Renaissance and Reformation Italian Visitors
Stella Fletcher
  • LAST REVIEWED: 27 October 2022
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 October 2022
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195399301-0093


It is impossible to know how many non-Italians paid visits to Italy between the fourteenth and the seventeenth century or how many Italians visited states beyond the peninsula during the same period. It is equally impossible to say that such travels must have been of a minimum or maximum duration to count as “visits.” The pilgrim was perhaps the archetypal visitor, and the greatest quantity of pilgrim traffic was generated by jubilees or holy years, which were celebrated in Rome in 1300, 1350, 1390, 1400, 1423, 1450, 1475, 1500, 1525, 1550, 1575, 1600, 1625, and 1650, but clerics, diplomats, scholars, artists, soldiers, and merchants also had cause to travel, to pay visits, and to record what they saw and whom they met. The most obvious change in the course of the period was the decline in pilgrim traffic as a consequence of the Reformation and the gradual emergence of what became known as the grand tour, but the schism also resulted in a changed international profile among the clerical communities of Rome’s national colleges and elite households. In this bibliography visitors to and from Italy are not divided by their motives for travel but in terms of their geographical origins and destinations. After considering reference resources (see Reference Resources) that can be used to research the lives and works of the relevant individuals, the bibliography traces an arc from Byzantium and beyond (see Byzantium and Beyond), through eastern Europe (see Eastern Europe), the German-speaking lands (see German-Speaking Lands), the Low Countries (see Low Countries), the British Isles (see British Isles), France (see France), and Iberia (see Iberia). In most cases, primary and secondary sources are considered together, but in the case of the British Isles (British Isles) and France (France) the sheer quantity of material means that the selection of works has been divided into primary sources and studies.

Reference Works

In contrast to the historiography of the era of the grand tour, there is no reference work specifically devoted to the subject of visitors traveling either to or from Italy in the Renaissance period. In that absence, there are essentially two approaches to the subject, biographical and bibliographical. Each of the various European dictionaries of national biography contains entries on Renaissance travelers, with the still-incomplete Dizionario biografico degli italiani 1960– providing information on those who were either of Italian birth or who were born elsewhere but nevertheless made a significant contribution to Italian life and culture. Among the others, Dictionnaire de biographie française 1932– is one of the more venerable, but it is still far from completion. Neue deutsche Biographie 1953– is suitably authoritative for individuals born in the German-speaking lands and some persons of Italian birth who contributed to German history, while the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography 2004 contains entries on relevant figures from each of the island nations, together with some on Italian visitors to the region. The online versions of these works are regularly updated. By way of comparison, Bietenholz and Deutscher 1985–1987 belongs to an earlier technological era, but it has the advantage of providing a collection of biographies that not only occupies the chronological center of the Renaissance period but is also centered on the figure of the wandering scholar Desiderius Erasmus. Among men of letters, Erasmus was exceptionally mobile, but artists were just as likely to travel in order to meet specific commissions: Turner 1996 is an invaluable point of departure for tracing their travels. The alternative, bibliographical approach is represented here by two works, Tresoldi 1977 for German visitors to Italy, and Castiglione Minischetti, et al. 2006 for their French counterparts.

  • Bietenholz, Peter G., and Thomas B. Deutscher, eds. Contemporaries of Erasmus: A Biographical Register of the Renaissance and Reformation. 3 vols. Toronto and London: University of Toronto Press, 1985–1987.

    Of all the reference works dealing with the Renaissance period, this one is worth singling out because it acts as a companion to the Toronto edition of the collected works of Erasmus, whose Italian travels (1506–1509) brought him into contact with the Greek scholars who edited texts for Aldus Manutius and also duly inspired his satire on the bellicose Julius II, Julius Exclusus.

  • Castiglione, Minischetti, Giovanni Dotoli Vito, and Roger Musnik, eds. Le voyage français en Italie: Des origines au XVIIIe siècle; Bibliographie analytique. Paris: Lanore, 2006.

    The majority of the works detailed in this bibliography of French travelers in Italy postdate the Renaissance period and deal with the grand tour in its mature phase. Those that do feature the earlier period include works by Jean d’Autun (La conquest de Milan), Joachim du Bellay, Symphorien Champier, Philippe de Commynes, Jean Marot (Le voyage de Gênes), and Michel de Montaigne.

  • Dictionnaire de biographie française. 20 vols. Paris: Letouzey et Ané, 1932–.

    The Dictionnaire de biographie française (DBF) is less complete than many of its counterparts, but it remains the obvious reference work for a fair proportion of the individuals who visited Italy in the Renaissance period. Guillaume Budé, the humanist who served as Louis XII’s ambassador to the papal curia, is an example of a visitor safely within the bounds of the existing volumes.

  • Dizionario biografico degli italiani. 100 vols. Rome: Istituto della Enciclopedia Italiana, 1960–2020.

    This mammoth work should be the first port of call for research into the lives of many significant Italian travelers, be they merchants and explorers, scholars and musicians, or artists and architects. It is of less relevance for researching non-Italians in Italy.

  • Neue deutsche Biographie/herausgegeben von der Historischen Kommission bei der Bayerischen Akademie der Wissenschaften. 23 vols. Berlin: Duncker and Humblot, 1953–.

    The Neue deutsche Biographie (NDB), which has reached “Schwarz” in the volumes published up to 2011, succeeded the Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie (ADB) as the German dictionary of national biography, and its website contains entries from both series. Between the two publications there are entries on many relevant figures, from Albrecht Dürer to Stephan Vinandus Pighius, an antiquarian who accompanied Prince Karl von Cleve to Italy in the 1570s.

  • Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. 40 vols. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.

    This indispensable resource is as valuable for tracing the lives of those who traveled to Italy, such as Geoffrey Chaucer in 1372–1373, John Shirwood from the 1470s to 1490s, Anthony Munday in 1578, and Thomas Howard, Earl of Arundel, from 1612, as it is for those of Italian travelers, including the diplomats and bishops Giovanni and Silvestro Gigli, humanists such as Polydore Vergil, and the musical Ferrabosco family.

  • Tresoldi, Lucia. Viaggiatori tedeschi in Italia, 1452–1870: Saggio bibliografico. Rome: Bulzoni, 1977.

    The first entry in this chronologically arranged bibliography devoted to German travelers in Italy is to the Nuremberger Nikolaus Muffel’s account of his visit to Rome in 1452, which records the last imperial coronation to take place in the city, that of Frederick III by Pope Nicholas V. Thereafter, this amply illustrated volume lists the accounts of German pilgrims traveling to the Holy Land via Venice, jubilee pilgrims visiting Rome, and Martin Luther’s visit to the Eternal City in 1510–1511 (see the article “Martin Luther” in Oxford Bibliographies in Renaissance and Reformation).

  • Turner, Jane, ed. The Dictionary of Art. 34 vols. Basingstoke, UK: Macmillan, 1996.

    Biographical entries on itinerant painters, sculptors, and architects, such as the Fleming known as Justus of Ghent or the Spaniard Pedro Berruguete, both of whom worked in Italy in the later fifteenth century, or the Italians Francesco Primaticcio and Il Rosso Fiorentino, who worked for Francis I at Fontainebleau, provide a small fraction of the relevant material in this resource and can act as links to the thematic entries. The online version is regularly updated. Available online.

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