Grand Tour

Grand Tour

The Grand Tour was the traditional travel of Europe undertaken by mainly upper-class European young men of means. The custom flourished from about 1660 until the advent of mass railroad transit in the 1840s, and was associated with a standard itinerary.

According to the "Oxford English Dictionary", the term was coined by Richard Lassels (c 1603-1668), an expatriate Roman Catholic priest who wrote "The Voyage of Italy", which was published posthumously in Paris in 1670 and then in London. [Anthony Wood reported that the book was "esteemed the best and surest Guide or Tutor for young men of his Time."] Lassels' introduction listed four areas in which travel furnished "an accomplished, consummate Traveller": The intellectual, the social, the ethical (by the opportunity of drawing moral instruction from all the traveller saw), and the political.

The Grand Tour served as an education rite of passage by those who took the Tour. Primarily associated with Britain (particularly the British nobility and wealthy gentry), similar trips were made by wealthy young men of Protestant Northern European nations on the Continent. (In general, the French looked to the salons of Paris and Versailles instead, to provide a cultured polish to its gilded youth and reinforce standards of taste.) "The New York Times" described the Grand Tour in this way: "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." [Gross, Matt. " [ Lessons From the Frugal Grand Tour] ." "New York Times" 5 September 2008.]

The primary value of the Grand Tour lay in the exposure both to the cultural legacy of classical antiquity and the Renaissance, and to the aristocratic and fashionable society of the European continent. A grand tour could last from several months to several years. It was commonly undertaken in the company of a knowledgeable guide or tutor. The Grand Tour had more than superficial cultural importance; as E.P. 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." [Thompson, "The Making of the English Working Class" 1991:43.]

Published accounts

Published (and often polished) accounts of personal experiences on the Grand Tour provide illuminating detail and a first-hand perspective of the Great Tour. Of some accounts offered in their own lifetimes, Jeremy Black [Black, "Fragments from the Grand Tour" "The Huntington Library Quarterly" 53.4 (Autumn 1990:337-341) p 338.] detects the element of literary artifice in these and cautions that they should be approached as travel literature rather than unvarnished accounts; he instances Joseph Addison, John Andrews, [Andrews, "A Comparative View of the French and English Nations in their Manners, Politics, and Literature", London, 1785.] William Thomas Beckford, William Coxe, [Coxe, "Sketches of the Natural, Political and Civil State of Switzerland" London, 1779; "Travels into Poland, Russia, Sweden and Denmark London, 1784; "Travels in Switzerland" London, 1789. Coxe's travels range far from the Grand Tour pattern.] Elizabeth Craven, [Craven, "A Journey through the Crimea to Constantinople" London 1789.] John Moore, tutor to successive dukes of Hamilton, [Moore, "A View of Society and Manners in Italy; with Anecdotes relating to some Eminent Characters" London, 1781] Samuel Jackson Pratt, Tobias Smollett, Philip Thicknesse, [Thicknesse, "A Year's Journey through France and Part of Spain", London, 1777.] and Arthur Young.

Travel itinerary

The most common itinerary of the Grand Tour [See Fussell (1987), Buzard (2002), Bohls and Duncan (2005)] shifted across generation in the cities it embraced, but the tourist usually began in Dover, England and crossed the English Channel to Calais in France. From there the tourist, usually accompanied by a tutor (known colloquially as a "bear-leader") and if wealthy enough a league of servants, would acquire a coach (which would be disassembled and packed across the Alps, as in Giacomo Casanova's travels, and then resold on completion) and other travel and transportation needs.

Upon hiring a French-speaking guide, 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. Ostensibly this served the purpose of preparing the young man for a leadership position at home, often in government or diplomacy.

From Paris he would typically go to urban Switzerland for a while, often to Geneva (the cradle of the Protestant Reformation) or Lausanne. (Alpinism (mountaineering) was a development of the 19th century.) From there the traveller would endure a difficult crossing over the Alps into northern Italy (such as at St. Bernard Pass), which included dismantling the carriage and luggage. If wealthy enough, he might be carried over the hard terrain by servants.

Once in Italy the tourist would visit Turin (and, less often, Milan), then might spend a few months in Florence, where there was a considerable Anglo-Italian society accessible to traveling Englishmen "of quality" and where the "Tribuna" of the Uffizi brought together in one space the monuments of High Renaissance paintings and Roman sculptures that would inspire picture galleries dressed with antiquities at home, with side trips to Pisa, then move on to Padua [The "Registro dei viaggiatori inglesi in Italia", 1618-1765, consists of 2038 autograph signatures of English and Scottish visitors, some of them scholars, to be sure. (J. Isaacs, "The Earl of Rochester's Grand Tour" "The Review of English Studies" 3. 9 [January 1927:75-76] ).] , Bologna, and Venice. The British idea of Venice as the "locus of decadent Italianate allure" made it an epitome and cultural setpiece of the Grand Tour. [Redford, Bruce. " [ Venice and the Grand Tour] ". Yale University Press: 1996.] [Eglin, John. " [ Venice Transfigured: The Myth of Venice in British Culture, 1660-1797] ". Macmillan: 2001.]

From Venice the traveller went to Rome to study the ruins of ancient Rome. Some travelers also visited Naples to study music, and (after the mid-18th century) to appreciate the recently-discovered archaeological sites of Herculaneum and Pompeii and perhaps for the adventurous thrilling 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) 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. The traveller might stop first in Innsbruck before visiting Berlin, Dresden, Vienna and Potsdam, with perhaps some study time at the universities in Munich or Heidelberg. From then travelers visited Holland and Flanders (with more gallery-going and art appreciation) before returning across the Channel to England.


Thomas Coryat's travel book "Coryat's Crudities" (1611) was an early influence on the Grand Tour. According to the "Oxford English Dictionary", the first recorded use of the term (perhaps its introduction to English) was by Richard Lassels in his book "An Italian Voyage" (1670).

The idea of traveling for the sake of curiosity and learning was a developing idea in the 17th century. With John Locke's "Essay Concerning Human Understanding" (1690) 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. 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." Consciously adapted for intellectual self-improvement, Gibbons was "revisiting the Continent on a larger and more liberal plan"; most Grand Tourists did not pause more than briefly in libraries.

The typical 18th century sentiment was that of the studious observer traveling through foreign lands reporting his findings on human nature for those unfortunate to have stayed home. Recounting ones' observations to society at large to increase its welfare was considered an obligation; the Grand Tour flourished in this mindset. [Paul Fussell (1987), p. 129.]

The Grand Tour not only provided a liberal education but allowed those who could afford it the opportunity to buy things otherwise unavailable at home, and it thus increased participants' prestige and standing. Grand Tourists would return with crates of art, books, pictures, sculpture, and items of culture, which would be displayed in libraries, cabinets, gardens, and drawing rooms, as well as the galleries built purposively for their display; The Grand Tour became a symbol of wealth and freedom. Artists who especially thrived on Grand Tourists included 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. [Noted by Redford 1996, Preface.] Critics of the Grand Tour derided its lack of adventure. "The tour of Europe is a paltry thing", said one 18th century critic, "a tame, uniform, unvaried prospect".Bohls & Duncan (2005)] The Grand Tour was said to re-enforce the old preconceptions and prejudices about national characteristics, as Jean Gailhard's "Compleat Gentleman" (1678) observes: "French courteous. Spanish lordly. Italian amorous. German clownish." The deep suspicion with which Tour was viewed at home in England, where it was feared that the very experiences that completed the British gentleman might well undo him, were epitomised in the sarcastic nativist view of the ostentatiously "well-travelled" maccaroni of the 1760s and 70s.

After the arrival of mass transit, around 1825, 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. Later, it became fashionable for young women as well; a trip to Italy, with a spinster aunt chaperon, was part of the upper-class woman's education, as in E.M. Forster's novel "A Room with a View".

The Grand Tour on television

In 2005, British art historian Brian Sewell followed in the footsteps of the Grand Tourist for a 10 part television series 'Brian Sewell's Grand Tour'. Produced by UK's Channel Five, Sewell travelled across Italy by car stopping off in Rome, Florence, Vesuvius, Naples, Pompeii, Turin, Milan, Cremona, Siena, Bologna, Vicenza, Paestum, Urbino, Tivoli. His journey concluded in Venice at a masked ball.

In 1998, the BBC produced an art history series 'Sister Wendy's Grand Tour' presented by Carmelite nun Sister Wendy. Ostensibly an art history series, the journey takes her from Madrid to St. Petersburg with stop offs to see the great masterpieces.

ee also

*Pop-culture tourism
*Gap year
*Study abroad



*Elizabeth Bohls and Ian Duncan, ed. (2005). "Travel Writing 1700-1830 : An Anthology". Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-284051-7
*James Buzard (2002), "The Grand Tour and after (1660-1840)", in "The Cambridge Companion to Travel Writing". ISBN 0-521-78140-X
*Paul Fussell (1987), "The Eighteenth Century and the Grand Tour", in "The Norton Book of Travel", ISBN 0-393-02481-4
*Edward Chaney (1985), "The Grand Tour and the Great Rebellion: Richard Lassels and 'The Voyage of Italy' in the seventeenth century"(CIRVI, Geneva-Turin, 1985.
*Edward Chaney (2004), "Richard Lassels": entry in the "Oxford Dictionary of National Biography".
*Edward Chaney, "The Evolution of the Grand Tour: Anglo-Italian Cultural Relations since the Renaissance" (Frank Cass, London and Portland OR, 1998; revised edition 2000).
*Edward Chaney ed. (2003), "The Evolution of English Collecting" (Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 2003).
*Geoffrey Trease, "The Grand Tour" (Yale University Prewss) 1991.
*Andrew Witon and Maria Bignamini, "Grand Tour: The Lure of Italy in the Eighteenth-Century".

External links

* [ The Grand Tour]
* [ Grand Tour online at the Getty Museum]
* [ "Grand Tour" an exhibition project of the Swedish artist Matts Leiderstam]
* [ Voyagers and Voyeurs - Travellers in 19th century France, an anthology]
* [ Contemporary Grand Tour in Italy, Pictures and quotes]

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Grand Tour — Grand Tours also grand tour N COUNT The Grand Tour was a journey round the main cities of Europe that young men from rich families used to make as part of their education. Every traveller on the Grand Tour had to visit Florence …   English dictionary

  • grand tour — n 1.) the grand tour a trip round Europe made in the past by young British or American people from rich families as part of their education 2.) an occasion when someone takes you around a building to show it to you used humorously ▪ They took us… …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • grand tour — noun count OFTEN HUMOROUS a visit in which someone shows you all the parts of a building or area a. the grand tour or the Grand Tour a trip to the most important cities in Europe that young men from rich families made in the past …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • grand tour — n. 1. a tour of continental Europe formerly taken by young men of the British aristocracy to complete their education 2. any tour like this 3. a conducted inspection tour, as of a building …   English World dictionary

  • grand tour — grand′ tour′ n. 1) an extended tour of Europe, formerly regarded as beneficial to young British gentlemen 2) an extended informative tour …   From formal English to slang

  • grand tour — ► NOUN ▪ a cultural tour of Europe formerly undertaken by upper class young men …   English terms dictionary

  • Grand Tour — British connaisseurs in Rome, Gemälde von James Russel, ca. 1750 …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Grand tour — British connaisseurs in Rome, Gemälde von James Russel, ca. 1750 Bildergalerie des antiken Rom, Gemälde von Giovanni Paolo Pannini, 1757 …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Grand Tour — Pour les articles homonymes, voir Grand tour (homonymie). Goethe dans la campagne romaine, par Tischbein Le Grand Tour …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Grand Tour — Este artículo o sección necesita referencias que aparezcan en una publicación acreditada, como revistas especializadas, monografías, prensa diaria o páginas de Internet fidedignas. Puedes añadirlas así o avisar …   Wikipedia Español

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