– TOURISM AND SOUVENIR –
If we put pilgrimages and explorations aside, tourism can be traced back to the early 1800s, when the custom to send their offspring around the world for educational purposes (Grand Tour) became established among the British aristocracy.
For a recreational tourism we will have to wait a few more years, after the publication of the books “Journey to Italy” (Italienische Reise), published in 1817 by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, and “Memoirs of a tourist” (Mémoires d’un touriste), published in 1838 by the French writer Marie-Henri Beyle, known as Stendhal.
In the first case, it is the account of a long journey made by the author in Italy between 1786 and 1787, where among other sites he visited Verona, Venice, Florence, Bologna, Rome, Naples and Palermo. Goethe was so impressed from Naples that he wrote:
|« Neapel ist ein Paradies, jedermann lebt in einer Art von trunkner Selbstvergessenheit. »||Naples is a paradise that everyone lives in a kind of drunken self-forgetfulness.|
|« Man sage, erzähle, male, was man will, hier ist mehr als alles. Die Ufer, Buchten und Busen des Meeres, der Vesuv, die Stadt, die Vorstädte, die Kastelle, die Lusträume! »||You can say, tell, paint what you want, here is more than anything. The shores, bays and bosom of the sea, Vesuvius, the city, the suburbs, the castles, what a pleasure!|
|« Aber weder zu erzählen noch zu beschreiben ist die Herrlichkeit einer Vollmondnacht, wie wir sie genossen, durch die Straßen über die Plätze wandelnd, auf der Chiaja, dem unermeßlichen Spaziergang, sodann am Meeresufer hin und wider. Es übernimmt einen wirklich das Gefühl von Unendlichkeit des Raums. So zu träumen ist denn doch der Mühe wert. »||I can’t begin to tell you of the glory of a night by full moon when we strolled through the streets and squares to the endless promenade of the Chiaia, and then walked up and down the seashore. I was quite overwhelmed by a feeling of infinite space. To be able to dream like this is certainly worth the trouble it took to get here.|
|« Ich finde in diesem Volk die lebhafteste und geistreichste Industrie, nicht um reich zu werden, sondern um sorgenfrei zu leben. »||I find in this people the liveliest and wittiest industry, not to get rich, but to live carefree.|
|« Wir sind auch noch abends in die Grotte des Posilipo gegangen, da eben die untergehende Sonne zur andern Seite hereinschien. Ich verzieh es allen, die in Neapel von Sinnen kommen, und erinnerte mich mit Rührung meines Vaters, der einen unauslöschlichen Eindruck besonders von denen Gegenständen, die ich heut zum erstenmal sah, erhalten hatte. »||In the evening we went to the Grotto of Posillipo,just when the setting sun shone on the other side. I have forgiven all those who lose their heads for this city, and I remembered fondly of my father, who had kept an indelible impression on the things I’ve seen today for the first time.|
|« Von der Lage der Stadt und ihren Herrlichkeiten, die so oft beschrieben und belobt sind, kein Wort. »Vedi Napoli e poi muori!« sagen sie hier. »Siehe Neapel und stirb!»||From the location of the city and its glories, which are so often described and praised, not a word. “Vedi Napoli e poi muori,” they say here. See Naples and die!|
|Even here I seem to be another. So there are two things: either I was crazy before coming here, or am crazy now.|
|Today, I am given the mad joy, devoting all my time to these incomparable beauty. Towards folks I already find myself much better. Here one does not know anything of the other and it’s barely noticeable that they run here and there next to each other. They come and go every day in a paradise, without too look around them.|
Stendhal, instead, tells of his journey through parts of France still little known at that time, describing culture, dialects and traditions.
Since then, many others followed, although they still were travelers elite, whose memoirs and travel notes, like Goethe and Stendhal, were later used by travelers such as real guides.
At that time, the grand tour did not generally reach the south of Naples, until – but we are already in the nineteenth century – Stendhal wrote :
« To seize the whole essence of the Bel Paese is a must visit Sicily with its beautiful Greek ruins. »
What we now call tourism – ie organized and mass trips – can be traced back to the English entrepreneur Thomas Cook, who in the summer of 1841, taking advantage of the new possibilities offered by the railroad, organized a trip of just 11 miles (from Leicester to Loughborough), for 570 people at a cost of one shilling each. The success was such as to push Cook to organize more complex package tours, giving rise to the tourism industry. From that day onwards, thanks to new and faster means of transportation, tourism has been one of the most profitable businesses in the world, as it still is today.
Thanks to mass tourism, a growing number of people from all walks of life, had and have the opportunity to visit countries, cities and sites of cultural interest, albeit in far distant lands.
Tourist agencies that live and feed on “images”, the same that tourists capture and take home as a relic. To paraphrase the saying “there’s no trip without return,” we could say “there’s no trip without a memento”!
It’s one way to “authenticate” the journey, as if to say “I’ve been there!”
The huge success of the picture postcards that reflect sceneries and objects of a location (bought to send or keep), is the most striking example. But other items bought on the spot and referred to as “souvenirs” became common and a must in the years. The memento in all its forms, bought for themselves or for others, appears to become, though unconsciously, like a “certificate of visit,” a way to demonstrate that the trip did not disappoint our expectations, which we then keep to have memory and publicize our journey. It does not matter where the souvenir comes from or who has built it, whether it’s a plastic gondola “made in Taiwan” and bought in Venice, or a music box that plays “‘O sole mio“, built in China but bought in Naples, you put them on display in your home as to affirm “we have visited Italy.”
Another item that has made good fortune in past years, is the small “glass ball” with the fake snow inside which, after shaking the globe, falls on the landscape below. It does not matter if inside the sphere is represented the pyramid of Giza or the Colosseum in Rome in miniature, places that, in truth, hardly have a snowfall! ù
It’s the memory that counts and the place where you bought it.
Long since that the so-called “fridge magnets” are fashionable, a gadget now universal with which we conspicuously upholster our fridges’ doors. So that at first glance, any guest becomes aware that we have visited many places.
Not to mention the souvenir photo (or video)! Our photo albums and hard drives are full of souvenir photos (or video) taken during our travels and outings. Some have tried to even calculate the impact that cities such as Venice have had in the photographic industry’s business worldwide.
Landscapes and portraits which in most cases will be destroyed along with our house because our children will be too busy to collect their mementos, and we know that old things are thrown. While we will be a little less than a far memory for our grandchildren or great-grandchildren. Like psychologist P. Handke says, we (parents) are the foundation, but we then remain in the basement because the everyday life is above! Our memories remain so as long as we live…. alas everything is on the go and a passing on this earth!
Nowadays, with a simple internet search, especially if referring to famous destinations, you find thousands photos shot by tourists, and between maps, pictures, reports and sale of local products, you could even “virtually” travel without move from home.