A Journey into Michelangelo’s Rome offers a fascinating exploration of Roman culture, art, and politics, as well as a visual feast of Renaissance art and contemporary photographs. Street maps allow the reader to navigate through the city and discover Rome as Michelangelo knew it and as it exists today.
Angela K. Nickerson is based in Sacramento, California; she regularly leads tours to Rome and other cities in Europe. She graciously allowed Traveling Mamas to interview her about Italy and her gorgeous new book. Read through to find out how to win a copy.
TM: What inspired you to write A Journey into Michelangelo’s Rome?
AN: I came to this project by luck, chance, divine intervention, and happenstance. I used to teach literature, and I developed a course called “The Bible as Literature.” To hook my students I used Michelangelo’s work as illustrations for the Biblical stories we studied. His frescoes on the Sistine Chapel ceiling and his sculptures of Moses and David all made wonderful illustrations as we encountered those tales. My students truly understood and thoughtfully considered the stories as well as the artist’s interpretations.
I’d been out of the classroom and writing professionally for a few years when Roaring Forties Press put out a call for proposals, but I knew that this was meant to be. A Journey into Michelangelo’s Rome is truly a fusion of my great passions: writing, travel, and art.
TM: How long did you have to research all the information?
AN: Because I’d done so much research as a teacher, I did not have to start from scratch. However, I spent months immersed in the 16th century reading everything I could find. I was very fortunate, too. Dr. William Wallace, one of the world’s leading experts on Michelangelo, was a tremendous help and led me to a few resources I might never have found on my own. I also know a few librarians who helped me track down some obscure documents.
But the most fun part of the research happened in Italy. Casa Buonarroti in Florence holds the largest collection of Michelangelo’s papers and sketches. It is a remarkable place to visit. And in Rome I developed friendships with several people who work for museums and Rome’s archaeological agencies. They were a great help in collecting information as well.
TM: Which chapter is your favorite?
AN: That’s a tough question. Each chapter is a story from Michelangelo’s life and focuses on the creation of one of his great works. If I had to choose, though, I would say that San Pietro in Vincoli: The Tragedy of the Tomb (chapter 4) might be my favorite.
In 1505 Michelangelo was commissioned to create a tomb for the newly-elected pope, Julius II. Julius II had grand ideas for his own memorial, and Michelangelo saw an opportunity for a lifetime of steady work. But it was not to be. Julius II’s priorities changed, and money was short. He redirected Michelangelo’s energies producing one of the world’s greatest masterpieces: the Sistine Chapel. And after Julius II’s death, his heirs scaled the project back further and further until the final installation (completed in 1545) was just a shadow of Michelangelo’s original vision. The story is sad and complicated and rich, but the pieces of art that were intended for Julius II’s tomb – Moses, Leah, Rachel, and the Captives – are fascinating.
TM: Do you feel these places would be appropriate for families? If not, why?
AN: Absolutely! Michelangelo’s work is very accessible for children. The stories are dramatic and intriguing, and his depictions are full of movement and life. Italian churches and museums are quite family-friendly, too. European schools often take field trips to museums, and they are used to accommodating younger patrons.
The key to traveling as a family in Italy is preparation, and having a theme for a trip can make it more interesting for everyone. Of course, I am partial to Michelangelo, but many children and teens recognize his works when they see them. Knowing that, prepare them a bit for your trip. There are several children’s books out on Michelangelo that can be great places to start. And once you are there, edit the choices you make. No one can go to every museum in Rome, so choose the ones that fit your theme.
The Vatican Museums, for example, can be overwhelming. There are thousands of pieces of art on display, and it can be over-stimulating for children and adults alike. However, hitting the highlights of the museum – including Laocoön, the Raphael Stanze, and the Sistine Chapel — rather than trying to look at every piece can make the experience much more enjoyable.
The families who have the most fun on trips to Rome have done a little work before leaving, preparing together for what they will see. And cater to your child’s interests. If your 6th grader is studying Ancient Rome, don’t miss the Forum and perhaps a trip out to Ostia Antica would be fun. Do you have a budding artist? Take along a sketchbook and make some time to sit and sketch together in the Colosseum or in front of the Pieta. Those impromptu art pieces make priceless souvenirs. Perhaps your 10th grader has been studying the Middle Ages in World History. Then don’t miss the museum at Castel Sant’Angelo. It has great examples of swords and armor and the building was the site of many battles and sieges.
Successful European travel with families is about pacing and preparation. But I see lots of families have a great time together in Rome!
TM: Will you be writing other books similar to this one?
AN: Yes. I am still not sure what my next project will be, but this was truly the best project I’ve ever worked on. It was incredibly fulfilling. I truly expect that my next project will somehow combine three things: art, history, and Italy.
Thanks to Angela for taking the time to answer our questions. If you would like to win a copy of A Journey into Michelangelo’s Rome then leave a comment or question and you will be entered into our giveaway. Same rules apply, as always. Contest ends May 20 at midnight and winner will be announced on Winning Wednesday, May 21.