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Closed for vacation


Moving has always been part of the history of humanity. First of all, because nomadism was the normal condition before sedentary civilizations. But even after that, populations kept wandering: to escape dearth, to explore, to develop trades. Going on vacation is sure different, yet has ancient root as well.

Roman calendar reserved some days for public and private festivities, fixed and movable, established by the pontifex (the pagan minister, not the Christian pope) or the magistrate. Who had economic possibilities ran away from the city stress and took haven in countryside villas just to idle. Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa, politician and architect, edited the first maps with all the indications useful to orientate.

After the fall of the Roman Empire, travellers were mostly pilgrims who found a shelter in monasteries, where they could get food, accommodation and medical cures. Housing wasn’t profitable until the beginning of the XIII century though, at least it seems so from the finding of documents looking like registers belonging to the German bishop Wolfger. Privates started to manage modest hotels, used by the nobles too but only if there was nothing else around. Aristocrats, actually, preferred to host each other.

The first travel agency, created by Thomas Cook

Since the XV century a new flourishing of commerce lead to the renovation of hospitality structures, with services that included blacksmiths, barbers, fortune tellers or storytellers. Especially starting from the XVIII century, young upper-class Europeans travelled across the southern part of the continent to study about Greek and Roman civilizations. Intellectuals, writers, artists like Goethe, Byron, Keats, Shelley and Stendhal are just some of them.

In the 1800’s the transportations system was radically improved. The first trains and cars saw the light and made journeys affordable for more social classes. In 1841 the British Thomas Cook invented the first travel agency, taking advantage of the collective means of transportation. He organized a students trip from Leicester to Loughborough, nowadays it would be 10 minutes, back then was a revolution. After this experiment Cook raised the bar, with travels around Europe and in 1919 even the first airplane tour to the United States.

The dawn of the massification of tourism

Between the two world wars even middle classes could enjoy a vacation. Costs get lower, but most of all it was a union related issue: the weekly day off and paid vacations were some of the conquers. The economic boom of the 50’s and 60’s brought the massification of tourism, even if there was still a huge difference between elitist and popular one. From the French Riviera to Egypt, the Mediterranean Sea was the centre of the holiday industry, fundamental for the development of many Countries. At least until the globalization will take away this sort of leadership for a widespread presence of tourists around the world.

This situation has a weight to bare too. Sure, the fact that more and more people can travel and take a vacation is fair and “democratic”, but we have to balance it with the need of a responsible and sustainable way to live in this planet, for everybody to enjoy it. Just another challenge to overcome.


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