Book Review of the Week: A Journey into Michelangelo's Rome

Dr. Jessie Voigts's picture

One word: Michelangelo. You're already thinking, aren't you, about all of his famous works of art? I think of his great, great impact on the world, and just stand in awe of his talent. I recently read a new book about Michelangelo, by our very own Italy Editor, Angela Nickerson. It is called A Journey into Michelangelo's Rome, and is just an incredible read.  Starting in Florence, it traces Michelangelo's history (and art) throughout his life. Fantastic detail, historically accurate research, and stunning photos make this book an entrancing read. I feel that I have learned so much about Michelangelo the man, as well as his art and the context in which he lived. More importantly, it provides a great travel guide to Rome via art and history. Heading to Rome? Don't go without this book. We won't - it has changed the way we view Rome!


Last week, we interviewed Angela about her tours, Travels to Michelangelo's Italy. Now, we're pleased to interview her again about her incredible book. Here's what she had to say...



WE:  Please tell us about your book, A Journey Into Michelangelo's

AN: A Journey into Michelangelo’s Rome is part biography, part travel
guide with a bit of personality thrown in.  Generally, the book is
written with the premise that if you see Michelangelo’s work in
Rome – and the other places that were important to him – you will
have seen the best of the city.  And I honestly believe that holds
true.  Michelangelo’s Rome does not have hotel or restaurant
recommendations, but it does have maps.  And it is accessible for the
first-time visitor as well as the Italy aficionado.



WE:  How did you get interested in this?

AN: Rome is a city of stories – thousands of years of history built in
layers one on top of another.   I fell in love with Rome on my first
trip, and there is something primal about the pull that that city has
on me.

I found this project by accident, providence, divine intervention,
and chance.  As a high school teacher (my last career) I had
developed a course called “The Bible as Literature.”  I taught the
major stories of the Bible, and I used the work of Michelangelo and
other Renaissance artists as the “hook.”  My students studied the
frescoes of the Sistine Chapel, compared Davids by Donatello and
Michelangelo, and explored the stories told in Ghiberti’s doors, the
Gates of Paradise.

After I’d left the classroom, I came upon a call for proposals.
Roaring Forties Press had begun a new series of books, the ArtPlace
books, and they were looking for writers.  Immediately I knew that
Michelangelo and Rome would be the perfect fit.  I wrote the book
proposal, and it took about a year to hammer out the details and sign
a contract.  But now, three years later, the book is on the shelves!



WE: The photos are incredible - did you take them?

AN: Most of them!  I’ve always enjoyed photography, and this was a
tremendous learning experience for me as a photographer.  However, I
had a minor catastrophe in the middle of this project:  my laptop was
stolen, and I lost an entire trip’s worth of photographs which had
not been backed up yet, so we had to use some other photographer’s
images as well.  But the blessing in all of that is that I am MUCH
better at backing up my work now!



WE: Michelangelo's work is extraordinary - do you always feel in awe
of his work?

AN: Absolutely!  I think the word “genius” is overused, however, it is
the most appropriate word to describe Michelangelo’s work.  In fact,
it was resurrected from the Latin by Michelangelo’s biographer just
to describe him.  Standing before one of his sculptures… or walking
in to the Sistine Chapel… it takes my breath away.  And that he was
so good at working with so many different mediums:  that is perhaps
the most amazing thing about him as an artist.



WE:  It is fun, in reading the book, getting to know the man behind all
the great art. How do you feel about Michelangelo now, after all
your research?

AN: I am an even bigger fan than I was before.  When I was working on the
book, I had moments of desolation and despair because we are
separated by half of a millennium.  I wanted nothing more than to be
truthful and honest about him and to tell his story as accurately as
I could.  It would have been very helpful to interview him, but alas
– his letters and poems had to suffice.

Some biographers have been less than kind to Michelangelo.  I can’t
deny that he was feisty and sometimes bad-tempered, but I think there
are people who allow that to cloud their entire picture of him.  To
my mind he is more like some of the Italian men I know – very
passionate with an intensity of feeling that sometimes makes
Americans uncomfortable.  But he loved his family, despite their
fights.  He loved his art.  He was fiercely loyal to his friends.
And he treated his employees well.  And he populated his art with
women, especially mothers (the Rome Pieta, for example) – this is
the work of an Italian man who lost his mother when he was six years
old.  He was an incredible human being.



WE:  When you travel in Rome, are you always on the lookout for
Michelangelo's work, and other work that was inspired by him?

AN: Michelangelo’s fingerprints are all over the city.  There are lots
of little places to see his work.  Santa Maria sopra Minerva, for
example, houses his Risen Christ, a beautiful sculpture most people
never see.  And the Campidoglio is a phenomenal spot to do a little
people-watching.  But every dome rising above a Roman church is a
tribute to Michelangelo’s dome over St. Peter’s Basilica.  And
when I stand in the Pantheon, I try to imagine Michelangelo’s awe
(it isn’t hard).  Sadly, his homes are gone, but his spirit still
lingers in the city, and Romans are fiercely proud of their adopted son.



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

AN: Travel to Italy is easy and fun, but if your readers are interested
in a group trip, I’ve worked for tour companies and also take small
groups on my own.  It is a way to indulge the teacher in me, I
suppose.  I tell my clients that traveling with me is like traveling
with a very knowledgeable friend.  I set up the travel arrangements.
I set the itinerary.  I know good restaurants and shops and what to
see in each museum.  I provide a little structure.  But my trips are
not bus tours.  We walk the cities.  We stay in the heart of town.
And my feelings are never hurt when people deviate from our set
itinerary.  In fact, when that happens I know that I have done my
job:  my clients are comfortable, intrigued, and inspired.



WE: Thanks so much, Angela! Your book is inspiring - artistically,
historically, and for traveling. I can't wait to head to Rome and dig in

For more information, please see:


To order, please see Roaring Forties Press:




Comments (2)

  • Glinda

    11 years 7 months ago

    This book about Michelangelo and Rome sounds fantastic!  It really makes me want to go to Rome - with book in hand!

  • dreamvision

    11 years 1 month ago

    This sounds like a fascinating, comprehensive book! Will definitely look it up, even if we aren't planning to go to Italy in the near future- it sounds like it would be a great way to get a full picture of the art and place in the life of this great man, and the way his life left a lasting mark on the places around him- a holistic, in depth view of a great destination!

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