Centuries before the Internet shrank the world, wealthy young men of Europe full of book learning, embarked on a tour of the Continent—especially France and Italy—to complete their classical education. Learning, it was argued, was the fruit of experience, and beginning in the mid-17th century, these young aristocratic men traveled to see the art and architecture, speak and read the languages, and hear the music their university studies had introduced. Grand Tourists also gathered experience in fashion and courtly behavior, considered essential for future leaders. The pilgrimage had an appropriately striking name: The Grand Tour.
A Grand Tourist’s journey lasted many months to several years and typically began in London. His itinerary certainly included Paris, and some travelers journeyed to the Netherlands or Germany, even fewer to Greece and Turkey. Italy, however, was the primary destination, and Rome, the crown jewel of the trip. The city’s ancient ruins were a must-see for every traveler, and because few museums existed in Europe before the end of the 18th century, Grand Tourists often admired artworks in private collectors’ homes….