Italy and the Grand Tour

Black, Jeremy. Italy and the Grand Tour. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003.

Reason read: I think a very common New Year’s resolution for some is to travel. Read in honor of traveling to Italy.

Italy and the Grand Tour provides the reader with a historical perspective on what it meant to visit Italy throughout the eighteenth century, all the while offering little tidbits of interesting facts (Thomas Cook had a travel company and the word bearleader meant guide, for example). Black is determined to analyze the fine line between cosmopolitanism and xenophobia which he insists is cultural but also difficult to determine based on first hand travel journals and letters. He showcases his points with a considerable myriad of quotations and glorious artwork.

Divided into logical sections covering the regions of Italy, accommodations, food, transport, cost, activities, society, religion, art, politics, Italy and the Grand Tour culminates in the chapter on the impact of Italy. Throughout it all, I found it interesting that some things never change in the world of worldly travel. For example, Black pointed out actual itineraries often differed from what had been planned due to spending too long in one area and not leaving enough time for another. Or getting tired of one place and leaving it sooner than planned. Not to mention weather delays and being waylaid by new friends. As if those things would not happen nowadays!
But, the best part of Italy and the Grand Tour was reading the journals and letters of the travelers. They could be Italy’s harshest critics with one word reviews like uninteresting, unsatisfactory, unimpressed, mean, miserable, disappointed, dirty, dismal, disagreeable, beastly, and filthy. I imagined the hell they would raise with those words on modern day social media.

Quote of a quote I liked, “I still persist in thinking Italy a country worth seeing but by no leans worth living in” (p 53). As said by Frederick, 2nd Viscount Bolingbroke.
Another quote, this time direct from author: “Venice was not the sole cockpit of sexual adventure” (p 122).

Author fact: Black has written many other books but they none are on my Challenge list.

Book trivia: the title comes from the term “grand tour” commonly associated with aristocratic British travelers; those who have the money, means and time to go gallivanting through the countryside.

Nancy said: Italy and the Grand Tour is a “nice historical perspective” (p 46).

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Ciao, Italia” (p 46).

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