16 February 2012

The Ultimate Cultural Experience: Leonardo and Michelangelo

Leonardo da Vinci: Painter at the Court of Milan is the most complete display of Leonardo’s rare surviving paintings ever held. The exhibition brings together wonderful international loans never before seen in the UK, or never seen anywhere in such an impressive single location. Inspired by the recently restored National Gallery painting, The Virgin of the Rocks, this exhibition focuses on Leonardo as an artist, rather than as an inventor or scientist. In particular it concentrates on the work he produced as court painter to Duke Lodovico Sforza in Milan in the late 1480s and 1490s. The exhibition is the penultimate cultural experience.

Orient Express's elegant dining car

The ultimate cultural experience is in turn inspired by the National Gallery's Leonardo exhibition. The Orient Express tour begins on 16th May 2012, but be prepared to spend your children’s inheritance now.

Day 1 Meet a National Gallery expert and visit the British Museum in London for a private viewing of selected drawings by Leonardo & Michelangelo. Then visit the National Gallery in London, to view the Leonardo's altarpiece painting The Virgin of the Rocks and the gallery’s two paintings by Michelangelo.

Days 2-3 Depart on the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express for a luxury train journey to Verona. Explore Verona. Then travel to Milan.

Days 4-5 Visit the 15th century Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie, home to Leonardo da Vinci's masterpiece, the Last Supper. After lunch, tour the Ambrosiana Library to see Leonardo’s Codex Atlanticus. In the evening dinner is arranged at one of Milan’s most famous restaurants, Savini (naturally!). In the morning visit Castello Sforzesco, home to Michelangelo’s late Pietà, before an afternoon tour of the Brera Art Gallery.

David, by Michelangelo, in Florence

Days 6-8 Drive to Florence with a stop en route to visit Villa San Donnino. Arrive at Villa San Michele for 3 night stay. Enjoy dinner on the terrace overlooking Florence. The next morning, tour Florence commencing with a visit to Chiesa di Ognissanti to view Ghirlandaio’s Last Supper and later the Accademia to view the statue of David by Michelangelo. After lunch, visit Santa Maria Novella. The next day, tour the world famous Uffizi Gallery. After lunch, visit the Church of San Miniato al Monte. On the final morning, guests fly home.

I suggested to my beloved that this would be a great tour for us to enjoy, since we both love art, architecture, Italy and fancy train trips. He agreed that it would be great, as soon as we win the lotto. If you can persuade your beloved, go to Venice-Simplon Orient Express.

Last Supper, by Leonardo da Vinci, Milan


Emm said...

Wow. £8,000, that is a lot of money. But travelling on the Orient Express across Europe must be incredible. I love travelling by train and it is an enduring source of sadness for me that rail travel is the most expensive mode of travel in Europe.

DeeBee L. said...

Tickets for Vinci's exhibition in London were very difficult to book and we had to be happy with a very late Sunday slot! A really fascinating man, my definition of genius! I wonder what he would think he he were to come back in our era as so many of his inventions are now part of our everyday life!

Trainman said...

I love posts on luxury train trips, but I would definitely appreciate more time on the Orient Express itself and less time moving between Italian cities by car or bus.

Hels said...


It is my goal to travel on every incredible train trip on earth before I die! Incredible is the word.

Alas the cost of the train, hotels for 8 nights, breakfasts and dinners, ground transport, museum entries etc put this ultimate cultural experience out of the reach of most normal families. I wonder if guests stayed in youth hostels and ate sandwiches for dinner, would the prices come down.

Hels said...


Agreed. The first Leonardo creation I ever saw with my own eyes was the Last Supper in Milan, before it was renovated. Although it was looking sadly tatty, I fell in love with Leonardo on that very day.

Hels said...


instead of flying back to Britain from Florence, I wonder if guests have the option of going home via the Orient Express train. This would at least increase the number of hours spent in luxury train travel.

Emm said...

Well, I am planning a road trip from bologna to Maranello to Florence, Rome and Sorrento this year, so I will let you know about youth hostels and sandwiches. Although, I've never been a hostel type of girl, so make that pensions and authentic cuisine.

(Oh, and the eagle eyed may note the pilgrimage to the home of Ferrari in the list above - my husband is a devotee).

Andrew said...

You have done your retirement trip already? This one does sound very nice.

Hermes said...

Would love to go - what a trip.

Hels said...


You are 100% correct - pensiones and authentic cuisine are an integral part of appreciating the Italian experience.

I didn't mind youth hostels at 21... but there is NO way nowadays that I am going to sleep in dormitory bunks for girls, separate from the spouse.

Have a great trip later this year. Hopefully complete reports and photos will grace your blog :)

Hels said...


retirement? what is that? Is that when people decide that there is life after work after all?

I spent the first five years of married life living abroad, working and travelling. Wouldn't it be wonderful to do that after retirement as well. Only with some elegance and comfort this time; not as a scungy backpacker.

Hels said...


I would do almost anything to go on this Italian trip, since it combines everything that I am passionate about. If only the trip was longer and the price was cheaper (yes, at the same time).

Let us meet in Florence or Venice and toast art in situ. I will shout the champagne :)

ChrisJ said...

Wow! Nice to dream, but too dear as you say.

Hels said...


I am very ambivalent about describing a wonderful cultural excursion/event that is beyond the financial reach of most families. It is way too elitist!

So I made myself feel better by not disclosing the cost. Of course I realise that is a pathetic response.

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