Piazza Navona in Rome
Piazza Navona in Rome
Kate Parkinson

After graduating from St Hilda’s Girls' Grammar School in Melbourne in 1985, Kate completed her Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree in 1988.

Since moving to Europe 20 years ago, Kate has studied art history (she is currently working on an MA in Art History with Monash University (Prato Campus, Tuscany) and has worked at a guide in Rome. Kate holds two prestigious Province of Rome qualifications: Rome Tour Guide and Rome Tour Director.

What sparked your interest in the study of art history?

My English uncle took me to the National Gallery in London when I was 8 years old. He talked to me about art and showed me his favourite things all over England. Years later took me to the Tate too and gifted me with books on art history. Living near Henly as a child and travelling in the UK and Europe, visiting museums and galleries was always something I really loved. My great grandmother was a pianist and poet and my aunt an historian so a love of art and history came to me by osmosis I think. My mother adores art too, and regularly took me to see exhibitions at the National Gallery of Victoria. A wonderful high school history teacher also helped cemented my love of art. If I live in Italy it is due to the late Bill Kent at Moansh University in Melbourne.

Why did you choose to study in Italy?

I chose to live in Italy for a year 26+ years ago in order to be able to travel to see the paintings and sculptures I had learned about at University whenever I liked. Slides of famous paintings were not quite the same as the real thing! I literally got off the plane in Rome (from Australia) in 1995 and plotted my return. After only a few months living here I knew that Italy was my place, my permanent home. Being able to see Michelangelo's Pieta', Caravaggio's Madonna and the Serpent, Donatello's David or Bellini's Madonnas whenever I wanted made my heart skip a beat. And still does! In Florence one winter I literally bumped into my Renaissance Florence Professor, Bill Kent from Monash University, Melbourne. He offered to work with me on my MA. I started by working on a history paper about Rione Testaccio here in Rome, then after years of trying, fell pregnant with twins. Sadly Bill has since died. I plan to continue formal study once my teens are at University. At present I continue to read art history for my own pleasure, and as prep for my tours of Rome, Assisi, Florence, Naples, Venice, Verona, Milan and Orvieto. I enjoy touring families too, and triggering a love of history and art in children. I have several clients whose children have got on to read art history after touring with me, including one young woman from New York who is presently reading art history at Oxford.

Who is your favourite painter or painting?

I was recently asked my favourite 3 painters, and that was difficult enough! I love so many works of art, most of them 13th to 17th century. As a younger woman I adored Filippo Lippi's Madonna and Child in the Uffizi, and my son is cìnamed Filippo. Donatello's David in the Bargello is also a favourite. 15th century Florentine art was my thing, although I have also always adored the Brancacci Chapel in Florence too. Domenico Ghirlandaio's frescoed chapels stand out as do Bellini's Madonna's in Venice. Perhaps Bellini is my favourite. His pictures make my heart beat faster. Andrea Mantegna's incredible Christ in the Brera in Milan is one of my all time favourite works. Piero della Francesca in Arezzo. Caravaggios in situ pictures in Santa Maria del Popolo and Sant' Agostino are awe inspiring. Titian's Sacred and Profane Love is beyond beautiful. This question is as difficult as asking which of my children is my favourite!

What do you love about Rome?

Rome e' casa mia, and it has felt like home since I first stepped off the plane in 1995, despite not having a drop of Italian blood in my veins. It is just where I am meant to be. There is so much that I love – the art, architecture, food, people, climate. The deep blue skies and colourful sunsets, the fountains. The thing I miss the most when I leave Rome is the heart stopping beauty of the buildings, a mixture of the architecture itself and the extraordinary layers of the city's history so visible everywhere. A girlfriend came to my neighbourhood for a coffee during a recent stay, and she marvelled at the 4 palazzi (buildings) set around our round piazza. One is melon and clotted cream. One is russett and milk white. One is salmon pink and cream cheese, the last is pumpkin and cream. The care for the choice of paint colours is definitely one of the things I cherish about Rome. Rome's visual, heart stopping beauty. I also love the fact that I drop my kids off at high school right at the Colosseum. Our school run is one of the best in the world, passing Gino Coppede's quartiere, the Aurelian walls, Piazza della Repubblica and the Colosseum.

Upcoming tours

Andante Guide Lecturer

(1 tour)
Activity Level
Celebrity Guest Lecturer Andrew Graham-Dixon
Andante Guide Lecturer Kate Parkinson
5 days
Price from
Next date
12 October 2022