Grand Tour

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For other uses of the term Grand Tour, see Grand Tour (disambiguation).

In the 18th century, the Grand Tour was a kind of education for wealthy British noblemen. It was a period of European travel which could last from a few months to 8 years. During the Tour, young men learned about the politics, culture, art and antiquities of neighboring countries. They spent their time sightseeing, studying, and shopping. Italy with its heritage of ancient Roman monuments became one of the most popular places to visit. At the same time, art students from all parts of Europe also came to Italy to learn from ancient models. France was the height of style and sophistication, so young men went there to throw off their coarse behavior and put on the polish that set them apart as the aristocracy of Britain. Under the watchful eye of his tutor and cared for by his valet, the young man set off. The first step in the tour was to cross the English Channel to Calais, France. For many young men, this was a test in itself since seasickness was often the result of turbulent crossing. In Paris, all outward traces of the backward Briton were erased as he was fitted for a totally French wardrobe. Dressed like a Frenchman, he was now ready to be introduced to French society. After his introduction in France, the tourist went on to Dijon, Lyon, and finally Marseille.

During the 19th century, most educated young men took the Grand Tour. Later, it became also fashionable for young women. A trip to Italy with a spinster aunt as chaperon was part of the upper-class lady's education.

The success of Thomas Coryat's book Coryat's Crudities is often credited with starting the craze for the Grand Tour.

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