On the road to romance in
His grandfather motored the length and breadth of
with a lover by his side. Forty years on, Jeremy Atiyah retraces their route Italy
It has always seemed to me that I was born with the desire to live in
05 March 2006
I have learnt that I can blame my grandfather. I never knew him because he died more than 40 years ago. But I am told that he was a passionate, cultured man who loved history, good food and robust discussion. The result was, in the late Fifties and early Sixties, that he ended up driving to
It is the lover - now aged nearly 90 - who tells me this. She has told me about the blue Ford Consul motor car, and the roads that were not yet crowded with traffic. He was in his late fifties, she some 15 years his junior.
Their first destination was the aerodrome at Lydd, in
They then drove off, with the freedom of an entire continent beneath their wheels. Their route through
Once there, my grandfather and his lover turned to their trusty guidebooks, two fragile, red Baedekers published in the first decade of the 20th century. These books have since come down to me: bundles of tiny print and exquisitely drawn maps on Bible-thin paper.
Why would my grandfather and his lover have wanted to rely on guidebooks that were 50 years old?
The format of an Edwardian guidebook is surprisingly familiar. Here is the section on how to reach
While the books are scrupulously polite regarding the Renaissance, they are less so when it comes to contemporary
I keep finding slips of paper from between the pages of these books: entry tickets to museums and galleries and theatres in
During my own visit to
One year, north of
Later they were exploring the ruins of the Roman Forum, studying the line drawings of the
They continued south to
Soon after crossing the straits of
These cuttings tell the story of a tiny local drama, regarding the lost camera of an English tourist and his lady in
THE GRAND TOUR: 10 MUST-SEE DESTINATIONS
WHY GO? This was a top resort before the Second World War. It's still the place to head to for old-fashioned
WHERE TO STAY? The Royal Hotel (00 39 0184 5391; royalhotelsanremo.com), for its faded opulence and a vast, salt-water pool in sub-tropical gardens. Doubles start at €222 (£158) with breakfast.
Why go? For more than two centuries, British tourists have flocked to
3. The Italian
WHY GO? Much of the Italian Alps, especially round Lakes Como and Maggiore, is a must for nostalgics, with 'belle époque' hotels, palazzos, luxuriant gardens and lakeside views.
WHERE TO STAY? For very posh accommodation, try the palatial 16th-century Villa d'Este Hotel
(00 39 031 34 81; villadeste.it) at Cernobbio, on the shores of
WHY GO? The quintessential tourist destination looks much the same today as it did in 1960 (or indeed 1760).
WHERE TO STAY? The world-famous Danieli Hotel (00 39 041 522 6480; hoteldanielivenice.com) tops the hotel list in my 1906 Baedeker guide book and it's still one of the very finest places to stay in the city. Doubles start at €415 (£296) per night, including breakfast.
Why go? Long marvelled at as Italy's most beautiful city,
WHY GO? This intriguing city, with its narrow and crooked streets, is one of the finest places in
WHERE TO STAY? At the 17th-century Grand Hotel Continental (00 39 0577 56011; royaldemeure.com) in the heart of the city. Doubles start at €216 (£154) with breakfast.
WHY GO? It's hard to avoid being nostalgic in a city that has dominated
WHERE TO STAY? For traditional hotels you are spoilt for choice. Try the
WHY GO? Capital of the south, this mad, chaotic, tragic city remains the tear-jerker that it has been for the past three centuries. Come here to become a teenager again, ride a scooter, eat a pizza, to hold a shouted conversation from a balcony.
WHERE TO STAY? At the Grand Hotel Parker's (00 39 081 761 2474; grandhotelparkers.it), which overlooks the city from the hills. Doubles start at €220 (£157) with breakfast.
9. The Amalfi coast
WHY GO? Tourists have been coming to this region since the days of ancient
WHERE TO STAY? In
WHERE TO STAY? Just outside the city at the slightly shabby chic belle époque Grand Hotel Villa Igiea (00 39 091 543 744; villaigieapalermo.it). Doubles start at €277 (£197) without breakfast.