If getting up close to the Mona Lisa was never easy, in the wake of Da Vinci Code fever it’s now almost as challenging as the puzzle at the heart of Dan Brown’s blockbuster. But come on a Wednesday or Friday evening for one of the Louvre’s late openings, and you’ll find things considerably quieter.

Make your way along the shadowy, labyrinthine corridors to the outstanding Italian collection, where the famous Grande Galerie, its blonde parquet stretching into the dark distance, displays all the great names in Italian Renaissance art: Mantegna, Botticelli, Titian, Bellini, Raphael, Veronese. And then, of course, there’s Leonardo’s Mona Lisa herself – without the daytime swarms, you may get the opportunity to truly appreciate this strange and beguiling painting.


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