Picturing Italy

Cold War Perspectives in American Travel Writing on Italy, 1948-1960

  • Giuliano Santangeli Valenzani
Keywords: American travel writing, Italy, Cold War


This essay proposes a qualitative analysis of a sample of American travel literature on Italy produced between 1948 and 1960. The objective is to unravel the complex interplay between the evolving post-World War II global scenario and the well-entrenched American perceptions of Italy developed over the 19th and 20th centuries. Therefore, the article scrutinizes the narratives’ thematic and ideological shifts in relation to the backdrop of Cold War politics, the Marshall Plan, and Italy’s own transformation into a republic. It investigates how these geopolitical factors influenced the portrayal of Italy in American travel literature and, conversely, how the traditional romanticized image of Italy persisted or evolved. In addition to highlighting to what extent the language and rhetoric of travel literature interacted with the dictates of contemporary contingencies relying deeply on past images and themes, the essay also attempts to offer some insights into the evolution of American self-perception toward Europe by observing travel writings. Sources for this research are travel articles in newspapers and especially American magazines (Holiday and National Geographic) and  travel guides published in the United States between 1949 and 1960.