Advice for travellers to Italy in the late-18th century

Rome and Naples

Amongst the papers of John Christopher Burton Dawnay, 5th Viscount Downe (1764-1832), a late-18th-century document provides six pages of advice for travellers to Italy [ZDS XVI 8, n.d. (c.1784-1786)]. In two different hands, it appears the first two pages were written by a Mr Brooke who has recently returned from Italy. The recipient, who we presume is Dawnay, has added their own information on additional pages, as well as noting a few comments alongside Mr Brooke’s advice where they disagree (shown below in brackets).

Notes with advice for travellers to Italy, from the papers of John Christopher Burton Dawnay, 1784-1786 [ZDS XVI 8]

“For your tour thro’ Italy a Bedde is absolutely necessary

China, a Kettle, Knives & forks, Spoons &c
a Small Leather box to carry Hammers, Nails, Linchpins &c – fix’d under the Carriage
a Travelling Chaise Pillow
a Leather Hat Box to fix on the Imperial
[A luggage case for the top of a coach]

Forget not to ask Sir H[orace] Mann for a letter to Lord Tilney & Lord Mountstewart for one to Sir William Hamilton. If you wish, ask Lord Mountstewart. He will give you a letter or two for Rome.
At Rome, the best lodgings are at Margaritta’s.

Beware of the English Taylor, who lives in the Piazza D’Espagna – Employ him not

You will find Mr Jenkins the Banquer a very civil man, but I should not advise you to make any purchases from him, either in statues or rings.

At Naples you will find a Mr Clarke, a very civil modest Scotchman, who acts as Ciceroni for which you are to pay him ten ounces (this appears to me rather too little, I gave him 15)

Should you employ Mr Byres at Rome, you are to give him 30 sequins, which is the usual price, but I should not think it necessary to have him (In this I differ, as it appears to me absolutely necessary, that is, if you wish to have any knowledge of the antiquities)”

In a second hand:

“These hints I received on my first going into Italy from Mr Brooke who was just returning from it & all which I found very good, with exception only to the English Taylor, into whose hands chance threw me & of whom I had no reason to complain except of his being a bad taylor, his lodgings are undoubtedly the best next to Margarittes (which if you cannot get) I advise you to take the Taylor’s lodgings

Mr Jenkins the Banker has not in general the fairest character, I advise you to take your money of Byres, who will give it you without commission, which none of the bankers will

If you wish to read or learn any Italian at Rome, I strongly recommend the Abbé Turnour as a very sensible well informed man born at Rome of English parents & who travelled some time with Mr Brooke

In going from Rome to Naples there is but one good inn on the road viz Teracina which you will find excellent 

At Naples, the best inn is the Crocelle, which looks on the sea, the rooms are but indifferent but the cook good, however upon the whole it is much the best if you want a taylor you had better inquire for Lord Tylney as he is much the best, there is also one good washer woman, who is an English woman married to an Italian, & I think her name is Sylvia, this is a thing worth observing, as in general they wash your stockings infamously at Naples. You may hear of her from Lord T’s servants as they do not recommend her at the inn

If a valet de place by the name of Nuncio offers to you, he lived with me 5 months & I found him sober & attentive, & he is a very good looking fellow

I strongly recommend your employing Mr Clarke whom you will find very useful to you & a very modest and deserving man. It is the custom to ask him to dinner of the days he goes out with you

Beware of Mr Tiernay an English Banker whom you will see everywhere, he is the greatest rascal unhanged”


Lawrence Dundas (1766 to 1839) was the eldest son of Thomas Dundas and, like his father before him, was travelling in Italy between 1787 and 1789.

Amongst his personal papers whilst on the Grand Tour is a handwritten document with the title ‘For Paestum’, providing four pages of detailed advice for those travelling from Naples to visit the ancient Greek temples at Paestum, with the option to call in at Pompeii on route [ZNK X 3/1 n.d. c.1787-1789].

Nowadays, by car, this 60-mile journey would take an hour and a half. In the 18th century, over 200 years ago, by carriage, it would take a total of ten hours and require an overnight stop mid-way in Salerno. Leaving Salerno at 3 o’clock in the morning, you would arrive at Paestum six hours later at 9 o’clock.

Notes with advice ‘For Paestum’, from the papers of Lawrence Dundas, 1787-1789 [ZNK X 3/1]

“The first day, is to Salerno: which, in a Caleche [a low-wheeled carriage with a removable folding hood] is a course of four hours. If you see Pompeia, which lies on the way, take provisions with you for the night at Salerno: since you will find there, nothing provided in the Inn; & will arrive too late to procure a good supper. If you do not mean to see Pompeia, you may dine before you leave Naples, which renders a supper of no conseyquence; or you may set off early enough, to arrive at Salerno for dinner. On the way, in this latter case, you will see the beautiful country about La Cava & Salerno; but in the two former the night will prevent you, & you will not enjoy the prospect ‘til you return.

You take another fresh Caleche at Salerno, found by the Calesseers with whom you make the contract here at Naples.You must set off about 3 o’clock in the morning, & you will reach Paestum about nine. As no good lodgings are to be found at Paestum; this hurry becomes necessary in order to get back to Salerno at night. Take something with you for a Collation [a light informal meal] at Paestum & leave orders to have your supper provided at Salerno.

At Paestum, Go from the Inn towards the great temple, you find first the ruins of a small amphitheatre; next of the temple called the round temple; both perhaps equally Roman. Next you will find the Foundations of a Temple, in a line with the great & square Temples; then follows the great Temple; & in the way from thence to the square temple, you will pass over the course of an antient acqueduct; which has holes broken from above that open into it & permit you to see it. After the square temple, you will come to the Gate & walls; which are evidently Greek, as being built without mortar.