Michelangelo's Italy

Dr. Jessie Voigts's picture

One of the best parts of traveling is learning about the history, culture, people, and food of the places you are visiting! If you have a teacher - be it an expert, a local, or others - you'll have so much more fun visiting.  Earlier this year, I found such a guide. The author of the book, Michelangelo's Italy (click for our Book Review), Angela Nickerson is an art historian, educator, and is passionate about sharing Renaissance Italy.


She's also our new Italy Editor, here on Wandering Educators!  I was lucky enough to be able to sit down and talk with her about her tours to Italy. Here's what she had to say...


Angela Nickerson - Vatican

The Vatican



WE: Please tell us about your tour, Travel to Michelangelo's Italy...

AN: It is a trip for anyone.  I have been taking these trips for a few
years now, and my groups have included veteran travelers, people who
have never been to Europe, older travelers, younger travelers…
people of all kinds.  I take a maximum of 20 people at one time, so I
can tailor the trip to the group’s pace and needs.

We start in Florence, Michelangelo’s hometown.  Our hotel is one
block from the Duomo. We go to see the big attractions in Florence –
the David, the Uffizi Gallery, the Duomo – as well as the lesser-
known works including Michelangelo’s Florentine Pieta.  We spend 4
nights in Florence exploring the charming city.  Then we take the
train to Rome where we spend 6 nights in a cozy little hotel.  We
visit St. Peter’s Basilica, the Sistine Chapel, the Colosseum,
Michelangleo’s Moses… and so much more.

We walk both cities – no buses on these trips except for city
buses.  I have created an itinerary that is flexible, but it is built
around Michelangelo’s life.  In essence we DO my book A Journey into
Michelangelo’s Rome.  And we have a great time!


Santa Maria del Fiore -- known as the Duomo -- in Florence

Santa Maria del Fiore -- known as the Duomo -- in Florence



WE: How did you get interested in this?

AN: I have worked for tour companies for several years as a freelance
tour manager, and I know Italy well, so my friends started asking me
to take them to Italy.  One thing led to another… and now I take
people to “do” the book.  We have a great time.  I make all of the
travel arrangements.  I know good restaurants and cute shops and fun
places to go.  And we use Michelangelo as our theme – visiting his
work and places that were important to him as the framework for the

Journalist Gregory Favre wrote a lovely travelogue after traveling
with me in January.  You can read his article from the Sacramento Bee
on my website, and you can also get more information about the trip.  I am finalizing the details for the next trip in January, 2009.  I am also available as a travel escort for families or small groups.



Scottish rugby fans enjoy the streets of Rome



WE:  What is your background in this area?

AN: I recently had my first book published, A Journey into
Michelangelo’s Rome (Roaring Forties Press, 2008).  It is a true
labor of love – part biography, part travel book.  When I take
groups there, so often I see tourists wandering around looking dazed
and overwhelmed.  And I totally understand why!  There are thousands
of years of history piled together in a living city filled with
traffic and tourists.  And while the typical guidebook is good for
some things, it does not help the average traveler make decisions
about what to see or to draw connections between various locations
and sites.

A Journey into Michelangelo’s Rome solves that problem. There are
maps and locations, and it includes all of the primary sites to see
in Rome plus so many great places to go that are off the beaten
path.  However, there are no hotels or restaurants listed.  And it is
written so that you can enjoy it equally in your living room or in
the Sistine Chapel.    Michelangelo and his work provide the lens
through which the reader sees Rome.


Roman Forum

The Roman Forum



WE:  Where do you take people? How large are your groups?

AN: The Michelangelo’s Italy trip begins in Florence, Michelangelo’s
hometown.  We spend a few days there and then take the train to Rome,
the city where Michelangelo spent most of his life.  My groups are
small – under 20 people – and we have a good balance between
structured time and time to explore.  We walk the cities.  There are
no tour buses.  And I do everything I can to avoid herding people
like cattle.  We travel together.  It is not a tour.


Trevi Fountain

Trevi Fountain



WE:  Are children welcome, on your trips?

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 many
children and teens recognize Michelangelo’s works when they see
them.  Knowing that, I can help to prepare children a bit for your
trip.  There are several children’s books out on Michelangelo that
can be great places to start, and I am happy to provide a reading
list.  And when I know the composition of my group, I arrange my
itineraries accordingly.

Successful European travel with families is about pacing and
preparation.  But I see lots of families have a great time together
in Rome!



Michelangelo's Palazzo Farnese -- now the French Embassy



WE:  Where do you take the group to eat? Italy has such incredible food!

AN: Indeed.  And after a long day of walking the city, a good plate of
pasta and a glass of wine offers the perfect ending to a great day.
My groups don’t eat every meal together, but when we do, we go to
fantastic little restaurants with fresh, local produce and locally-
raised meats.  On evenings when we do not have a group meal, I am
happy to provide restaurant recommendations, but many people are
happy to set out on their own to wander the streets and discover
great restaurants themselves.  Italians know how to eat.  I am not
sure I’ve ever had a bad meal in Italy – from the corner tripe
sandwich stand to the elegant 4 hour affair.


Florence door

A charming doorway on one of Florence's cobbled streets



WE:  Is there anything else you'd like to share with us?

AN: I take travel groups to Italy 3 or 4 times per year.  Check my blog,
Just Go! for more information about upcoming adventures.  I hope to see you in Italy one day soon!



Michelangelo's Florentine Pieta, one of his last works



WE: Thanks so much, Angela! I can't wait to explore Italy with you. Our daughter loves your book, and can't stop looking at all the gorgeous photos. Nice early preparation, indeed!