Brian Sewell’s Grand Tour of Italy
by Elaine Hegwood Bowen
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Brian Sewell’s Grand Tour of Italy takes an extensive look at all the fantastic, breathtaking and historic sites of Italy, and it’s narrated by none other than famed British art critic and London Evening Standard columnist Brian Sewell.
These travels, however, are some of the same ones that he experienced 50 years ago. In the DVD from Athena to be released August 4, Sewell takes exciting journeys that he imagined “well-bred English gentlemen would undertake in a Grand Tour of the Continent for refinement, as well as for drinking, gambling and sexual adventures, before assuming their place in society.”
“Eighteen-year-old boys lost their virginity to 40-year-old women,” Sewell says while sharing beautiful scenes throughout Italy.
In Turin, the streets were wide, so wide I suppose that men could travel very freely during the 18th century, as they contracted various sexually transmitted diseases from women, Sewell added. At Turin, Sewell says, “it’s so cold that I can neither taste nor smell,” after being caught in the snow at the bottom of Mount Cenis Pass.
In Rome, Sewell talks about the population being one quarter priests, beggars, prostitutes and aristocrats, where the economy is dependent on the export of art.
At the Vatican, Sewell describes the high Mass as being one of the highpoints of the tour. At St. Peter’s Basilica, Sewell seems to reminisce while looking engagingly around at the people, noting that with the nice Italian marble floors, it might have been a better dance hall.
Sewell’s travels to Rimini, Ferrara and Mantua uncovers Rimini’s Tempio Malatestiano, and he also learns all about the olive oil’s degrees of virginity and admires Palazzo del Te, which is “unapologetically dedicted to pleasures of the flesh.”
Brian Sewell’s Grand Tour of Italy brings the dazzling cathedrals, palazzos, paintings and sculptures to your home, while also giving insight into the travels and travails of tourists past.
Elaine Hegwood Bowen is a writer, editor and film critic in Chicago.
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