Following Michelangelo

Have you ever read a book that leaves a lasting impact on you? So much, in fact, that you are compelled to travel to the place where it all began, to live and breath it all in?

Years ago I had come across the biographical novel of Michelangelo Buonarotti, a book which still holds a special place on my bookshelf and in my heart. Such was the effect of this book, that it went on to inspire one of the most memorable holidays of my life, taking me from Rome to The Vatican, onward to Florence, as I charted my path to trace the footsteps of Michelangelo and experience his life, his legacy and his masterpieces.

This is a journey I embarked upon, not once, but twice, and it has helped me curate a list of his most famous masterpieces, their locations and how best to experience them.

Madonna of the Stairs

‘He decided he would carve Mary at the moment of decision, when, knowing all, she must determine the future: for herself, for her child, for the world’ ~ The Agony & The Ecstasy, Irving Stone

Probably not his most famous work, but an important milestone for young Michelangelo who created this in the year 1491 in the sculpture garden at the Medici palace. Michelangelo was by nature a sculptor and moving into the sculpture garden from the art studio at Ghirlandaio’s was a huge step for him. Madonna of the Stairs was the first commission he had earned from Lorenzo Medici, it was his very first sculpture and indicates the start of his illustrious journey.

Where to find it: Casa Buonarotti, Florence

More information & Tickets: Click here

Tip: This is about a 15 minute walk from Galleria dell’Accademia and a definite must see if you are in Florence. Usually a spot not crowded by tourists, it is an interesting way to spend a quiet afternoon.

The David

‘He had designed David as an independent man, standing clear of all space around him. David was a fighter, not a brutal, senseless ravager, but capable of achieving freedom’ ~ The Agony & The Ecstasy, Irving Stone

Creating the David was probably the most happiest phase in Michelangelo’s life. He had earned considerable fame, was back in Florence, where he belonged, amongst his family and friends, and was doing what he did the best – work with marble. Also, this was a time when Florence was reeling under the impact of a Medici revolution and the burning of the fanatic Savonarola, and was in desperate need of something which would symbolize its strength and resiliency. And that was precisely what Michelangelo gave them.

Standing before this giant masterpiece, it is easy to feel a sense of awe and wonder, trying to figure out how, a human being, can create something so magnificent, from a single block of marble!

Where to find it: Galleria dell’Accademia, Florence

More information & Tickets: Click here

Tip: Learn how to skip queues, click here

Pieta

A single block of Carrara marble, and a masterpiece admired for centuries. The Pieta was one of the most important commissions for Michelangelo, when he moved to the city of Rome in search of pastures green.  Michelangelo tirelessly sketched models from the city’s Jewish quarters in Trastevere in his preparations for depicting Christ and Mary in an image which is now known the world over.  It is also, the only piece of art to be autographed by him.

Where to find it: St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City

More information & Tickets: Click here

Tip: Learn how to skip queues, click here

Sistine Ceiling and The Last Judgement

‘ An infinitesimal second, and humanity began’ ~ The Agony & The Ecstasy

Michelangelo spent nearly 10 years of his life working in the Sistine Chapel, first the Genesis on the ceiling vaults and then later returning to paint the Last Judgement behind the altar. The power of his genius is felt as you walk in through the doors of the Sistine, at once overwhelmed and humbled. The unique blue of the Lapis Lazuli which forms the background of The Last Judgement, the fingers of God and Man, nearly touching, they stand testimony to what a human being is capable of doing on his own once he sets his mind to it.

This is a must visit not only for art lovers and students, but everyone who is in Rome or in vicinity thereof.

I did my Sistine tour with Walks of Italy for the most intimate experience with Michelangelo’s genius.

More information & Tickets: Click here

What are the two books that inspired me the most?

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