During his time in Rome, Michelangelo charged the ancient city with works of incredible beauty. His sculptures, frescoes, and architecture still inspire a city-wide love affair.
And, his priceless work is on view at no cost to modern admirers. Angela K. Nickerson, author of A Journey into Michelangelo’s Rome, takes us on a very cheapo-friendly tour of Michelangelo’s Rome.
The Sistine Chapel: (Viale del Vaticano, at the Vatican Museums)
The Sistine Chapel, the ceiling of which is known as Michelangelo’s lifetime achievement, is free and open to the public on the last Sunday of each month. As Goethe once wrote, “Until you have seen the Sistine Chapel, you have no adequate conception of what man is capable of accomplishing.”
St. Peter’s Basilica: (Vatican City)
Michelangelo’s Rome ‘Pieta’, the piece that cemented the 24-year-old’s reputation as a gifted sculptor, occupies a chapel just inside the church’s entrance. Soaring over the central altar, Michelangelo’s dome marks his last great work. Late in Michelangelo’s life, he was charged with reorganizing the architectural design of St. Peter’s. For a small fee (€7; €4 if you just take the stairs), take an elevator to the roof and enjoy a spectacular view of the city. From the roof, take the 300-some steps up the dome and bask in a vision of Rome that Michelangelo himself did not live to see.
Basilica Di San Pietro in Vincoli: (Piazza di San Pietro in Vincoli 4a, Vatican City)
Just up the hill from the Colosseum sits a small, non-descript church called San Pietro in Vincoli. Inside is one of Michelangelo’s most controversial works, a sculpture that depicts Moses with full beard and horns. The statue, and two others (Leah and Rachel) are part of Pope Julius II’s tomb, a project that took Michelangelo 40 years to finish.
Farnese Palace: (250 Via Giulia)
Via Giulia is a renowned street in Rome, and here sits Michelangelo’s Farnese Palace (now the French Embassy), was never bulldozed despite Pope Julius II’s best efforts. Stop here for an afternoon cup of coffee or glass of vino. The piazza and fountains in front are some of the best, and most inspired, in all of Rome.
Santa Maria sopra Minerva: (around the corner from the Pantheon )
Santa Maria sopra Minerva hosts Michelangelo’s statue of a ‘Risen Christ’. Beloved and highly acclaimed in his day, Michelangelo’s depiction of Jesus—as regal, muscular and triumphant—is often overlooked.
Piazza del Campidoglio: (on Capitoline Hill)
When Rome granted Michelangelo citizenship in 1537, the ceremony was held in the mud at the top of the Capitoline Hill. A year later, Pope Paul III asked Michelangelo to redesign the hilltop. Michelangelo transformed its summit into a lovely piazza and redesigned the buildings there as well.
Basilica dei Santi Apostoli: (at Piazza dei Santissimi Apostoli)
When the elderly artist died, at 89-years of age, his funeral was held at Santi Apostoli church and was attended by the entire city including the pope himself. Then, under cover of night, his body was whisked away in a wagon of straw, to be buried in his beloved Florence. However, a plaque was erected at the church in his memory. (Cheapo tip: Knock at the monastery next door and ask about Michelangelo. The plaque with a portrait of the artist is in the monastery’s courtyard.)