GRAND TOUR. Protracted travel for pleasure was scarcely unknown in classical and medieval times, but it developed greatly in the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries, becoming part of the ideal education and image of the social elite as well as an important source of descriptive and imaginative literature and art. As tourism developed, its patterns became more regular, and the assumptions about where a tourist should go became more predictable. Literary conventions were also established. The term the "grand tour" reflects a subsequent sense that this was an ideal period of the fusion of tourism and social status as well as a contemporary desire to distinguish protracted and wide-ranging tourism from shorter trips.
The grand tour is commonly associated with aristocratic British travelers, more particularly with the eighteenth century. But travel for pleasure did not begin then, and it was not restricted to the British. There was a more general fascination with southern Europe among northern Europeans. The vast majority of those who had traveled to Italy over previous centuries had done so for reasons related to their work or their salvation. Soldiers and those seeking employment had shared the road with clerics discharging the tasks of the international church and pilgrims. Such travel was not incompatible with pleasure, and in some cases it fulfilled important cultural functions as travelers bought works of art or helped spread new tastes and cultural interests. This was not the same, however, as travel specifically and explicitly for personal fulfillment, both in terms of education and of pleasure, the two being seen as ideally linked in the exemplary literature of the period.
Such travel became more common in the seventeenth century, although it was affected by the religious (and political) tensions that followed the Protestant Reformation of the previous century. The war with Spain that had begun in 1585 ended in 1604, and England had only brief wars with France, Spain, and the Dutch over the following seventy years. It was no accident that the earl and countess of Arundel went to Italy in 1613–1614 or that a series of works on Italy, including Fynes Moryson's Itinerary (1617), appeared in the years after the Treaty of London of 1604.
However, divisions culminating in civil wars (1642–1646, 1648, 1688–1691) in the British Isles forced people to focus their time and funds on commitments at home and also made travel suspect as in some fashion indicating supposed political and religious sympathies. Concern about Stuart intentions in large part focused on the real and alleged crypto-Catholicism of the court, and this made visits to Italy particularly sensitive. The situation for tourists eased with the Stuart Restoration of 1660, and Richard Lassels, a Catholic priest who acted as a "bearleader" (traveling tutor), published in 1670 his important Voyage of Italy; or, A Compleat Journey through Italy.
The expansion of British tourism from 1660 was part of a wider pattern of elite cosmopolitan activity. Throughout Europe members of the elite traveled for pleasure in the late seventeenth century and the eighteenth century. The most popular destinations were France, which meant Paris, and Italy. Italy held several important advantages over Paris. The growing cult of the antique, which played a major role in the determination to see and immerse oneself in the experience and repute of the classical world, could not be furthered in Paris, although Paris was seen as the center of contemporary culture. There was little tourism to eastern Europe, Iberia, and Scandinavia let alone beyond Europe.
There was no cult of the countryside. Tourists traveled as rapidly as possible between major cities and regarded mountains with horror, not joy. The contrast with nineteenth-century tourism and its cult of the "sublime" dated from Romanticism toward the close of the eighteenth century, not earlier. The Italian cities offered a rich range of benefits, including pleasure (Venice), classical antiquity (Rome and its environs, the environs of Naples), Renaissance architecture and art (Florence), the splendors of baroque culture (Rome and Venice), opera (Milan and Naples), and warm weather (Naples). Once tourism had become appropriate and fashionable, increasing numbers traveled, a growth interrupted only by periods of war, when journeys, although not prohibited, were made more dangerous or inconvenient by increased disruption and lawlessness. The outbreak of the French Revolutionary War in 1792, however, led to a major break in tourism that was exacerbated when French armies overran Italy in 1796–1798. Thereafter tourism did not resume on any scale until after the final defeat of Napoleon in 1815.
See also Art: The Art Market and Collecting ; Italy ; Paris ; Travel and Travel Literature .
Black, Jeremy. The British Abroad: The Grand Tour in the Eighteenth Century. New York, 1992.
J. A. Cannon
H. Osborne (1970).