In the middle of the north-eastern corner of Italy there is a splendid mansion surrounded by green fields and vineyards. The mansion, called Villa Manin from the name of its owner, was built during the 18th century by the aristocratic family Manin and, after a period of decline, since the middle of the 20th century, it has become a cultural centre which hosts exhibitions, concerts, fairs and many others cultural activities.
Among the summer exhibitions, it is possible to find a little gem for travels and travel-literature enthusiastics: The Grand Tour, From Venice to the Bay of Kotor.
Before planes, before Ryanair, before gap years there was the Grand Tour. Originally, the Grand Tour was a trip taken by upper and middle-class young men who started from the port of Dover to descend France, Swiss and then Italy, passing through cities like Turin, Milan, Venice, Rome and Naples. It was a typical journey for young men in order to discover classical culture and learning through physical stimuli. For example, the Grand Tour was undertaken by writers and artists such as John Keats, P.B. Shelley, Lord Byron and E.M. Foster. Eventually, moving away from the traditional crossing of Italy, travellers could continue from Venice to Trieste and then travel all around the Balkans.
It is this itinerary that is described in the six thousands diaries, texts and engravings found by chance in a warehouse of a former publishing house in Milan, called Fratelli Treves. The collection which started the idea of the exhibition consists of the Fratelli Treves’ heritage plus another collection of two thousands diaries and engravings collected by the Biblioteca dell’Immagine of Pordenone, curators of the exhibition. Most of the diaries were written by Carlo Yriarte, a French journalist who wrote for the “Le Monde Illustré” and travelled all around Europe. In his diaries, not only did Yriarte write about the places he visited but also about the people he met, the food he tasted and all the little curiosities he found during his journeys.
The visitors of the exhibition start their journey from Venice, the most famous city in the world, following the course of the Grand Canal and the splendid palaces with the façade pointed towards water. Through the engravings by Dionisio Moretti, the visitor can imagine how Venice was in the 18th century, helped also by the descriptions of life and curiosities of the time. Then the journey continues to Trieste, one of the most important cities during the Austro – Hungarian Empire, birthplace of Saba, Svevo and host of James Joyce, and now a multicultural city in the extreme eastern border of Italy. Crossing the border, the visitors explores Pola, an ancient roman city on the Istrian coast. Moreover, there are collected and presented images and texts from Fiume, also in Croatia, and other small villages around the two cities. The journey continues through Croatia, discovering the beauties of the Dalmatian coast, especially Dubrovnik, another ancient roman city. Finally, the last stop of the Grand Tour, the Bay of Kotor in Montenegro, is shown through the images of this spectacular bay, with its coves and cliffs. Moreover, Yriarte spent many words on the court life of this little reign, which was florid and rich in the past centuries.
This small but interesting exhibition shows the other face of the classical Grand Tour through beautiful engravings and scenes of everyday life combined with descriptive texts and books from the Biblioteca dell’Immagine collection, and it is a way to explore a part of Europe that it is not well-known. Looking at the pictures presented in the exhibition could bring the inspiration of taking again the Grand Tour, rediscovering the Balkans and their culture. An exhibition suggested to everyone who love travels, old books and engravings or who simply wants to explore the other side of the Adriatic Sea.