Tuesday, October 2, 2018

What to do in Italy

Frontispiece and title page to The Voyage of ItalyAh, the struggle of making sense of things! Think of the poor English gentleman setting out in the 1670s on the Grand Tour. Italy--so much to see, but what of it matters? What should he know when he returns home, cultured, worldly, and all grown up? If he had a good tutor along, things would be easier, but lacking that, a guide book might help.

Enter Richard Lassels, "Gent, who Travelled through Italy Five times, as Tutor to several of the English Nobility and Gentry," and his The Voyage of Italy (Paris, 1670). With nearly 700 pages of detailed information in a handy pocket-sized volume, he filled the eager traveler's need for a comprehensive education. Besides giving the reader a must-see list for each city, he evokes epic journeys of the past to instill a rich history into each place while giving the Grand Tour novice the sense of belonging to a great tradition:
Some twelve miles before we came to Rome, we saw the Cupola of St Peter's Church and were glad to see it a farr off, as the weary Trojans in Aeneas his company, were glad to see Italy after so much wandering...
To wander the streets of 17th-century Rome with Lassels, ask for Rare DG424.L337 1670.

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