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Tourism under Investigation

In the 1950s, Italy had just emerged from the ravages of war, and found that it had enormous potential for tourism. Or rather, it rediscovered tourism, for it had been home to the glories of the Grand Tour, which had started in the seventeenth century – a tourism for the elite, for men and women of culture and aristocratic adventurers. At the time of the economic boom, the idea of the Grand Tour gave way to that of annual holidays and vacations. Leisure activities were now within the reach of a new middle class with greater financial resources: people who now ventured out onto the roads in their fast cars on their way to the beaches and mountains of Italy. In other words, tourism was a “mother lode” of gold, as the writer Ignazio Scurto put it. Already in 1950 he wondered aloud in Pirelli magazine if the country would be able to make the most of this treasure trove because, as he pointed out, there was no real “tourism system”, in the form of planning and organisation, and no overall view of the phenomenon. The hotels did not offer what the average traveller was looking for, for Italy only had the grand hotels of the past and cheap, uncomfortable inns. Above all, there were no ethical rules to keep prices in check. These were structural problems that, according to the economist Franco Bellorini – who wrote for the magazine in 1955 – made it impossible to “sell the sun”. Bellorini wrote of “tourism awareness” when he appealed to the hotel system to respond to the huge demand that Italy was receiving from abroad. Otherwise we would always have a “discontented tourist”, as Enrico Altavilla put it in his amusing article of 1956. Just over ten years later, in 1968, the young scholar Fausto Malcovati came up with a completely new interpretation of tourism. Far from the madding crowd, far from petty bourgeois conformism, far from the overcrowded beaches: it’s so wonderful to spend one’s summer hidden away in a bungalow deep in the wild nature of the Tremiti Islands or of the Maddalena. The height of luxury was now a horseback ride on the beach. Was silence back again, had Goethe’s meditations during his Grand Tour returned? Maybe, but in the meantime society had undergone enormous change, as had the idea of travels and holidays.

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In the 1950s, Italy had just emerged from the ravages of war, and found that it had enormous potential for tourism. Or rather, it rediscovered tourism, for it had been home to the glories of the Grand Tour, which had started in the seventeenth century – a tourism for the elite, for men and women of culture and aristocratic adventurers. At the time of the economic boom, the idea of the Grand Tour gave way to that of annual holidays and vacations. Leisure activities were now within the reach of a new middle class with greater financial resources: people who now ventured out onto the roads in their fast cars on their way to the beaches and mountains of Italy. In other words, tourism was a “mother lode” of gold, as the writer Ignazio Scurto put it. Already in 1950 he wondered aloud in Pirelli magazine if the country would be able to make the most of this treasure trove because, as he pointed out, there was no real “tourism system”, in the form of planning and organisation, and no overall view of the phenomenon. The hotels did not offer what the average traveller was looking for, for Italy only had the grand hotels of the past and cheap, uncomfortable inns. Above all, there were no ethical rules to keep prices in check. These were structural problems that, according to the economist Franco Bellorini – who wrote for the magazine in 1955 – made it impossible to “sell the sun”. Bellorini wrote of “tourism awareness” when he appealed to the hotel system to respond to the huge demand that Italy was receiving from abroad. Otherwise we would always have a “discontented tourist”, as Enrico Altavilla put it in his amusing article of 1956. Just over ten years later, in 1968, the young scholar Fausto Malcovati came up with a completely new interpretation of tourism. Far from the madding crowd, far from petty bourgeois conformism, far from the overcrowded beaches: it’s so wonderful to spend one’s summer hidden away in a bungalow deep in the wild nature of the Tremiti Islands or of the Maddalena. The height of luxury was now a horseback ride on the beach. Was silence back again, had Goethe’s meditations during his Grand Tour returned? Maybe, but in the meantime society had undergone enormous change, as had the idea of travels and holidays.

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