Some Reasons for Traveling to Italy
An idiosyncratic guidebook to architectural (and other) wonders of Italy, accompanied by the author’s own witty illustrations.
In Some Reasons for Traveling to Italy, architect Peter Wilson offers a Grand Tour of Grand Tours, providing an idiosyncratic guidebook to architectural (and other) wonders of Italy, illustrated by his own witty watercolors and sketches. Wilson chronicles the reasons that people throughout history have traveled to Italy—ranging from “To Be the Subject of an Equestrian Painting by Uccello in Florence Cathedral” to “To Rebuild Herculaneum in Malibu” (the desire of oil tycoon J. Paul Getty in the 1970s)—while giving readers a deeper understanding of Italy’s architectural habitat and cultural mythology.
In Wilson’s narratives and anecdotes, place names function as talismans; the events may not tally with recorded history, or with the exact topographies of actual places. Wilson offers historical reworkings, appropriations, and an architect’s scrutiny of certain Italian tropes. He recounts that Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, set out “To Flee England Out of Embarrassment” after breaking wind when he bowed to Queen Elizabeth I; French novelist Stendhal went “To Discover an Anti-France”; and an English architect went “To Get Some Ideas for a Mausoleum.” At the first Venice Biennale of Architecture in 1980, a dapper architect found that he had come to Italy “To Fall Overboard in a White Suit,” the artist Cy Twombly went simply “To See,” and Wilson himself found that he was “Captured by the Ospedale Degli Innocenti,” enchanted by the sight of Brunelleschi’s architrave.