A few weeks ago I wrote to one of the people who has made this journey before. I asked the “Peregrine”of Odcombe how his sense of Tom had felt and evolved as he travelled.
“I agree with your concerns about getting close to Tom, our worlds are so different that a ‘vision’ of Tom’s journey is difficult to see in modern living. Tom’s journey is about discovery of new and different worlds. The modern journey is full of familiar sights; a McDonalds in every town, high streets of shops that could be in any Euro town, fashion that is completely borderless. However, there are… things I found, that made me close enough to Tom to get that electric feeling that he was here.
The first is simply just meeting random people, not meeting “typical” French, Italian or Swiss, just meeting people…The second was in the cities of Italy, particularly Verona, Cremona, Vicenza, Padova and to a certain extent Venice. The centre of these cities are relatively unchanged and have that feeling of history. I found in all these places that I had to linger for far longer (except Venice) than Tom did, just to get the feeling of a places; I don’t like rushing.
Like you, I am baffled as to how Tom managed to travel, write, absorb his surroundings and deal with the normal ‘shit of the day’ in the time he had. Although 17th century Europe would have been far more geared to walking as a means of transport, he must have been one fit cookie. I also wonder if there was just more to see and write about.
… I would have loved to have seen his actual notes he took while he was travelling, I’m sure he was very disciplined and organised. There are rumours in Odcombe that there was a trunk full of ‘village’ documents once stored in the rectory; that had some how been ‘lost’…
…I have a couple of challenges for you. As Tom was obsessed by churches I thought it fitting that I visited as many as possible while in Venice. I managed 9 in one day, although I had to go back to a few the next day to actually look at the art. The other challenge is to actually walk the section from Mezzoldo to Morbegno, take as long as you need, it is worth it.”
Chris (peregrine of Odcombe)
I emailed Chris from France when worried that Tom would be invisible to me throughout the journey; in Italy Tom’s ghost does appear: in Vercelli, Lodi, Cremona…etc. But as Chris says, it is almost impossible to get the same “idea” of a place as Tom – that’s to say how it is contemporaneously – in the “time” he takes. Mantua has taken a week (and three posts are still being nurtured). On the official Coryat schedule I am far behind. Tom stayed in Venice for six weeks, leaving for Padua (again) on August 8. I am now going to take a few weeks pause to “prepare” for Venice. Anyone who stays there for six weeks these days is likely to be a billionaire. The next couple of weeks will be about posting contexts to the first part of the trip; filling in a few of the gaps that time didn’t permit during May and June; and getting ready for the “thing” that is firstly Venice, and secondly the “Rhine”. And for Chris’s “challenge”. Nine Venetian churches in a day!