The tradition declined as enthusiasm for neo-classical culture waned, and with the advent of accessible rail and steamship travel—an era in which Thomas Cook made the "Cook's Tour" of early mass tourism a byword.
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Three hundred years ago, wealthy young Englishmen began taking a post- Oxbridge trek through France and Italy in search of art, culture and the roots of Western civilization. With nearly unlimited funds, aristocratic connections and months or years to roam, they commissioned paintings , perfected their language skills and mingled with the upper crust of the Continent.
The primary value of the Grand Tour lay in its exposure to the cultural legacy of classical antiquity and the Renaissance , and to the aristocratic and fashionably polite society of the European continent. In addition, it provided the only opportunity to view specific works of art, and possibly the only chance to hear certain music. A Grand Tour could last anywhere from several months to several years. It was commonly undertaken in the company of a Cicerone , a knowledgeable guide or tutor.
The Grand Tour had more than superficial cultural importance; as socialist historian E. Thompson stated, "ruling-class control in the 18th century was located primarily in a cultural hegemony , and only secondarily in an expression of economic or physical military power. The legacy of the Grand Tour lives on to the modern day and is still evident in works of travel and literature. From its aristocratic origins and the permutations of sentimental and romantic travel to the age of tourism and globalization, the Grand Tour still influences the destinations tourists choose and shapes the ideas of culture and sophistication that surround the act of travel.
In essence, the Grand Tour was neither a scholarly pilgrimage nor a religious one,  though a pleasurable stay in Venice and a residence in Rome were essential. Catholic Grand Tourists followed the same routes as Protestant Whigs. Since the 17th century, a tour to such places was also considered essential for budding artists to understand proper painting and sculpture techniques, though the trappings of the Grand Tour—valets and coachmen, perhaps a cook, certainly a " bear-leader " or scholarly guide—were beyond their reach.
The advent of popular guides, such as the book An Account of Some of the Statues, Bas-Reliefs, Drawings, and Pictures in Italy published in by Jonathan Richardson and his son Jonathan Richardson the Younger , did much to popularise such trips, and following the artists themselves, the elite considered travel to such centres as necessary rites of passage. For gentlemen, some works of art were essential to demonstrate the breadth and polish they had received from their tour. In Rome, antiquaries like Thomas Jenkins were also dealers and were able to sell and advise on the purchase of marbles; their price would rise if it were known that the Tourists were interested.
Coins and medals , which formed more portable souvenirs and a respected gentleman's guide to ancient history were also popular. Pompeo Batoni made a career of painting the English milordi posed with graceful ease among Roman antiquities. Many continued on to Naples , where they also viewed Herculaneum and Pompeii , but few ventured far into Southern Italy , and fewer still to Greece , then still under Turkish rule.
Rome for many centuries had already been the destination of pilgrims, especially during Jubilee when European clergy visited the Seven Pilgrim Churches of Rome. In Britain, Thomas Coryat 's travel book Coryat's Crudities , published during the Twelve Years' Truce , was an early influence on the Grand Tour but it was the far more extensive tour through Italy as far as Naples undertaken by the 'Collector' Earl of Arundel , with his wife and children in —14 that established the most significant precedent.
This is partly because he asked Inigo Jones , not yet established as an architect but already known as a 'great traveller' and masque designer, to act as his cicerone guide. According to the Oxford English Dictionary , the first recorded use of the term perhaps its introduction to English was by Richard Lassels c. The idea of travelling for the sake of curiosity and learning was a developing idea in the 17th century. With John Locke 's Essay Concerning Human Understanding , it was argued, and widely accepted, that knowledge comes entirely from the external senses, that what one knows comes from the physical stimuli to which one has been exposed.
Thus, one could "use up" the environment, taking from it all it offers, requiring a change of place. Travel, therefore, was necessary for one to develop the mind and expand knowledge of the world.
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As a young man at the outset of his account of a repeat Grand Tour, the historian Edward Gibbon remarked that "According to the law of custom, and perhaps of reason, foreign travel completes the education of an English gentleman. On the eve of the Romantic era he played a significant part in introducing, William Beckford wrote a vivid account of his Grand Tour that made Gibbon's unadventurous Italian tour look distinctly conventional.
The typical 18th-century stance was that of the studious observer travelling through foreign lands reporting his findings on human nature for those unfortunates who stayed at home. Recounting one's observations to society at large to increase its welfare was considered an obligation; the Grand Tour flourished in this mindset. The Grand Tour offered a liberal education , and the opportunity to acquire things otherwise unavailable, lending an air of accomplishment and prestige to the traveller.
Grand Tourists would return with crates full of books, works of art, scientific instruments, and cultural artefacts — from snuff boxes and paperweights, to altars, fountains, and statuary — to be displayed in libraries, cabinets , gardens, drawing rooms , and galleries built for that purpose. The trappings of the Grand Tour, especially portraits of the traveller painted in continental settings, became the obligatory emblems of worldliness, gravitas and influence. Artists who particularly thrived on the Grand Tour market included Carlo Maratti , who was first patronised by John Evelyn as early as ,  Pompeo Batoni the portraitist , and the vedutisti such as Canaletto , Pannini and Guardi.
The less well-off could return with an album of Piranesi etchings. The "perhaps" in Gibbon's opening remark cast an ironic shadow over his resounding statement. Spanish lordly. Italian amorous. German clownish. Also worth noticing is that the Grand Tour not only fostered stereotypes of the countries visited but also led to a dynamic of contrast between northern and southern Europe. By constantly depicting Italy as a "picturesque place", the travellers also unconsciously degraded Italy as a place of backwardness.
After the advent of steam-powered transportation around , the Grand Tour custom continued, but it was of a qualitative difference — cheaper to undertake, safer, easier, open to anyone. During much of the 19th century, most educated young men of privilege undertook the Grand Tour. Germany and Switzerland came to be included in a more broadly defined circuit.
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Later, it became fashionable for young women as well; a trip to Italy, with a spinster aunt as chaperone , was part of the upper-class woman's education, as in E. Forster 's novel A Room with a View. British travellers were far from alone on the roads of Europe. On the contrary, from the midth century the grand tour was established as an ideal way to finish off the education of young men in countries such as Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland and Sweden. Recent scholarship on the Swedish aristocracy has demonstrated that Swedish aristocrats, though being relatively poorer than their British peers, from around and onwards in many ways acted as their British counterparts.
After studies at one or two renowned universities, preferably those of Leiden and Heidelberg, the Swedish grand tourists set off to France and Italy, where they spent time in Paris, Rome and Venice and completed the original grand tour on the French countryside. From there the tourist, usually accompanied by a tutor known colloquially as a " bear-leader " and if wealthy enough a troop of servants, could rent or acquire a coach which could be resold in any city - as in Giacomo Casanova 's travels - or disassembled and packed across the Alps , or he could opt to make the trip by riverboat as far as the Alps, either travelling up the Seine to Paris, or up the Rhine to Basel.
Upon hiring a French-speaking guide, as French was the dominant language of the elite in Europe during the 17th and 18th centuries, the tourist and his entourage would travel to Paris. There the traveller might undertake lessons in French, dancing , fencing , and riding.
The appeal of Paris lay in the sophisticated language and manners of French high society, including courtly behavior and fashion. This served to polish the young man's manners in preparation for a leadership position at home, often in government or diplomacy. From Paris he would typically sojourn in urban Switzerland , often in Geneva the cradle of the Protestant Reformation or Lausanne. From there the traveller would endure a difficult crossing over the Alps such as at the Great St Bernard Pass , which required dismantling the carriage and larger luggage.
Once in Italy , the tourist would visit Turin and sometimes Milan , then might spend a few months in Florence , where there was a considerable Anglo-Italian society accessible to travelling Englishmen "of quality" and where the Tribuna of the Uffizi gallery brought together in one space the monuments of High Renaissance paintings and Roman sculpture , with side trips to Pisa , then move on to Padua ,  Bologna , and Venice.
Frequently asked questions
The British idea of Venice as the "locus of decadent Italianate allure" made it an epitome and cultural setpiece of the Grand Tour. From Venice the traveller went to Rome to study the ancient ruins and the masterpieces of painting, sculpture, and architecture of Rome's Medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque periods. Some travellers also visited Naples to study music, and after the midth century to appreciate the recently discovered archaeological sites of Herculaneum and Pompeii ,  and perhaps for the adventurous an ascent of Mount Vesuvius.
Later in the period, the more adventurous, especially if provided with a yacht , might attempt Sicily the site of Greek ruins , Malta  or even Greece itself. But Naples — or later Paestum further south — was the usual terminus. From here the traveller traversed the Alps heading north through to the German-speaking parts of Europe. Rugby union.
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Old-Style Travel Agents Still Alive and Kicking, Despite Numerous Predictions of Their Demise
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