Based in Sacramento, California, teacher and art lover Angela K. Nickerson can now add author to her CV. Her book A Journey Into Michelangelo’s Rome hit the book stores in April and will without doubt inspire readers to visit the Italian capital.
© Angela K. Nickerson, 2008
Published by Roaring Forties Press in April 2008, A Journey into Michelangelo’s Rome follows Michelangelo from his arrival in Rome in 1496 to his death in the city almost seventy years later. Each chapter focuses on a particular work and gives a fascinating study of Roman culture, art, and politics. The book includes 14 black-and-white photographs, nearly 90 colour shots and eight street maps allowing readers to discover Rome as Michelangelo knew it.
Erica Johansson: What do you think about the response to A Journey Into Michelangelo’s Rome so far?
Angela K. Nickerson: It has been lovely! The book has been featured in several publications including the Sacramento Bee, the Houston Chronicle, and ForeWord Magazine. And so far the response has been overwhelmingly positive and supportive. Additionally, travel blogs have picked it up as well. I had great fun on Nerd’s Eye View where I ran a Micro Travel Writing Workshop. And blogs all over the world – like Travel Blissful - have picked up on the book. That’s a very exciting phenomenon and one that was a bit unexpected.
What was your thought when entering the Sistine Chapel for the first time?
Deep and utter humility. Goethe wrote, “Until you have seen the Sistine Chapel you have no adequate conception of what man is capable of accomplishing.” He was right. The colors are amazing. The figures absolutely took my breath away. And they are so huge. I don’t think I was prepared for that. I wept. Openly wept.
There’s a tiny piece of me that wishes I’d seen it before the restoration so that I could truly appreciate the brilliance of the colors now. And my fantasy: to have 30 minutes alone in the chapel so that I could lie on the floor and just look up. Some day!
When did you decide to write A Journey Into Michelangelo’s Rome? And did you write the book from Rome or from the US?
Well, 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. Roaring Forties Press put out a call for proposals, and 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.
I worked on the book primarily in the US, but I made several research trips. I’d been to Rome many times, and it is one of my favorite places in the world. So going back to take photographs and to do interviews… well, that was part of the pleasure in writing the book.
© Angela K. Nickerson, 2008
For someone who has never been to the Sistine Chapel, when would you say is the best time to visit? What season, time of the day etc.?
Personally, I avoid Italy in the summer unless my goal is to just lie on the beach. That’s not to say that it isn’t lovely year round. It is! But, the rest of the world descends on Italy in the summer – particularly on Rome. I don’t like crowds or lines or paying high prices. And if I don’t have to travel during high season, I don’t.
The best time to travel: late October, November, January, and February. There aren’t any lines. The weather is cool, but comfortable. The tourists have all gone home, and you can walk through a museum at leisure.
Now, going to see the Sistine Chapel… to see the Chapel, you must go to the Vatican Museums. In July the line to enter the Museums can be up to a mile long. It is quite incredible. If you do go in the summer, get up early and be in line before 7 am. Bring some snacks and a book to read (might I suggest A Journey into Michelangelo’s Rome) while you wait. Truly, I have met some great people in line for the museum, too. Be friendly! People are generally convivial, and there’s a “we’re all in this together” spirit.
If you are not traveling during high season, it isn’t as important to get in line that early. And at some times of the year you can walk in to the museums without much of a wait at all.
Here’s what you should know: the Museums have two doors – one for groups and one for individuals. The ticket brokers who promise that you won’t have to wait in line for the Museums aren’t entirely truthful. Some send other people to stand in line for you – or to cut the line, which really makes people behind you angry. Others are selling tickets to join a larger group for a tour. The groups generally skip most of the museum and make their way straight to the Sistine Chapel. And, buyer beware: there are a few who take your money and run.
For my money I suggest standing in line for a while and entering as an individual. Go in November with a good friend, and take a book along to read while you wait. Trust me: it is worth it!
I recently heard about your upcoming trip to Italy. Would you like to tell us a bit more about it? Is the trip for anyone?
Yes! 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 ten 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 five nights in Florence exploring the charming city. Then we take the train to Rome where we spend seven nights in a converted monastery. We visit St. Peter’s Basilica, the Sistine Chapel, the Colosseum, Michelangleo’s Moses… and so much more.
© Angela K. Nickerson, 2008
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 A Journey into Michelangelo’s Rome. And we have a great time!
Gregory Favre wrote a lovely travelogue after traveling with me in January. You can read his article from the Sacramento Bee on my website (www.aknickerson.net), and you can also get more information about the trip. The next one leaves in late October. I am also available as a travel escort for families or small groups.
My goal whether writing or traveling with a group is to create a framework for travelers. So often I see tourists wandering through Rome looking totally overwhelmed clinging to a huge guidebook and clearly not sure what to make of the city. I understand that. Rome’s history is so rich, and there is something of significance around every corner. A Journey into Michelangelo’s Rome filters all of that information. It provides a theme for a trip through Rome and illustrates the connections between the ages.
For more information about Angela K. Nickerson, visit http://aknickerson.blogspot.com or drop by her website at http://www.aknickerson.net. Angela regularly leads tours to Rome and other European cities.