Tag Archives: Vatican

Travelling – The Grand Tour of Europe

Tourists The Grand Tour of Europe

“…nothing so liberalizes a man and expands the kindly instincts that nature put in him as travel and contact with many kinds of people.”  –  Mark Twain

People have always travelled to other parts of the world to see great buildings and works of art, to learn new languages, to experience new cultures and to enjoy different food and drink…

…In 2008 I flew to Athens and in the departure lounge queue behind us was a couple of girls and one announced to the other that ‘I only go on holiday for three things, to get drunk, get stoned and get laid’, I had to see who this person was and when I turned round she turned out to be so unattractive that I was tempted to say ‘Don’t build your hopes up, if I were you I would concentrate on the first two!’ but she was bigger than me so I said nothing of course!

In 1936 the League of Nations defined a foreign tourist as someone travelling abroad for at least twenty-four hours and its successor, the United Nations amended this definition in 1945 by including a maximum stay of six months.  In early 2010 the European Commissioner, Antonio Tajani, unveiled a plan declaring tourism a human right and introduced it with the statement that “travelling for tourism today is a right. The way we spend our holidays is a formidable indicator of our quality of life.”

Young English elites of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries (early Rahs really) often spent two to four years travelling around Europe in an effort to broaden their horizons and learn about language, architecture, geography and culture in an experience known as the Grand Tour.

In fact the word tourist has its origins in what used to be more correctly called the Grand Tour of Europe, which was a term first used by Richard Lassels in his 1670 book ‘Voyage or a Complete Journey through Italy’ and after that it came into general usage to describe the travels in Europe of wealthy young men and women in the years of the Enlightenment where it was quite normal to take a gap year (or four) in the quest for a broader education.

Lassels was a Roman Catholic priest and a tutor to several of the English nobility and travelled through Italy five times. In his book, he claims that any truly serious student of architecture, antiquity, and the arts must travel through France and Italy, and suggested that all “young lords” make the Grand Tour in order to understand the political, social, and economic realities of the world.

The Traveller Oviedo Spain

The primary purpose of the Grand Tour lay in the exposure both to the cultural legacy of classical antiquity and the Renaissance and an an introduction to the aristocratic and fashionably polite society of the European continent.  In addition, before museum collections went on tour themselves,  it provided the only opportunity to view specific works of art, and possibly the only chance to hear certain music and it was commonly undertaken in the company of a Cicerone, a knowledgeable guide or tutor.

The Grand Tour had more than superficial cultural importance as the historian E.P. Thompson observed, “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.”

While the general objective of the Grand Tour was essentially educational (and this probably what mum and dad thought that they were forking out for) they were also notorious for more frivolous pursuits such as getting hammered, partying heavily and sleeping with as many continental lovelies as possible and so began a tradition that thousands of holiday Brits continue to this day in the party hot-spots of Europe.

When young men on the Grand Tour weren’t misbehaving like people on a stag weekend to Amsterdam they were mostly interested in visiting those cities that were considered the major centres of culture at the time, primarily Paris, Rome, Venice, Florence and Naples.

90 Rome

The Grand Tourist would travel from city to city and usually spend some time in smaller towns and up to several months in the three main cities on the itinerary.  Paris was considered the grandest and most cultured city and was usually first en-route and tourists would rent apartments for several weeks at a time and would make occasional visits to the countryside and adjacent towns.

From Paris, they travelled south either across the Alps or by a ship on the Mediterranean Sea to Italy and then they would pass on to Rome or Venice.  To begin with Rome was initially the southernmost point they would travel to but when excavations began at Herculaneum and Pompeii in 1738 the two sites also became additional major stop-off points.

Other locations sometimes included as part of some Grand Tour included Spain and Portugal, Germany, Eastern Europe, the Balkans, and the Baltic States. However, these other spots lacked the cultural and historical appeal of Paris and Italy and the substandard roads made travel much more difficult so they were not always the most popular.

Some of them didn’t have vineyards either so I suppose that might have reduced their appeal somewhat.

The British it seems have always been rather keen on travelling abroad and we have left our mark all over Europe (and not just through football violence either) in Nice one of the first and most established holiday resorts on the French Riviera, the long esplanade along the seafront is known to this day as the Promenade des Anglais and in many other historic resorts in continental Europe, old well-established palace hotels have names like the Hotel Bristol, the Hotel Carlton or the Hotel Majestic, reflecting the predominance of English customers.

In fact there are nearly three hundred hotels around the world called Bristol. They take their name from Frederick Augustus Hervey (1730-1803), the 4th Earl of Bristol and Bishop of Derry, who spent most of his life travelling around Europe enjoying the best hospitality money could buy.  What a good life that would have been, to be sure!

This sort of thing really appeals to me; both the exploration and knowledge and having a really good knees up at the same time and I have become determined to travel as much in Europe as I possibly can. There are forty-six countries in Europe and I have only so far been to twenty-nine so I am just over half way towards my objective of visiting them all.

Ryanair was Europe’s original low fares airline and is my favourite which is lucky for me because the airline has over eleven hundred low fare routes to one hundred and sixty-one destinations in Europe and North Africa.  In the last three years I have flown thirty times at a very reasonable average cost of £40 return all inclusive.

Not all of these flights were with Ryanair of course and I have been forced to use others but I generally find that these work out more expensive.  A return flight to Athens with Easyjet for example costs £120 and my biggest bargain so far was with Ryanair to Santander in Cantabria, Spain at just £10.02 return.  To put things into some sort of perspective it costs over £80 to go to London on the train from Peterborough with National Express and for that you are not even guaranteed a seat.  That is about .90p a mile and on that basis it would cost approximately £1,800 to go to Santander and back by train!

Ryanair over the Alps

In 2015 the most visited country in Europe was France, followed by Spain, Italy, United Kingdom and Germany.  Spain made the most money out or tourist revenues and on average the Germans spent most while away from home.  The most visited city was London (although as usual France disputes the official figures) and the most visited place was Trafalgar Square, followed by the Eiffel Tower and then the Vatican.

The United Nations World Tourism Organisation, which has its headquarters in Madrid, produces the World Tourism Rankings and is a United Nations agency dealing with questions relating to tourism.

For the record I visited Trafalgar Square in 2008, the Eiffel Tower in 2005 and the Vatican in 2003.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Converge – St Peter’s Rome

St Peter's Square, Rome

“From the dome of St. Peter’s one can see every notable object in Rome… a panorama that is varied, extensive, beautiful to the eye, and more illustrious in history than any other in Europe.”                                                                                     Mark Twain – The Innocents Abroad

On the way to the Vatican we walked past the Castel Sant’Angelo and into the busy square outside the Basilica where a long queue of people snaked forever around the perimeter waiting for their turn to go inside.  We joined the back of it and were pleased to find that it moved quite quickly towards the main doors and soon we were inside the biggest and the tallest church in the World that has room for sixty-thousand worshippers at one kneeling.

It was busy inside but not uncomfortable and we soaked up the information from the guide’s commentary as we passed by chapels with precious holy relics, the tombs of dead Popes and rooms with glass cases full of religious artefacts.

After the tour was finished we paid for an optional extra and took the five hundred and fifty-one steps to the top of the dome which involved an awful lot of stairs and a tight squeeze at the very top but we were rewarded with wonderful views across the city all the way back to the Colosseum.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Room

Victor Emmanuel Monument Rome

It was about a two hundred and fifty kilometre drive to Ro0m which took just over three hours and with a full day to pack in the coach picked us up before breakfast so we collected food parcels and set of for the Italian capital, which is the third most visited European city after London and Paris.

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A First Visit to Rome, 1976

It was about a two hundred and fifty kilometre drive to Rome which took just over three hours and with a full day to pack in the coach picked us up before breakfast so we collected food parcels and set off for the Italian capital, which is the third most visited European city after London and Paris.  The coach took the road towards Naples and then swung around the base of Vesuvius and picked up the A1 Autostrada that runs all the way from Naples to Rome and then on to Milan.

It was still early morning as we carved through the flat agricultural landscape of Campania, past the vineyards, the olive groves and the citrus orchards and on towards the region of Lazio in central Italy.  Somewhere north of Naples the motorway picked up the route of the Roman road, the Appian Way and as we might have expected the road simply rolled out in a long strait Roman line.  We passed the city of Capua that once had the second largest Roman amphitheatre before it was demolished by invading armies and it was where Spartacus fought as a gladiator and where he was eventually crucified nearby after leading his insurrection of the slaves.  The road continued over the Pontine Marshes that by all accounts were once a dreadful place until they were drained and reclaimed by Mussolini and then the route became less monotonous as we reached the Alban Hills and then began our final approach into Rome where we arrived in the mid morning as the sun was shining and the city was beginning to heat up.

The coach dropped us off near the site of the ancient city and I was immediately overawed by my first sight of the Colosseum.  I had studied history for the last six years but this was the first time that I had visited any of the exciting places that I had delighted in reading about.  Our first stop in Rome was the Colosseum itself which, two thousand years before, had been the largest amphitheatre ever built in the Roman Empire and was capable of seating sixty-thousand spectators at gladiatorial combat events.  I was stunned by the size and magnificence of the place and even though there are substantial parts of it now missing I found the scale of the place simply breathtaking.

And because there were so many things to see so was the pace of our sightseeing and after the Colosseum we passed by the Arch of Constantine and joined an official city guide who took us through the south entrance and into the old Roman Forum and walked on old Roman roads past the spot of Julius Ceaser’s murder and the sites of the Senate and other civic buildings.  To the west was the Palace of Augustus and over the Via Dei Fori Imperialli to the east was Trajan’s Market and his personal column in his memory and after an hour or so we left the Forum by the north entrance after passing through the Arch of Septimius Severus.

In just a little over ninety minutes we had covered about a thousand years of history and as we passed by the Victor Emmanuel National Monument erected to commemorate the nineteenth century unification of Italy we walked along Via Del Corso and into the areas that were predominantly Renaissance and Baroque in architectural character.  Rome was of the few major European cities that escaped World-War-Two relatively unscathed and so most of the buildings and monuments are completely original.  We visited the Spanish Steps and saw the house where John Keats died and then the famous Trevi Fountain where thirty years ago people were still allowed to sit on the monument and cool their feet off in the water but that has been stopped now.

We visited the Pantheon, which is one of the best preserved ancient Roman buildings, originally built as a pagan temple but later converted into a Christian Church and is the burial place of the ex kings of Italy and other important Italians like the artist Raphael.  Next it was the Baroque Piazza Navona and it was all becoming a bit overwhelming.

By mid afternoon when we crossed the River Tiber over the Ponte Vittorio Emanuele II we had completed the ancient, the medieval, and the modern and now it was time to do the religious.

Rome is the most important holy city in Christendom and St Peter’s Basilica at the heart of the Vatican City is the headquarters of the Catholic Church.   We walked past the Castel Sant’Angelo and into the busy square outside the Basilica where a long queue of people snaked forever around the perimeter waiting for their turn to go inside.  Joining the back of it we were pleased to find that it moved quite quickly towards the main doors and soon we were inside the biggest and the tallest church in the World that has room for sixty-thousand worshippers at one sitting.  It was busy inside but not uncomfortable and we soaked up the information from the guide’s commentary as we passed by chapels with precious holy relics, the tombs of dead Popes and rooms with glass cases full of religious artifacts.

After a final look around the outside of the Basilica we concluded that we were unlikely to see Pope Paul VI today, most likely because at seventy-nine years old he probably liked a lie down in the afternoon, so we left St Peter’s to return to the coach.  Before leaving the city the driver did a whistle stop drive around some of the sights that we had missed earlier in the day including the window from where the dictator Mussolini used to deliver his animated speeches.

We had been in the city for about eight hours which was a long day but simply not long enough to see everything that we wanted to and I knew that one day I would come back and spend more time there but I had to wait nearly thirty years before I achieved that ambition.  On the way back, shortly out of the city, we stopped at a pasta restaurant for early evening meal of authentic pizza and jugs of cheap Italian wine.

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Related Articles:

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Rome

The Roman City of Pompeii

The Roman City of Herculaneum

The Roman Amphitheatre at Pula

The Aqueduct of Segovia

The Roman Buildings at Mérida

The Roman Ruins at Segóbriga

Diocletian’s Palace at Split

The Roman Buildings at Arles

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Italy 2011, Rome, The Vatican and St Peter’s Basilica

“From the dome of St. Peter’s one can see every notable object in Rome… He can see a panorama that is varied, extensive, beautiful to the eye, and more illustrious in history than any other in Europe.”                                                          Mark Twain – The Innocents Abroad

By mid afternoon when we crossed the River Tiber over the Ponte Sant’ Angelo like time travellers we had completed the ancient, the medieval, and the modern and now it was time for the religious.

Rome is the most important holy city in Christendom and St Peter’s Basilica at the heart of the Vatican City is the headquarters of the Catholic Church and is a place where some of the most important decisions in the history of Europe and the World have been made over the centuries.  (A Basilica by the way is a sort of double Cathedral because it has two naves).

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The Grand Tour of Europe

Tourists The Grand Tour of Europe

“…nothing so liberalizes a man and expands the kindly instincts that nature put in him as travel and contact with many kinds of people.”                                           Mark Twain

People have always travelled to other parts of the world to see great buildings and works of art, to learn new languages, to experience new cultures and to enjoy different food and drink. As long ago as the time of the Roman Empire, there were popular coastal resorts such as Sorrento and Capri for the rich.

In 1936 the League of Nations defined a foreign tourist as someone travelling abroad for at least twenty-four hours and its successor, the United Nations amended this definition in 1945 by including a maximum stay of six months.  In early 2010 the European Commissioner for industry and entrepreneurship, Antonio Tajani, unveiled a plan declaring tourism a human right and introduced it with the statement that “travelling for tourism today is a right. The way we spend our holidays is a formidable indicator of our quality of life.”

Young English elites of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries (Rahs really) often spent two to four years travelling around Europe in an effort to broaden their horizons and learn about language, architecture, geography and culture in an experience known as the Grand Tour.

In fact the word tourist has its origins in what used to be more correctly called the Grand Tour of Europe, which was a term first used by Richard Lassels in his 1670 book ‘Voyage or a Complete Journey through Italy and after that it came into general usage to describe the travels in Europe of wealthy young men and women in the years of the Enlightenment where it was quite normal to take a gap year (or four) in the quest for a broader education.

Lassels was a Roman Catholic priest and a tutor to several of the English nobility and travelled through Italy five times. In his book, he claims that any truly serious student of architecture, antiquity, and the arts must travel through France and Italy, and suggested that all “young lords” make the Grand Tour in order to understand the political, social, and economic realities of the world.

The primary purpose of the Grand Tour lay in the exposure both to the cultural legacy of classical antiquity and the Renaissance, and to the aristocratic and fashionably polite society of the European continent.  In addition, before museum collections went on tour themselves,  it provided the only opportunity to view specific works of art, and possibly the only chance to hear certain music and it was commonly undertaken in the company of a Cicerone, a knowledgeable guide or tutor.  The Grand Tour had more than superficial cultural importance as the historian E.P. Thompson observed, “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.”

While the general objective of the Grand Tour was essentially educational (and this probably what mum and dad thought that they were forking out for) they were also notorious for more frivolous pursuits such as getting hammered, partying heavily and sleeping with as many continental lovelies as possible and so began a tradition that thousands of holiday Brits continue to this day in the party hotspots of Europe.

When young men on the Grand Tour weren’t misbehaving like people on a stag weekend to Amsterdam they were mostly interested in visiting those cities that were considered the major centres of culture at the time, primarily Paris, Rome, Venice, Florence and Naples were popular destinations. The Grand Tourist would travel from city to city and usually spend some time in smaller towns and up to several months in the three main cities on the itinerary.  Paris was considered the grandest and most cultured city and was usually first en route and tourists would rent apartments for several weeks at a time and would make occasional visits to the countryside and adjacent towns.

From Paris, they travelled south either across the Alps or by a ship on the Mediterranean Sea to Italy and then they would pass on to Rome or Venice.  To begin with Rome was initially the southernmost point they would travel to but when excavations began at Herculaneum and Pompeii in 1738 the two sites also became additional major destinations on the Grand Tour.

Other locations sometimes included as part of some Grand Tour included Spain and Portugal, Germany, Eastern Europe, the Balkans, and the Baltic States. However, these other spots lacked the cultural and historical appeal of Paris and Italy and the substandard roads made travel much more difficult so they were not always the most popular.

Some of them didn’t have vineyards either so I suppose that might have reduced their appeal somewhat.

The British it seems have always been rather keen on travelling abroad and we have left our mark all over Europe (and not just through football violence either) in Nice one of the first and most established holiday resorts on the French Riviera, the long esplanade along the seafront is known to this day as the Promenade des Anglais and in many other historic resorts in continental Europe, old well-established palace hotels have names like the Hotel Bristol, the Hotel Carlton or the Hotel Majestic, reflecting the predominance of English customers.

In fact there are nearly 300 hotels around the world called Bristol. They take their name from Frederick Augustus Hervey (1730-1803), the 4th Earl of Bristol and Bishop of Derry, who spent most of his life travelling around Europe enjoying the best hospitality money could buy.

This sort of thing really appeals to me; both the finding out about things and having a really good knees up at the same time and I have become determined to travel as much in Europe as I possibly can.  The problem with that is that I have full time job and I certainly cannot afford to take a four year sabbatical break so I have developed an alternative Grand Tour method and that is to take absolutely full advantage of the low cost airlines.

There are forty-six countries in Europe and I have only so far been to twenty-five so I am just over half way towards my objective of visiting them all.

Ryanair was Europe’s original low fares airline and is my favourite which is lucky for me because the airline has over eleven hundred low fare routes to one hundred and sixty-one destinations in Europe and North Africa.  In the last three years I have flown thirty times at a very reasonable average cost of £40 return all inclusive.

Not all of these flights were with Ryanair of course and I have been forced to use others but I generally find that these work out more expensive.  A return flight to Athens with Easyjet for example costs £120 and my biggest bargain so far was with Ryanair to Santander in Cantabria, Spain at just £10.02 return.  To put things into some sort of perspective it costs over £80 to go to London on the train from Peterborough with National Express and for that you are not even guaranteed a seat.  That is about .90p a mile and on that basis it would cost approximately £1,800 to go to Santander and back by train!

In 2008 the most visited country in Europe was France, followed by Spain, Italy, United Kingdom and Germany.  Spain made the most money out or tourist revenues and on average the Germans spent most while away from home.  The most visited city was London (although as usual France disputes the official figures) and the most visited place was Trafalgar Square, followed by the Eiffel Tower and then the Vatican.

The United Nations World Tourism Organisation, which has its headquarters in Madrid, produces the World Tourism Rankings and is a United Nations agency dealing with questions relating to tourism.  For the record I visited Trafalgar Square in 2008, the Eiffel Tower in 2005 and the Vatican in 2003.

Sorrento, Gladiators and Cardinals, a day in Rome

Inside the Colosseum Rome

“My name is Maximus Decimus Meridius, commander of the Armies of the North, General of the Felix Legions, loyal servant to the true emperor, Marcus Aurelius. Father to a murdered son, husband to a murdered wife. And I will have my vengeance, in this life or the next.”                                                         Gladiator (2000)

It was about a two hundred and fifty kilometre drive to Rome which took just over three hours and with a full day to pack in the coach picked us up before breakfast so we collected food parcels and set of for the Italian capital, which is the third most visited European city after London and Paris.  The coach took the road towards Naples and then swung around the base of Vesuvius and picked up the A1 Autostrada that runs all the way from Naples to Rome and then on to Milan.

Read the full story…