Saturday, February 18, 2012

Before the Blog...a short history of travel magazines

Scena Illustrata, Firenze, agosto 1927  when travel was  only for the wealthy

The rereading of  Alain De Botton's  evocative  "The Art of Travel"   brought  to mind the question:  what intiates  interest in foreign travel ? 

Weekend, published by Bolaffi/Mondadori, 1970s  Italian travel magazine-a silk scarf was included with  each issue

Is it the success of  a first trip abroad that marks our fate and turns us into eternal expats, leading us to spend most of our  lifetime  in a place far  from our original home? 

Perhaps it was Discovery Channel's documentaries, the yellow  National Geographic covers or, as in my case, the glossy covers  and alluring photos and articles of  Holiday magazine in the 50s and 60s.
Holiday, August  1947  special Maine issue

Nowadays the occasions  for foreign  travel  have multiplied and  it is easier to find out  about exotic countries  thanks also to  the proliferation of  excellent travel blogs, often  written by  local, professional travel writers.
For this new generation of travel writers/ bloggers,  here is a short, nostalgic  look at what it was like to write for  travel  magazines  in past decades.

I wrote the antiques article  for this issue 

 In  pre-computer  days magazine and newspaper  articles were  pounded out  on an upright  Royal or Olivetti with two sheets of carbon paper inserted.  Editors got the top, good copy while the writer kept a  carbon copy to file away. 

Mistakes were corrected with a rubber eraser or whitener.
 Then the race by bus or subway  to a downtown editorial office to hand in copy before deadline. 

That is if you had a regular outlet  for  your writing.

a short-lived  Italy  travel magazine

To find work, most freelancers in the 60s-70s-80s-90s depended on the annual yearbook known as  “Writers Market”, a hefty   volume that was expensive to ship overseas. 
still going strong after  several decades.... 

On staff  of first western style magazine in USSR

If you were “pitching an article”  to an editor in another city  or country, the  query letter, with  correct postage and an international reply coupon  would be mailed, preferebly  from  the Vatican post office,considered more reliable than the Italian postal system. 

despite its name, this Australian magazine came out   monthly

Weeks  would go by before you heard if the editor was interested, then  months ( sometimes years)  would pass before payment was received.    What a comparatively  easy existence  travel writers  and bloggers have nowadays !

UPDATE   July   2016  
Travel Books by Mary Jane Cryan 
for insider information on central Italy are available  directly  from the author. 
See books page on my award winning website Elegant Etruria
latest book, in Italian 

in English and Italian 
used by students, tour operators, guides



  1. I illustrated an article once for Italy Italy!
    I remember loving the travel articles by Lillian Langseth-Christensen in Gourmet magazine; they made me dream. Patricia Glee Smith

  2. An interesting post MJ thanks for sharing. No particular favourite travel blogs although I do read quite a few that I have come across when researching trips.

    1. I am in awe of the number of "followers" you have Linda..I guess you are living the life many in UK would like to have. Complimenti!

  3. Thanks Pat for your comment..I guess we have something else in common: Italy Italy magazine.
    Your New Yorker magazines have been thoroughly read and are now awaiting their next "reader". Many thanks.

  4. DAve Morton wrote: Your blog - like your books - is a great source of information to be mined..

  5. Slowtravel forum and blogs are surely my favourite ones.

  6. Daniela, I read your blog for info on Venice and the Veneto region.

  7. I am impressed by the details that you’ve on this website. I take a good knowledge in this post. Thanks share this post in this page.

  8. Thanks for chiming in Mike. Where are you writing from ?