Off the Beaten Path

Trying to Escape ‘Tourism’

Guide Manuel de Florence et de ses Environs, (1870), F. and G. PineiderOne of the defining characteristics of the Grand Tour in the 17th and 18th centuries was its exclusivity. With the influx of middle-classes travellers, touring was no longer a sacred aristocratic pursuit. To distance themselves from their ‘social inferiors’ aristocrats gradually began to seek places where they could mingle with people of their own status, both in the urban centre of Florence and in the countryside. Always adapting to the needs and desires of tourists, guidebooks began to include information that sorted tourist destinations according to social position. Guides ranked hotels in terms of quality and price (something akin to the 5-star system today), included personal addresses Florentine aristocratic families, and offered advice on excursions to private estates in the surrounding areas of Florence.

Guides for the upper classes were still printed, though in smaller numbers, and published first in Italian before being translated into other languages. The aristocratic volumes continued to be larger and denser. Aware that they could not escape this new tourism completely, some guides even adopted a hybrid method of use, noting that some sections should be read at home in preparation for departure while others could be used while touring.

En Masse – A new kind of tourism

Yet changes for aristocrats were small in comparison to the impact of the middle-class. With increasing numbers, the 19th century middle-class tourist began to alter the tourism industry in ways still recognizable today. One such addition was the commercialization of tourism on a scale previously unimagined. At first, only a few advertisements made their way into the back of guidebooks, but by the 1870s and 1880s they could be found in both the front and back of the book, printed on brightly coloured paper, featured engravings, or even photographs to catch the eye. Lists of goods and services were also added and could include everything from theatres, restaurants and cafes to language tutors, painters, and sculptors.

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