 500: Why now's the time for an art-inspired trip to Milan

This year, all roads lead to Milan as the city celebrates the 500th anniversary of Leonardo da Vinci's death

Milan, Italy. Photo: Deposit
Milan, Italy. Photo: Deposit
Madonna Litta on loan from St Petersburg
Baglioni Hotel Carlton, Milan
Baglioni Hotel Carlton Milano - Leonardo Suite
The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci
Veal chops at Trattoria del Nuova Macello
Un posto a Milano

Domhnall O'Donoghue

Italians joke that the statue of Madonna towering above the magnificent Duomo di Milano (see photo above) is the city’s only true Milanese... seeing as outsiders have been flocking here for centuries.

That was certainly the case for Leonardo da Vinci, its most famous adopted son, who spent 20 years of his life here.

Yes, the Renaissance Man learnt his craft in Florence - but Milan is where he earned his crust. Now, on the 500th-year anniversary of his death, the city is honouring his greatness. International museums are also assisting - for instance, Russia’s Hermitage Museum is loaning Madonna Litta to Museo Poldi Pezzoli (

Make no mistake: Milan’s calendar for 2019 is state-of-the-art.

Guilty Pleasure

Image #3 Baglioni Hotel Carlton Exterior.jpg
Baglioni Hotel Carlton, Milan

There are few hotels in Milan that encapsulate the city's love of art more than the five-star Baglioni Carlton (; Leonardo package from €440). Overlooking famed shopping street Via della Spiga, the property’s funky ground floor contrasts beautifully with the classical bedrooms above.

Embracing this year's landmark anniversary, the hotel offers tours of The Last Supper and the vineyard da Vinci received as payment for creating the masterpiece, as well as admission to Pinacoteca Ambrosiana where Portrait of a Musician, along with drawings from Codex Atlanticus, are on display (

Insider Intel

Image #7 Trattoria del Nuova Macello (veal chops).jpg
Veal chops at Trattoria del Nuova Macello

Milan boasts 10,000 restaurants in which to refuel between museum visits.

Family-run Trattoria del Nuovo Macello serves world-class fare in a charming, traditional setting. A highlight is their delicious veal chops, €28 (

Elsewhere, the effortlessly trendy Un Posto a Milano delights with its eclectic décor and ambitious menu - try the raw beef with mustard ice-cream, parsley sauce and pistachios, €14 (

Top tip

Admire da Vinci through the art he inspired. Located on Via Corso Magenta and christened by locals as Milan's Sistine Chapel, the church of San Maurizio is a treasure chest of religious frescos by the likes of Bernardino Luini. However, da Vinci's influence is evident in every stroke (free entry).


Image #5 The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci.jpg
The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci

The Last Supper (above) is housed in Santa Maria delle Grazie convent but efforts to preserve the delicate mural means access is limited - tickets must be booked online well in advance (€12,

Get me there

Image #4 Baglioni Hotel Carlton_Milano - Leonardo Suite.jpg
Baglioni Hotel Carlton Milano - Leonardo Suite

Accommodation was provided by Baglioni Hotel Carlton (above).

The hotel's two-night ‘In the Footsteps of Leonardo da Vinci’ package starts from €440 based on two sharing. Ryanair ( flies from Dublin to Milan Bergamo, and Aer Lingus ( to Milan Linate.

Baglioni is a 10-minute walk from Montenapoleone underground.

An excellent resource for ‘Leonardo at 500’ is

Read more:

The Italian Insiders: Our ultimate guide to Italy without the crowds

Online Editors

Editors Choice

Also in Life