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Episode
156

The Grand Tour

May 7, 2021
History
-
23
minutes
Great Britain
The British Empire
Italy
European history
British class system
18th Century
Tourism

“A man who has not been in Italy, is always conscious of an inferiority, from his not having seen what it is expected a man should see.”

It was the trip of a lifetime, where young, aristocratic British men would travel across Europe and open their eyes to new worlds.

Discover why these men would do this, how they travelled, what they got up to, and what it tells us about our relationship with tourism today.

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Transcript

[00:00:00] Hello, hello hello, and welcome to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English. 

[00:00:11] The show where you can listen to fascinating stories, and learn weird and wonderful things about the world at the same time as improving your English.

[00:00:21] I'm Alastair Budge and today we are going to be talking about the time in the 17th and 18th centuries where young, aristocratic British men used to go on long tours through Europe, taking in art, culture, and all sorts of other pleasures that were either unavailable, or not allowed, back at home.

[00:00:43] The name of this tradition was The Grand Tour.

[00:00:46] It is a fascinating topic, and we’ll learn about where exactly these men went, and why, how they travelled, what they did, and what the goal was for such an adventure.

[00:00:59] Before we get right into today’s episode, I want to remind you that you can become a member of Leonardo English and follow along with the subtitles, the transcript and its key vocabulary over on the website, which is leonardoenglish.com.

[00:01:14] Membership of Leonardo English gives you access to all of our learning materials, all of our bonus episodes, so that’s more than 150 different episodes now, as well as two new ones every week, plus access to our awesome private community where we do live events, challenges, and much, much more.

[00:01:34] Our community now has members from over 50 countries, and it's my mission to make it the most interesting place for curious people like you to improve their English.

[00:01:44] 
So,I would love for you to join me if that is of interest, - and I can't see a reason why it wouldn't be - then the place to go to is leonardoenglish.com.

[00:01:55] So, The Grand Tour.

[00:01:58] It’s a particularly interesting subject to us today for two reasons.

[00:02:04] Firstly, as for many of us, especially in Europe, in normal times international travel has changed from a luxury to a normality. 

[00:02:15] Cheap flights, smartphones, things like Airbnb mean that travelling from one country to another is something that can be done relatively cheaply, easily, and in a short period of time. 

[00:02:29] The Grand Tour was the complete opposite.

[00:02:32] And secondly, for much of the last year, and for who knows how much longer, international travel has been something that has been out of reach for most of us, it is something that we simply haven’t been able to do. 

[00:02:46] So for those of you longing for foreign trips, perhaps this episode will give you some inspiration, and make you think a little bit more about the kind of trips that you might like to take.

[00:02:59] Let’s start with some dates.

[00:03:01] The expression “Grand Tour” was coined – or used for the first time – in 1670 by an Englishman called Richard Lassels, who wrote one of the early guidebooks, ‘The Voyage of Italy’.

[00:03:16] Lassels was describing a phenomenon which was becoming increasingly common in Britain of the 17th century and continued right through to the start of railways in the 1840s, but with a long, unexpected break brought about by the French Revolution and subsequent Napoleonic Wars [so, the period from 1789–1815]. 

[00:03:40] This phenomenon, of The Grand Tour, was one of a large, extended cultural trip that became an expectation initially for the very wealthiest of British aristocrats, for the people right at the top of society. 

[00:03:57] Some Swedish and Germans took part as well, and towards the final stages of the Grand Tour, some wealthy Americans also participated, but in general it was very much a British affair.

[00:04:12] Young gentlemen, and it was mainly men, not women, would set off from London on this mighty adventure.

[00:04:20] They would travel by horse and carriage, with a large group of servants behind them. 

[00:04:26] The routes would vary, but they would typically go south to Paris, some would stop off in The Netherlands, some to Switzerland and Germany, and the more adventurous might go to Spain, Greece, or Turkey. 

[00:04:41] But the most important destination, and the place they could not miss, was Italy.

[00:04:49] Why, you might ask?

[00:04:51] Well, the reasons were similar, but slightly different to the reasons that most modern tourists go to Italy.

[00:04:59] The education of the British upper classes had always been based on a rigorous study of Latin and Greek, with an accompanying knowledge of classical antiquity

[00:05:11] It was through a knowledge of the classics that an aristocratic British man was expected to understand the world, and going to Italy was a way of experiencing it all firsthand.

[00:05:24] Most young men of the aristocratic or upper-class would not be expected to go to university – or if so, it was mainly for reasons that were more to do with pleasure and social connections, rather than study. 

[00:05:40] However, especially because of the influence of Enlightenment writers such as John Locke, who emphasised the importance of learning through experience, the attraction of travelling abroad grew; how much better, they thought, to see these classical wonders and other beautiful things firsthand

[00:06:02] There’s a quotation from the famous Dr Samuel Johnson [who was the author of the most famous English Dictionary] that sums it up quite nicely. 

[00:06:13] He wrote, in 1776:

[00:06:15] “A man who has not been in Italy, is always conscious of an inferiority, from his not having seen what it is expected a man should see.”

[00:06:26] So, there was this expectation that a man should see Italy, he should go and witness the great works of art, the buildings, so that he could understand ancient Rome, and therefore, the world.

[00:06:39] To do this, he needed to go there, of course, but most of these young travellers would also be accompanied by a private tutor, called a Cicerone, a guide who would educate these young men and explain these great works to them.

[00:06:55] These guides would accompany the young men for their whole trip, which would typically take about 2 years. 

[00:07:02] We’re not talking about having a private guide for a couple of hours in a museum - we’re talking about a full, private tutor for two entire years.

[00:07:13] As well as visiting these great sights, these young men would often be expected to buy certain things to take home, as souvenirs.

[00:07:22] But, again, we're not talking about mini replicas of the Colosseum or postcards, they would often buy large marble statues, Renaissance paintings, and real Roman antiquities.

[00:07:36] Much like some people nowadays might collect fridge magnets, or might buy a t-shirt from every city they travel to, these young men might buy full statues and works of art to take back home and display in their large houses.

[00:07:53] One of the early Grand Tourists, a man called Thomas Howard, otherwise known as the 14th Earl of Arundel, set off in 1613. 

[00:08:03] By the time that he died in 1646 he had 700 paintings that he had collected during his travels, and had earned the nickname “The Collector Earl”.

[00:08:16] Since there were few museums anywhere in Europe before the close of the eighteenth century, Grand Tourists often saw paintings and sculptures by gaining admission to private collections, and many were eager to acquire examples of Greco-Roman and Italian art for their own collections. 

[00:08:37] There was already a well-organised system in the major Grand Tour city destinations of Rome and Venice that ensured that these wealthy visitors could buy the fine paintings of the places that they had visited. 

[00:08:51] These oil paintings were even given a name in Italian – “vedute” or what they’d seen; the famous Venetian painter Canaletto specialised in such city view oil paintings. 

[00:09:05] In addition they could have grandiose paintings taken of themselves, sometimes standing by notable works of art. 

[00:09:15] Although the costs involved are very different, the motivation would have been similar to anyone today who takes a picture of themselves on holiday and shares it on Instagram. 

[00:09:27] It’s basically the 17th or 18th century equivalent of taking a selfie and putting it on social media, albeit a much more expensive one.

[00:09:38] When they returned to Britain, of course these young Grand Tourists would want to put their paintings and statues on display, for everyone to see, and you can trace the influence that various Italian styles have had on British architecture - it is due in a large part to these Grand Tourists returning with objects they had bought on their travels.

[00:10:02] Now, if this all sounds incredibly sophisticated, and you are thinking that it’s amazing that these young men were so interested in art and culture, when young people today aren’t travelling for the same cultural reasons, there is another aspect to The Grand Tour that was a big attraction, and expectation, for these young men.

[00:10:25] These young men were very rich, they had no responsibilities, and were very far away from home, and from anyone they knew. 

[00:10:35] When they returned home, they would typically get married to another aristocratic young woman, and return to society life, so it does not take much imagination to think that many took their time on the Grand Tour to experience pleasures that were not so readily available at home.

[00:10:55] Gambling, sex, and excessive drinking were expectations for these young men, and there are multiple reports of men striking up relationships with local women, and taking advantage of the fact that they were so far away from home and nobody would know what they got up to.

[00:11:15] Of all the grand tourists, the most notorious pleasure-seeker, who acquired status and fame equivalent to the most outrageous of rock stars was the poet Lord Byron. 

[00:11:29] Not long after the end of the Napoleonic Wars, in 1815, he set off to travel in Italy and in particular to live in Venice, where his multiple affairs, often with the wives of prominent Venetian citizens, were written up in his letters which he sent home. 

[00:11:47] A footnote here has to do with the long-term influence of the classical world of Italy and Greece on the British imagination. 

[00:11:56] Byron’s love of these countries and their civilisations, which was shared by fellow, radical poet, Percy Shelley, became influential, not only in the support that these two dashing poets gave to the nationalist liberation movements of the first few decades of the 19th century, but the affection and high standing in which the British upper classes held Greek civilisation in particular. 

[00:12:23] This is thought to have been a major factor behind the British support of Greek independence, which was crucial in enabling Greece to break free from Ottoman rule and secure its independence in 1830.

[00:12:38] Now, you will be, I am sure, wondering about some of the practicalities of the whole business. 

[00:12:44] How did they actually get from one city to another? 

[00:12:48] Where did they stay? 

[00:12:49] What did they do on a daily basis? 

[00:12:52] How was tourism different?

[00:12:55] Although the Grand Tour was only possible for men with considerable wealth and leisure, considerable free time, the actual travelling itself would not have been comfortable. 

[00:13:08] To give you some indication of how long it would take to cover one stage of the journey, the passage from London to Paris would take at least three days – now, you can do the same trip in just over two hours on the Eurostar. 

[00:13:23] In general, a Grand Tourist could expect to cover a maximum of 20 miles each day, around 30 kilometres a day. 

[00:13:31] Although, when in the major cities, the grand tourist would rent luxurious accommodation, he had to put up with whatever was available when in transit, when he was on the road. 

[00:13:43] There are many accounts of fierce arguments about costs, as the hosts – the innkeepers or hoteliers would understandably be wanting to charge as much as possible, given the wealth of their guests. 

[00:13:57] Perhaps the most dramatic stage in the journey was crossing the Alps: the most luxurious way of doing this was to hire a sedan chair – a chair on sticks - which was carried by at least four strong men, in which you would be carried via Mont Cenis, which is close to the well-known ski resort, Val d’Isère.

[00:14:20] Security was also an issue. 

[00:14:22] As you can imagine, given how easily identifiable these rich people were, they would be targeted by thieves and people seeking to trick them out of their money. 

[00:14:33] As well as often hiring local guides and protectors, they tried to avoid carrying too much cash on them, but relied on what were called letters of credit, provided by their bank in London and enabling bankers in Rome or Venice to issue them with local currency.

[00:14:53] Having crossed the Alps and full of anticipation for Italy’s treasures, both animate and inanimate, they proceeded first to Turin or Milan. 

[00:15:04] Tourists would aim for famous festivals such as the Carnival in Venice each early Spring or Holy Week in Rome. 

[00:15:12] They would then make their way slowly south through Lucca, Florence, Siena and Rome. 

[00:15:19] Naples became a popular destination after the discovery and excavations of Herculaneum and Pompeii in 1738 and 1748. 

[00:15:30] In the latter part of the 18th century, the tourists had the additional excitement of seeing the volcano at Mount Etna erupting, and they would return to Britain with samples of lava

[00:15:45] A different attraction in the last two decades of the 18th century was provided by the lavish entertainment of the British ambassador in Naples, Sir William Hamilton, and his beautiful young wife, Lady Emma Hamilton. 

[00:16:00] She not only became the mistress of the naval commander and hero, Horatio Nelson, but sensationally lived with him and her diplomatic husband. 

[00:16:11] Sometimes, the grand tourists were able to load their paintings and sculptures onto a convenient British sailing ship at Naples and return home by sea; more often than not they would return on land, revisiting Rome before heading to Venice through cities such as Loreto, Ancona and Ravenna. 

[00:16:33] Tourists would leave Italy through Vicenza, Verona, Mantua, Bologna, Modena, Parma, Milan, and Turin.

[00:16:41] And then the return itinerary might also include Vienna, Dresden, Berlin and Flanders.

[00:16:48] The grand tour had many consequences for British life, and laid some of the groundwork for the kind of tourism that exists today. 

[00:16:59] One consequence that is rarely mentioned happened because of the restrictions brought about by the Napoleonic Wars. 

[00:17:07] Because the grand tourists were barred from the European continent, and the habit of touring had been established over the previous hundred years, aristocratic Brits had to visit their own country, they had to stay in Great Britain 

[00:17:22] This coincided with the beginnings of the Romantic movement in poetry which celebrated the beauty of wild and mountainous places; therefore the British upper classes started visiting the Lake District in Northern England – a rugged wild and uncultivated place celebrated particularly in the inspiring poetry of William Wordsworth. 

[00:17:46] They also visited some of the wonders of the early Industrial Revolution – bridges and factories in particular. 

[00:17:54] This boost to domestic tourism will have been a factor, along with the start of railways, in the beginnings of mass tourism, initially pioneered by a man called Thomas Cook whose railway tours of Italy were amongst the first foreign holidays offered to groups of middle-class tourists in 1864.

[00:18:16] The Grand Tour also had a profound influence on the development of British artistic taste, affecting everything from the rise of the great country house to such products as Wedgewood pottery with its classical designs. 

[00:18:32] Neoclassical architecture, imported from Italy, affected not only domestic architecture in the UK but also, as the British Empire grew, the architecture of its far-off colonies, such as India and South Africa.

[00:18:46] At a human level, these wealthy young men returned to the homes, sometimes carrying with them unfortunate and debilitating diseases acquired as a result of their adventures; perhaps the sketchbooks and diaries that they had taken had received less attention than was ideal, but the civilising effect of contact with the great artefacts of the classical and Renaissance world will, for many of them, have improved their emotional life – their sensibility, to use a word that was fashionable at the time for describing their character and feelings. 

[00:19:23] And in terms of global influence, The Grand Tour was an influential step on the path towards modern tourism. 

[00:19:32] It was, in many ways, the complete opposite of modern tourism, where you can hop on a plane with just a rucksack and land in another country in a couple of hours, wander around the city, eat some nice food, and then return home the next day without really knowing anything about where you have just been.

[00:19:51] But there are, of course, many things that are exactly the same. The wish to experience new things, the desire to remember what you have seen, and the joy of adventure.

[00:20:03] Luckily, such joys are much more available to everyone than they were in the time of the Grand Tour, where only the very richest in society could participate, but this has of course come at a cost. 

[00:20:17] Tourism is responsible for 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions - most of which comes from flying - and many of the world’s most beautiful tourist destinations are flooded with so many tourists that the character of the city has been changed. 

[00:20:34] Venice, one of the must-see destinations for the Grand Tourists, is a modern-day Disneyland, and although tourism does bring €2 billion a year to the city, it has forever changed its character.

[00:20:49] For cities such as Venice, Florence, and Rome, cities that were cherished by the grand tourists, the impact of COVID-19, and the huge drop in inbound tourism, has helped them remember what life was like before mass tourism. 

[00:21:06] Of course, for many, especially those involved in the tourism industry, the effects have been devastating, but for others, it has been a refreshing reminder of what their city is really like at its core.

[00:21:20] And for those of us who are tourists, perhaps not being able to travel internationally has made us more appreciative of the real luxury that cheap travel is, and has made us more appreciative of the beauties that exist nearer to home. 

[00:21:37] When you think of these Grand Tourists, who would spend months at a time just to see the artistic wonders of ancient Rome for the first time, perhaps this will make all of us all the more appreciative and careful of the treasures that we are lucky enough to visit.

[00:21:54] OK then, that is it for today's episode on The Grand Tour.

[00:22:01] I hope it's been an interesting one, that you've learnt something new, and that it’s made you think a little bit more about the relationship that you’ll have with tourism, when it is again possible

[00:22:12] As always, I would love to know what you thought of this episode. I know that many of our members are huge fans of travel, so I’d love to know what your thoughts are about these grand tourists. 

[00:22:25] For the members among you, you can head right into our community forum, which is at community.leonardoenglish.com and get chatting away to other curious minds.

[00:22:35] And as a final reminder, if you enjoyed this episode, and you are wondering where to get all of our bonus episodes, plus the transcripts, subtitles, and key vocabulary, then the place to go for that is leonardoenglish.com.

[00:22:49] I am on a mission to make Leonardo English the most interesting way of improving your English, and I would love for you to join me, and curious minds from 50 different countries, on that journey.

[00:23:01] 
The place you can go to for all of that is leonardoenglish.com.
You've been listening to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English.

[00:23:12] I'm Alastair Budge, you stay safe, and I'll catch you in the next episode.

[END OF EPISODE]


Continue learning

Get immediate access to a more interesting way of improving your English
Become a member
Already a member? Login

[00:00:00] Hello, hello hello, and welcome to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English. 

[00:00:11] The show where you can listen to fascinating stories, and learn weird and wonderful things about the world at the same time as improving your English.

[00:00:21] I'm Alastair Budge and today we are going to be talking about the time in the 17th and 18th centuries where young, aristocratic British men used to go on long tours through Europe, taking in art, culture, and all sorts of other pleasures that were either unavailable, or not allowed, back at home.

[00:00:43] The name of this tradition was The Grand Tour.

[00:00:46] It is a fascinating topic, and we’ll learn about where exactly these men went, and why, how they travelled, what they did, and what the goal was for such an adventure.

[00:00:59] Before we get right into today’s episode, I want to remind you that you can become a member of Leonardo English and follow along with the subtitles, the transcript and its key vocabulary over on the website, which is leonardoenglish.com.

[00:01:14] Membership of Leonardo English gives you access to all of our learning materials, all of our bonus episodes, so that’s more than 150 different episodes now, as well as two new ones every week, plus access to our awesome private community where we do live events, challenges, and much, much more.

[00:01:34] Our community now has members from over 50 countries, and it's my mission to make it the most interesting place for curious people like you to improve their English.

[00:01:44] 
So,I would love for you to join me if that is of interest, - and I can't see a reason why it wouldn't be - then the place to go to is leonardoenglish.com.

[00:01:55] So, The Grand Tour.

[00:01:58] It’s a particularly interesting subject to us today for two reasons.

[00:02:04] Firstly, as for many of us, especially in Europe, in normal times international travel has changed from a luxury to a normality. 

[00:02:15] Cheap flights, smartphones, things like Airbnb mean that travelling from one country to another is something that can be done relatively cheaply, easily, and in a short period of time. 

[00:02:29] The Grand Tour was the complete opposite.

[00:02:32] And secondly, for much of the last year, and for who knows how much longer, international travel has been something that has been out of reach for most of us, it is something that we simply haven’t been able to do. 

[00:02:46] So for those of you longing for foreign trips, perhaps this episode will give you some inspiration, and make you think a little bit more about the kind of trips that you might like to take.

[00:02:59] Let’s start with some dates.

[00:03:01] The expression “Grand Tour” was coined – or used for the first time – in 1670 by an Englishman called Richard Lassels, who wrote one of the early guidebooks, ‘The Voyage of Italy’.

[00:03:16] Lassels was describing a phenomenon which was becoming increasingly common in Britain of the 17th century and continued right through to the start of railways in the 1840s, but with a long, unexpected break brought about by the French Revolution and subsequent Napoleonic Wars [so, the period from 1789–1815]. 

[00:03:40] This phenomenon, of The Grand Tour, was one of a large, extended cultural trip that became an expectation initially for the very wealthiest of British aristocrats, for the people right at the top of society. 

[00:03:57] Some Swedish and Germans took part as well, and towards the final stages of the Grand Tour, some wealthy Americans also participated, but in general it was very much a British affair.

[00:04:12] Young gentlemen, and it was mainly men, not women, would set off from London on this mighty adventure.

[00:04:20] They would travel by horse and carriage, with a large group of servants behind them. 

[00:04:26] The routes would vary, but they would typically go south to Paris, some would stop off in The Netherlands, some to Switzerland and Germany, and the more adventurous might go to Spain, Greece, or Turkey. 

[00:04:41] But the most important destination, and the place they could not miss, was Italy.

[00:04:49] Why, you might ask?

[00:04:51] Well, the reasons were similar, but slightly different to the reasons that most modern tourists go to Italy.

[00:04:59] The education of the British upper classes had always been based on a rigorous study of Latin and Greek, with an accompanying knowledge of classical antiquity

[00:05:11] It was through a knowledge of the classics that an aristocratic British man was expected to understand the world, and going to Italy was a way of experiencing it all firsthand.

[00:05:24] Most young men of the aristocratic or upper-class would not be expected to go to university – or if so, it was mainly for reasons that were more to do with pleasure and social connections, rather than study. 

[00:05:40] However, especially because of the influence of Enlightenment writers such as John Locke, who emphasised the importance of learning through experience, the attraction of travelling abroad grew; how much better, they thought, to see these classical wonders and other beautiful things firsthand

[00:06:02] There’s a quotation from the famous Dr Samuel Johnson [who was the author of the most famous English Dictionary] that sums it up quite nicely. 

[00:06:13] He wrote, in 1776:

[00:06:15] “A man who has not been in Italy, is always conscious of an inferiority, from his not having seen what it is expected a man should see.”

[00:06:26] So, there was this expectation that a man should see Italy, he should go and witness the great works of art, the buildings, so that he could understand ancient Rome, and therefore, the world.

[00:06:39] To do this, he needed to go there, of course, but most of these young travellers would also be accompanied by a private tutor, called a Cicerone, a guide who would educate these young men and explain these great works to them.

[00:06:55] These guides would accompany the young men for their whole trip, which would typically take about 2 years. 

[00:07:02] We’re not talking about having a private guide for a couple of hours in a museum - we’re talking about a full, private tutor for two entire years.

[00:07:13] As well as visiting these great sights, these young men would often be expected to buy certain things to take home, as souvenirs.

[00:07:22] But, again, we're not talking about mini replicas of the Colosseum or postcards, they would often buy large marble statues, Renaissance paintings, and real Roman antiquities.

[00:07:36] Much like some people nowadays might collect fridge magnets, or might buy a t-shirt from every city they travel to, these young men might buy full statues and works of art to take back home and display in their large houses.

[00:07:53] One of the early Grand Tourists, a man called Thomas Howard, otherwise known as the 14th Earl of Arundel, set off in 1613. 

[00:08:03] By the time that he died in 1646 he had 700 paintings that he had collected during his travels, and had earned the nickname “The Collector Earl”.

[00:08:16] Since there were few museums anywhere in Europe before the close of the eighteenth century, Grand Tourists often saw paintings and sculptures by gaining admission to private collections, and many were eager to acquire examples of Greco-Roman and Italian art for their own collections. 

[00:08:37] There was already a well-organised system in the major Grand Tour city destinations of Rome and Venice that ensured that these wealthy visitors could buy the fine paintings of the places that they had visited. 

[00:08:51] These oil paintings were even given a name in Italian – “vedute” or what they’d seen; the famous Venetian painter Canaletto specialised in such city view oil paintings. 

[00:09:05] In addition they could have grandiose paintings taken of themselves, sometimes standing by notable works of art. 

[00:09:15] Although the costs involved are very different, the motivation would have been similar to anyone today who takes a picture of themselves on holiday and shares it on Instagram. 

[00:09:27] It’s basically the 17th or 18th century equivalent of taking a selfie and putting it on social media, albeit a much more expensive one.

[00:09:38] When they returned to Britain, of course these young Grand Tourists would want to put their paintings and statues on display, for everyone to see, and you can trace the influence that various Italian styles have had on British architecture - it is due in a large part to these Grand Tourists returning with objects they had bought on their travels.

[00:10:02] Now, if this all sounds incredibly sophisticated, and you are thinking that it’s amazing that these young men were so interested in art and culture, when young people today aren’t travelling for the same cultural reasons, there is another aspect to The Grand Tour that was a big attraction, and expectation, for these young men.

[00:10:25] These young men were very rich, they had no responsibilities, and were very far away from home, and from anyone they knew. 

[00:10:35] When they returned home, they would typically get married to another aristocratic young woman, and return to society life, so it does not take much imagination to think that many took their time on the Grand Tour to experience pleasures that were not so readily available at home.

[00:10:55] Gambling, sex, and excessive drinking were expectations for these young men, and there are multiple reports of men striking up relationships with local women, and taking advantage of the fact that they were so far away from home and nobody would know what they got up to.

[00:11:15] Of all the grand tourists, the most notorious pleasure-seeker, who acquired status and fame equivalent to the most outrageous of rock stars was the poet Lord Byron. 

[00:11:29] Not long after the end of the Napoleonic Wars, in 1815, he set off to travel in Italy and in particular to live in Venice, where his multiple affairs, often with the wives of prominent Venetian citizens, were written up in his letters which he sent home. 

[00:11:47] A footnote here has to do with the long-term influence of the classical world of Italy and Greece on the British imagination. 

[00:11:56] Byron’s love of these countries and their civilisations, which was shared by fellow, radical poet, Percy Shelley, became influential, not only in the support that these two dashing poets gave to the nationalist liberation movements of the first few decades of the 19th century, but the affection and high standing in which the British upper classes held Greek civilisation in particular. 

[00:12:23] This is thought to have been a major factor behind the British support of Greek independence, which was crucial in enabling Greece to break free from Ottoman rule and secure its independence in 1830.

[00:12:38] Now, you will be, I am sure, wondering about some of the practicalities of the whole business. 

[00:12:44] How did they actually get from one city to another? 

[00:12:48] Where did they stay? 

[00:12:49] What did they do on a daily basis? 

[00:12:52] How was tourism different?

[00:12:55] Although the Grand Tour was only possible for men with considerable wealth and leisure, considerable free time, the actual travelling itself would not have been comfortable. 

[00:13:08] To give you some indication of how long it would take to cover one stage of the journey, the passage from London to Paris would take at least three days – now, you can do the same trip in just over two hours on the Eurostar. 

[00:13:23] In general, a Grand Tourist could expect to cover a maximum of 20 miles each day, around 30 kilometres a day. 

[00:13:31] Although, when in the major cities, the grand tourist would rent luxurious accommodation, he had to put up with whatever was available when in transit, when he was on the road. 

[00:13:43] There are many accounts of fierce arguments about costs, as the hosts – the innkeepers or hoteliers would understandably be wanting to charge as much as possible, given the wealth of their guests. 

[00:13:57] Perhaps the most dramatic stage in the journey was crossing the Alps: the most luxurious way of doing this was to hire a sedan chair – a chair on sticks - which was carried by at least four strong men, in which you would be carried via Mont Cenis, which is close to the well-known ski resort, Val d’Isère.

[00:14:20] Security was also an issue. 

[00:14:22] As you can imagine, given how easily identifiable these rich people were, they would be targeted by thieves and people seeking to trick them out of their money. 

[00:14:33] As well as often hiring local guides and protectors, they tried to avoid carrying too much cash on them, but relied on what were called letters of credit, provided by their bank in London and enabling bankers in Rome or Venice to issue them with local currency.

[00:14:53] Having crossed the Alps and full of anticipation for Italy’s treasures, both animate and inanimate, they proceeded first to Turin or Milan. 

[00:15:04] Tourists would aim for famous festivals such as the Carnival in Venice each early Spring or Holy Week in Rome. 

[00:15:12] They would then make their way slowly south through Lucca, Florence, Siena and Rome. 

[00:15:19] Naples became a popular destination after the discovery and excavations of Herculaneum and Pompeii in 1738 and 1748. 

[00:15:30] In the latter part of the 18th century, the tourists had the additional excitement of seeing the volcano at Mount Etna erupting, and they would return to Britain with samples of lava

[00:15:45] A different attraction in the last two decades of the 18th century was provided by the lavish entertainment of the British ambassador in Naples, Sir William Hamilton, and his beautiful young wife, Lady Emma Hamilton. 

[00:16:00] She not only became the mistress of the naval commander and hero, Horatio Nelson, but sensationally lived with him and her diplomatic husband. 

[00:16:11] Sometimes, the grand tourists were able to load their paintings and sculptures onto a convenient British sailing ship at Naples and return home by sea; more often than not they would return on land, revisiting Rome before heading to Venice through cities such as Loreto, Ancona and Ravenna. 

[00:16:33] Tourists would leave Italy through Vicenza, Verona, Mantua, Bologna, Modena, Parma, Milan, and Turin.

[00:16:41] And then the return itinerary might also include Vienna, Dresden, Berlin and Flanders.

[00:16:48] The grand tour had many consequences for British life, and laid some of the groundwork for the kind of tourism that exists today. 

[00:16:59] One consequence that is rarely mentioned happened because of the restrictions brought about by the Napoleonic Wars. 

[00:17:07] Because the grand tourists were barred from the European continent, and the habit of touring had been established over the previous hundred years, aristocratic Brits had to visit their own country, they had to stay in Great Britain 

[00:17:22] This coincided with the beginnings of the Romantic movement in poetry which celebrated the beauty of wild and mountainous places; therefore the British upper classes started visiting the Lake District in Northern England – a rugged wild and uncultivated place celebrated particularly in the inspiring poetry of William Wordsworth. 

[00:17:46] They also visited some of the wonders of the early Industrial Revolution – bridges and factories in particular. 

[00:17:54] This boost to domestic tourism will have been a factor, along with the start of railways, in the beginnings of mass tourism, initially pioneered by a man called Thomas Cook whose railway tours of Italy were amongst the first foreign holidays offered to groups of middle-class tourists in 1864.

[00:18:16] The Grand Tour also had a profound influence on the development of British artistic taste, affecting everything from the rise of the great country house to such products as Wedgewood pottery with its classical designs. 

[00:18:32] Neoclassical architecture, imported from Italy, affected not only domestic architecture in the UK but also, as the British Empire grew, the architecture of its far-off colonies, such as India and South Africa.

[00:18:46] At a human level, these wealthy young men returned to the homes, sometimes carrying with them unfortunate and debilitating diseases acquired as a result of their adventures; perhaps the sketchbooks and diaries that they had taken had received less attention than was ideal, but the civilising effect of contact with the great artefacts of the classical and Renaissance world will, for many of them, have improved their emotional life – their sensibility, to use a word that was fashionable at the time for describing their character and feelings. 

[00:19:23] And in terms of global influence, The Grand Tour was an influential step on the path towards modern tourism. 

[00:19:32] It was, in many ways, the complete opposite of modern tourism, where you can hop on a plane with just a rucksack and land in another country in a couple of hours, wander around the city, eat some nice food, and then return home the next day without really knowing anything about where you have just been.

[00:19:51] But there are, of course, many things that are exactly the same. The wish to experience new things, the desire to remember what you have seen, and the joy of adventure.

[00:20:03] Luckily, such joys are much more available to everyone than they were in the time of the Grand Tour, where only the very richest in society could participate, but this has of course come at a cost. 

[00:20:17] Tourism is responsible for 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions - most of which comes from flying - and many of the world’s most beautiful tourist destinations are flooded with so many tourists that the character of the city has been changed. 

[00:20:34] Venice, one of the must-see destinations for the Grand Tourists, is a modern-day Disneyland, and although tourism does bring €2 billion a year to the city, it has forever changed its character.

[00:20:49] For cities such as Venice, Florence, and Rome, cities that were cherished by the grand tourists, the impact of COVID-19, and the huge drop in inbound tourism, has helped them remember what life was like before mass tourism. 

[00:21:06] Of course, for many, especially those involved in the tourism industry, the effects have been devastating, but for others, it has been a refreshing reminder of what their city is really like at its core.

[00:21:20] And for those of us who are tourists, perhaps not being able to travel internationally has made us more appreciative of the real luxury that cheap travel is, and has made us more appreciative of the beauties that exist nearer to home. 

[00:21:37] When you think of these Grand Tourists, who would spend months at a time just to see the artistic wonders of ancient Rome for the first time, perhaps this will make all of us all the more appreciative and careful of the treasures that we are lucky enough to visit.

[00:21:54] OK then, that is it for today's episode on The Grand Tour.

[00:22:01] I hope it's been an interesting one, that you've learnt something new, and that it’s made you think a little bit more about the relationship that you’ll have with tourism, when it is again possible

[00:22:12] As always, I would love to know what you thought of this episode. I know that many of our members are huge fans of travel, so I’d love to know what your thoughts are about these grand tourists. 

[00:22:25] For the members among you, you can head right into our community forum, which is at community.leonardoenglish.com and get chatting away to other curious minds.

[00:22:35] And as a final reminder, if you enjoyed this episode, and you are wondering where to get all of our bonus episodes, plus the transcripts, subtitles, and key vocabulary, then the place to go for that is leonardoenglish.com.

[00:22:49] I am on a mission to make Leonardo English the most interesting way of improving your English, and I would love for you to join me, and curious minds from 50 different countries, on that journey.

[00:23:01] 
The place you can go to for all of that is leonardoenglish.com.
You've been listening to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English.

[00:23:12] I'm Alastair Budge, you stay safe, and I'll catch you in the next episode.

[END OF EPISODE]


[00:00:00] Hello, hello hello, and welcome to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English. 

[00:00:11] The show where you can listen to fascinating stories, and learn weird and wonderful things about the world at the same time as improving your English.

[00:00:21] I'm Alastair Budge and today we are going to be talking about the time in the 17th and 18th centuries where young, aristocratic British men used to go on long tours through Europe, taking in art, culture, and all sorts of other pleasures that were either unavailable, or not allowed, back at home.

[00:00:43] The name of this tradition was The Grand Tour.

[00:00:46] It is a fascinating topic, and we’ll learn about where exactly these men went, and why, how they travelled, what they did, and what the goal was for such an adventure.

[00:00:59] Before we get right into today’s episode, I want to remind you that you can become a member of Leonardo English and follow along with the subtitles, the transcript and its key vocabulary over on the website, which is leonardoenglish.com.

[00:01:14] Membership of Leonardo English gives you access to all of our learning materials, all of our bonus episodes, so that’s more than 150 different episodes now, as well as two new ones every week, plus access to our awesome private community where we do live events, challenges, and much, much more.

[00:01:34] Our community now has members from over 50 countries, and it's my mission to make it the most interesting place for curious people like you to improve their English.

[00:01:44] 
So,I would love for you to join me if that is of interest, - and I can't see a reason why it wouldn't be - then the place to go to is leonardoenglish.com.

[00:01:55] So, The Grand Tour.

[00:01:58] It’s a particularly interesting subject to us today for two reasons.

[00:02:04] Firstly, as for many of us, especially in Europe, in normal times international travel has changed from a luxury to a normality. 

[00:02:15] Cheap flights, smartphones, things like Airbnb mean that travelling from one country to another is something that can be done relatively cheaply, easily, and in a short period of time. 

[00:02:29] The Grand Tour was the complete opposite.

[00:02:32] And secondly, for much of the last year, and for who knows how much longer, international travel has been something that has been out of reach for most of us, it is something that we simply haven’t been able to do. 

[00:02:46] So for those of you longing for foreign trips, perhaps this episode will give you some inspiration, and make you think a little bit more about the kind of trips that you might like to take.

[00:02:59] Let’s start with some dates.

[00:03:01] The expression “Grand Tour” was coined – or used for the first time – in 1670 by an Englishman called Richard Lassels, who wrote one of the early guidebooks, ‘The Voyage of Italy’.

[00:03:16] Lassels was describing a phenomenon which was becoming increasingly common in Britain of the 17th century and continued right through to the start of railways in the 1840s, but with a long, unexpected break brought about by the French Revolution and subsequent Napoleonic Wars [so, the period from 1789–1815]. 

[00:03:40] This phenomenon, of The Grand Tour, was one of a large, extended cultural trip that became an expectation initially for the very wealthiest of British aristocrats, for the people right at the top of society. 

[00:03:57] Some Swedish and Germans took part as well, and towards the final stages of the Grand Tour, some wealthy Americans also participated, but in general it was very much a British affair.

[00:04:12] Young gentlemen, and it was mainly men, not women, would set off from London on this mighty adventure.

[00:04:20] They would travel by horse and carriage, with a large group of servants behind them. 

[00:04:26] The routes would vary, but they would typically go south to Paris, some would stop off in The Netherlands, some to Switzerland and Germany, and the more adventurous might go to Spain, Greece, or Turkey. 

[00:04:41] But the most important destination, and the place they could not miss, was Italy.

[00:04:49] Why, you might ask?

[00:04:51] Well, the reasons were similar, but slightly different to the reasons that most modern tourists go to Italy.

[00:04:59] The education of the British upper classes had always been based on a rigorous study of Latin and Greek, with an accompanying knowledge of classical antiquity

[00:05:11] It was through a knowledge of the classics that an aristocratic British man was expected to understand the world, and going to Italy was a way of experiencing it all firsthand.

[00:05:24] Most young men of the aristocratic or upper-class would not be expected to go to university – or if so, it was mainly for reasons that were more to do with pleasure and social connections, rather than study. 

[00:05:40] However, especially because of the influence of Enlightenment writers such as John Locke, who emphasised the importance of learning through experience, the attraction of travelling abroad grew; how much better, they thought, to see these classical wonders and other beautiful things firsthand

[00:06:02] There’s a quotation from the famous Dr Samuel Johnson [who was the author of the most famous English Dictionary] that sums it up quite nicely. 

[00:06:13] He wrote, in 1776:

[00:06:15] “A man who has not been in Italy, is always conscious of an inferiority, from his not having seen what it is expected a man should see.”

[00:06:26] So, there was this expectation that a man should see Italy, he should go and witness the great works of art, the buildings, so that he could understand ancient Rome, and therefore, the world.

[00:06:39] To do this, he needed to go there, of course, but most of these young travellers would also be accompanied by a private tutor, called a Cicerone, a guide who would educate these young men and explain these great works to them.

[00:06:55] These guides would accompany the young men for their whole trip, which would typically take about 2 years. 

[00:07:02] We’re not talking about having a private guide for a couple of hours in a museum - we’re talking about a full, private tutor for two entire years.

[00:07:13] As well as visiting these great sights, these young men would often be expected to buy certain things to take home, as souvenirs.

[00:07:22] But, again, we're not talking about mini replicas of the Colosseum or postcards, they would often buy large marble statues, Renaissance paintings, and real Roman antiquities.

[00:07:36] Much like some people nowadays might collect fridge magnets, or might buy a t-shirt from every city they travel to, these young men might buy full statues and works of art to take back home and display in their large houses.

[00:07:53] One of the early Grand Tourists, a man called Thomas Howard, otherwise known as the 14th Earl of Arundel, set off in 1613. 

[00:08:03] By the time that he died in 1646 he had 700 paintings that he had collected during his travels, and had earned the nickname “The Collector Earl”.

[00:08:16] Since there were few museums anywhere in Europe before the close of the eighteenth century, Grand Tourists often saw paintings and sculptures by gaining admission to private collections, and many were eager to acquire examples of Greco-Roman and Italian art for their own collections. 

[00:08:37] There was already a well-organised system in the major Grand Tour city destinations of Rome and Venice that ensured that these wealthy visitors could buy the fine paintings of the places that they had visited. 

[00:08:51] These oil paintings were even given a name in Italian – “vedute” or what they’d seen; the famous Venetian painter Canaletto specialised in such city view oil paintings. 

[00:09:05] In addition they could have grandiose paintings taken of themselves, sometimes standing by notable works of art. 

[00:09:15] Although the costs involved are very different, the motivation would have been similar to anyone today who takes a picture of themselves on holiday and shares it on Instagram. 

[00:09:27] It’s basically the 17th or 18th century equivalent of taking a selfie and putting it on social media, albeit a much more expensive one.

[00:09:38] When they returned to Britain, of course these young Grand Tourists would want to put their paintings and statues on display, for everyone to see, and you can trace the influence that various Italian styles have had on British architecture - it is due in a large part to these Grand Tourists returning with objects they had bought on their travels.

[00:10:02] Now, if this all sounds incredibly sophisticated, and you are thinking that it’s amazing that these young men were so interested in art and culture, when young people today aren’t travelling for the same cultural reasons, there is another aspect to The Grand Tour that was a big attraction, and expectation, for these young men.

[00:10:25] These young men were very rich, they had no responsibilities, and were very far away from home, and from anyone they knew. 

[00:10:35] When they returned home, they would typically get married to another aristocratic young woman, and return to society life, so it does not take much imagination to think that many took their time on the Grand Tour to experience pleasures that were not so readily available at home.

[00:10:55] Gambling, sex, and excessive drinking were expectations for these young men, and there are multiple reports of men striking up relationships with local women, and taking advantage of the fact that they were so far away from home and nobody would know what they got up to.

[00:11:15] Of all the grand tourists, the most notorious pleasure-seeker, who acquired status and fame equivalent to the most outrageous of rock stars was the poet Lord Byron. 

[00:11:29] Not long after the end of the Napoleonic Wars, in 1815, he set off to travel in Italy and in particular to live in Venice, where his multiple affairs, often with the wives of prominent Venetian citizens, were written up in his letters which he sent home. 

[00:11:47] A footnote here has to do with the long-term influence of the classical world of Italy and Greece on the British imagination. 

[00:11:56] Byron’s love of these countries and their civilisations, which was shared by fellow, radical poet, Percy Shelley, became influential, not only in the support that these two dashing poets gave to the nationalist liberation movements of the first few decades of the 19th century, but the affection and high standing in which the British upper classes held Greek civilisation in particular. 

[00:12:23] This is thought to have been a major factor behind the British support of Greek independence, which was crucial in enabling Greece to break free from Ottoman rule and secure its independence in 1830.

[00:12:38] Now, you will be, I am sure, wondering about some of the practicalities of the whole business. 

[00:12:44] How did they actually get from one city to another? 

[00:12:48] Where did they stay? 

[00:12:49] What did they do on a daily basis? 

[00:12:52] How was tourism different?

[00:12:55] Although the Grand Tour was only possible for men with considerable wealth and leisure, considerable free time, the actual travelling itself would not have been comfortable. 

[00:13:08] To give you some indication of how long it would take to cover one stage of the journey, the passage from London to Paris would take at least three days – now, you can do the same trip in just over two hours on the Eurostar. 

[00:13:23] In general, a Grand Tourist could expect to cover a maximum of 20 miles each day, around 30 kilometres a day. 

[00:13:31] Although, when in the major cities, the grand tourist would rent luxurious accommodation, he had to put up with whatever was available when in transit, when he was on the road. 

[00:13:43] There are many accounts of fierce arguments about costs, as the hosts – the innkeepers or hoteliers would understandably be wanting to charge as much as possible, given the wealth of their guests. 

[00:13:57] Perhaps the most dramatic stage in the journey was crossing the Alps: the most luxurious way of doing this was to hire a sedan chair – a chair on sticks - which was carried by at least four strong men, in which you would be carried via Mont Cenis, which is close to the well-known ski resort, Val d’Isère.

[00:14:20] Security was also an issue. 

[00:14:22] As you can imagine, given how easily identifiable these rich people were, they would be targeted by thieves and people seeking to trick them out of their money. 

[00:14:33] As well as often hiring local guides and protectors, they tried to avoid carrying too much cash on them, but relied on what were called letters of credit, provided by their bank in London and enabling bankers in Rome or Venice to issue them with local currency.

[00:14:53] Having crossed the Alps and full of anticipation for Italy’s treasures, both animate and inanimate, they proceeded first to Turin or Milan. 

[00:15:04] Tourists would aim for famous festivals such as the Carnival in Venice each early Spring or Holy Week in Rome. 

[00:15:12] They would then make their way slowly south through Lucca, Florence, Siena and Rome. 

[00:15:19] Naples became a popular destination after the discovery and excavations of Herculaneum and Pompeii in 1738 and 1748. 

[00:15:30] In the latter part of the 18th century, the tourists had the additional excitement of seeing the volcano at Mount Etna erupting, and they would return to Britain with samples of lava

[00:15:45] A different attraction in the last two decades of the 18th century was provided by the lavish entertainment of the British ambassador in Naples, Sir William Hamilton, and his beautiful young wife, Lady Emma Hamilton. 

[00:16:00] She not only became the mistress of the naval commander and hero, Horatio Nelson, but sensationally lived with him and her diplomatic husband. 

[00:16:11] Sometimes, the grand tourists were able to load their paintings and sculptures onto a convenient British sailing ship at Naples and return home by sea; more often than not they would return on land, revisiting Rome before heading to Venice through cities such as Loreto, Ancona and Ravenna. 

[00:16:33] Tourists would leave Italy through Vicenza, Verona, Mantua, Bologna, Modena, Parma, Milan, and Turin.

[00:16:41] And then the return itinerary might also include Vienna, Dresden, Berlin and Flanders.

[00:16:48] The grand tour had many consequences for British life, and laid some of the groundwork for the kind of tourism that exists today. 

[00:16:59] One consequence that is rarely mentioned happened because of the restrictions brought about by the Napoleonic Wars. 

[00:17:07] Because the grand tourists were barred from the European continent, and the habit of touring had been established over the previous hundred years, aristocratic Brits had to visit their own country, they had to stay in Great Britain 

[00:17:22] This coincided with the beginnings of the Romantic movement in poetry which celebrated the beauty of wild and mountainous places; therefore the British upper classes started visiting the Lake District in Northern England – a rugged wild and uncultivated place celebrated particularly in the inspiring poetry of William Wordsworth. 

[00:17:46] They also visited some of the wonders of the early Industrial Revolution – bridges and factories in particular. 

[00:17:54] This boost to domestic tourism will have been a factor, along with the start of railways, in the beginnings of mass tourism, initially pioneered by a man called Thomas Cook whose railway tours of Italy were amongst the first foreign holidays offered to groups of middle-class tourists in 1864.

[00:18:16] The Grand Tour also had a profound influence on the development of British artistic taste, affecting everything from the rise of the great country house to such products as Wedgewood pottery with its classical designs. 

[00:18:32] Neoclassical architecture, imported from Italy, affected not only domestic architecture in the UK but also, as the British Empire grew, the architecture of its far-off colonies, such as India and South Africa.

[00:18:46] At a human level, these wealthy young men returned to the homes, sometimes carrying with them unfortunate and debilitating diseases acquired as a result of their adventures; perhaps the sketchbooks and diaries that they had taken had received less attention than was ideal, but the civilising effect of contact with the great artefacts of the classical and Renaissance world will, for many of them, have improved their emotional life – their sensibility, to use a word that was fashionable at the time for describing their character and feelings. 

[00:19:23] And in terms of global influence, The Grand Tour was an influential step on the path towards modern tourism. 

[00:19:32] It was, in many ways, the complete opposite of modern tourism, where you can hop on a plane with just a rucksack and land in another country in a couple of hours, wander around the city, eat some nice food, and then return home the next day without really knowing anything about where you have just been.

[00:19:51] But there are, of course, many things that are exactly the same. The wish to experience new things, the desire to remember what you have seen, and the joy of adventure.

[00:20:03] Luckily, such joys are much more available to everyone than they were in the time of the Grand Tour, where only the very richest in society could participate, but this has of course come at a cost. 

[00:20:17] Tourism is responsible for 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions - most of which comes from flying - and many of the world’s most beautiful tourist destinations are flooded with so many tourists that the character of the city has been changed. 

[00:20:34] Venice, one of the must-see destinations for the Grand Tourists, is a modern-day Disneyland, and although tourism does bring €2 billion a year to the city, it has forever changed its character.

[00:20:49] For cities such as Venice, Florence, and Rome, cities that were cherished by the grand tourists, the impact of COVID-19, and the huge drop in inbound tourism, has helped them remember what life was like before mass tourism. 

[00:21:06] Of course, for many, especially those involved in the tourism industry, the effects have been devastating, but for others, it has been a refreshing reminder of what their city is really like at its core.

[00:21:20] And for those of us who are tourists, perhaps not being able to travel internationally has made us more appreciative of the real luxury that cheap travel is, and has made us more appreciative of the beauties that exist nearer to home. 

[00:21:37] When you think of these Grand Tourists, who would spend months at a time just to see the artistic wonders of ancient Rome for the first time, perhaps this will make all of us all the more appreciative and careful of the treasures that we are lucky enough to visit.

[00:21:54] OK then, that is it for today's episode on The Grand Tour.

[00:22:01] I hope it's been an interesting one, that you've learnt something new, and that it’s made you think a little bit more about the relationship that you’ll have with tourism, when it is again possible

[00:22:12] As always, I would love to know what you thought of this episode. I know that many of our members are huge fans of travel, so I’d love to know what your thoughts are about these grand tourists. 

[00:22:25] For the members among you, you can head right into our community forum, which is at community.leonardoenglish.com and get chatting away to other curious minds.

[00:22:35] And as a final reminder, if you enjoyed this episode, and you are wondering where to get all of our bonus episodes, plus the transcripts, subtitles, and key vocabulary, then the place to go for that is leonardoenglish.com.

[00:22:49] I am on a mission to make Leonardo English the most interesting way of improving your English, and I would love for you to join me, and curious minds from 50 different countries, on that journey.

[00:23:01] 
The place you can go to for all of that is leonardoenglish.com.
You've been listening to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English.

[00:23:12] I'm Alastair Budge, you stay safe, and I'll catch you in the next episode.

[END OF EPISODE]