If you think the North American tradition of backpacking through Europe in between high school and college was invented by the baby boomer generation in the 1960’s, think again. The tradition of expanding a young person’s mind by visiting historic centers of art, literature, philosophy and critical thought is not new at all, in fact it dates back to the boom period after the Renaissance.
The term ‘Grand Tour’ was coined by the Catholic priest and travel writer Richard Lassels (c.1603-68), who used it in his influential guidebook The Voyage of Italty (published 1670) to describe young lords travelling abroad to learn about art, architecture and antiquity.
How it all started
Wealth, stability, and political importance all increased, enabling more and more people to travel. Furthermore, while a Grand Tourist was likely to be a young British milord completing his education, many artists, designers, collectors, agents of the art trade, and large numbers of educated citizens, including many women, took prolonged trips.
During the eighteenth century in particular, touring became a popular way for aristocrats and gentry across Europe, and especially Britain, to finish their education. Young men received a classical education in Greek and Roman history, language, and literature throughout school and university, and then when they travelled abroad, a ‘cicerone’ guided them, and their formal education was imaginatively played out before their eyes.
Between 1764 and 1796, the British Grand Tour grew particularly fast. It was a golden age in terms of the number of travellers, tourist-painters, excavations, and export licences granted to British subjects visiting Rome. This coincided with a long period of peace and prosperity in.
A walk is a journey
Tourists would travel across the Alps to Turin after arriving in Paris and purchasing or renting a carriage at Mont Cenis. Visitors would time up their trip to attend popular events such as the Carnival in Venice or Holy Week in Rome. After touring Lucca, Florence, Siena, and Rome, tourists would travel to Naples and then return to Rome via Loreto, Ancona, and Ravenna on their way back north. Som extended their travels to other European capitals, some returned home.
It’s different now
These days travels from across the world flock to Europe in the summer to backpack their way across history. It’s a great way for people to expand their horizons and have a lot of fun too. I guess some things never change.