Each year I bring groups of artists to Italy to paint and study the Italian Renaissance. One of the visits that moves the romantics among us to tears is the little-known sotterraneo under the Sagrestia Nuova at San Lorenzo. Here are Sorecently discovered wall drawings in the secret passageway where Michelangelo hid from the Medici for three days during the 1530 siege of Florence. Having sided with the Republic against the exiled Medici (another chapter in the love-hate relationship between Michelangelo and the most famous art patrons of all time), he feared the consequences of his perceived betrayal. While in hiding he took some pitch from a wall torch and, as he later wrote, "to forget my fears I fill these walls with drawings."
Standing among the drawings, sketches, and doodles (yes, even doodles!) that cover the walls and ceilings of this tiny cave-like structure, one feels as if one is on tour inside Michelangelo's mind. It is "virtual Michelangelo."
To enter, you must ask for an additional ticket to the sotterraneo when purchasing the standard ticket to the Medici Tombs. The ticket you receive will be a timed admission to the passageway. Upon entering the Sagrestia Nuova you will notice, at the far side of the room, a small, plain-looking door with a guard standing next to it. At the designated time present him with the second ticket and enter this most magical of places.
Fred Wessel is a professor of art at the Hartford Art School at the University of Hartford. He codirects workshops in Italy, bringing small groups of artists and artlovers to Tuscany and Umbria. His work is included in many private and public collections including the Museum of Modern Art, the Brooklyn Museum, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.