For members of the social elite in eighteenth-century England, extended travel for pleasure came to be considered part of an ideal education as well as an important symbol of social status. Italy, and especially Rome—a fashionable, exciting, and comfortable city—became the focus of such early tourists’ interest. In this distinctive book, historian Jeremy Black recreates the actual tourist experiences of those who traveled to Italy on a Grand Tour. Relying on the private diaries and personal letters of travelers, rather than on the self-conscious accounts of literary travelers who wrote for wider audiences, the book presents a fresh and authentic picture of how British tourists experienced Italy, its landscapes, women, food, music, Catholicism, and more.
Using material from archives across Britain and a generous selection of illustrations, the book highlights the discrepancy between the idealized view of the Grand Tour and its reality: what people were meant to do was not necessarily what they did, what the guide books described as splendid was not always so perceived. Black discusses what Italian experiences meant to British visitors, and he considers the effects of tourism on British culture during this most exciting of centuries.