Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Sinner's Grand Tour: A Journey Through the Historical Underbelly of Europe” as Want to Read:
The Sinner's Grand Tour: A Journey Through the Historical Underbelly of Europe
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Sinner's Grand Tour: A Journey Through the Historical Underbelly of Europe

3.46  ·  Rating Details ·  326 Ratings  ·  72 Reviews
Sex and travel have always been intertwined, and never more so than on the classic Grand Tour of Europe in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Today the Continent is still littered with salacious remnants of that golden age, where secret boudoirs, notorious dungeons, and forbidden artifacts lured travelers all the way from London to Capri.

In The Sinner’s Grand Tour, c
Paperback, 304 pages
Published May 10th 2011 by Broadway Books (first published January 1st 2011)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Sinner's Grand Tour, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Sinner's Grand Tour

Stiff by Mary RoachThe Devil in the White City by Erik LarsonSalt by Mark KurlanskyEats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne TrussBonk by Mary Roach
You Read a Book about What?
244th out of 1,173 books — 583 voters
Packing for Mars by Mary RoachStiff by Mary RoachThe Cows by Lydia DavisLondon Under by Peter AckroydBreasts by Florence   Williams
What an Odd Thing to Read About!
16th out of 70 books — 22 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 327)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Apr 06, 2014 Bandit rated it it was amazing
I picked this book up on a whim and ended up absolutely loving it. This volume offers a perfect combination of history and travelogue with a twist. Naughty one as the book title suggests. England, Scotland, Rome, Provence, Vatican City, Venice and Capri. In every place there are secret places hiding the most enticing secrets revealing the sex lives of different eras and some seriously incredible (as in truth beats fictions any day) finds. There is also plenty of historical information here, deta ...more
Sep 12, 2011 Nathan rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, humour
By now I have a pretty good system worked out: when I read of an interesting book, perhaps in The Economist or the Guardian or in a stray New York Times article, I will request it from the library. Through diligent application of this technique, I am never short of something interesting to read nor do I miss a book that looks promising.

However, my system is not perfect. I have not been tracing the origins of the recommendation. Never have I felt the need to close the loop so acutely as with this
Dec 27, 2011 Tuck rated it it was ok
perrottet visits some old haunts of his, but with great results. he's a sydneyite (sp?) but lives in manhattan now. nice pics.

all in all rather a disappointment in that perrottet had his wife and kids with him, and while that might have been nice, when you are doing a porn/sex tour even if of historical bordellos, popes wall sex, and de sade dungeons, whiney ass moms and kids need not apply. so, some nice pictures and stories of the seamy side, but could have been better written and more salacio
Jul 02, 2011 Valerie rated it liked it
Shelves: fun
This should be much better than it is. As if to compensate for the seediness of the author's historical quest for Europe's historic underbelly, the text is constantly invaded with cutesy/moronic references to his wife and children, who unfortunately accompanied him during his research outings. It winds up as a rather manically sanitized account of the castles, museums, and other still-standing sites of Europe which I wanted to learn about.
Jun 13, 2011 John rated it really liked it
Some reviewers disliked the parts about the author's family adventures, but I thought they really added to the story. He was quite funny, without going over-the-top about it and I really appreciated that I actually got his cultural references!
Rob Atkinson
Jul 24, 2011 Rob Atkinson rated it really liked it
A slight but amusing travelogue, detailing Perottet's quest to seek out the sites and objects associated with history's most notorious libertines. These include the 18th century Hellfire Clubs in Britain; the most infamous brothels (as well as the fabled, custom-built sex chair of the future Edward VII) in Paris; the chateau of the Marquis de Sade in Provence; the last redoubt of the free-loving Cathars in Languedoc; The Swiss Villa Deodati of Lord Byron; Casanova's haunts in Venice; a pornograp ...more
Sep 07, 2011 Betsy rated it it was ok
I knew going in to this book it wouldn't be the most academic work, clearly slanting a bit more populist. And the parts of the book that talk about the actual topic -- strange little sexual tidbits from history scattered through Western Europe -- are interesting, often lesser known, and well cited. In fact, one of my favorite parts of the book was a nice bibliography (short, but the book is 70% travelogue, which obviously doesn't need citations).

So why is it rated two stars? Because most of the
Jun 17, 2011 David rated it it was amazing
I saw the review in the NY Times twice (included as a good read for the summer) and after seeing the bawdy cover and as I was going on a road trip, I couldn't resist it. It was a fabulous read, perfect for traveling. As much as there was some criticism of taking one's family to see the famous sordid sex stops in Europe, I actually found the family aspect quite entertaining. My kids are grown and I did suffer through many jaunts to keep the kids happy so I understand where Tony Perrottet was goin ...more
Mar 09, 2012 Bianca rated it it was ok
Fascinating look at part of the erotic history of Europe. The author mixes history with his travels in a way that doesn't make it feel like an all-out history lesson. He also goes to great lengths to gain access to some of the mythic items. The only drawback to this was the experience his family had. During the first half of the book the few mentions his wife and kids get make it seem like they aren't having any fun, that the entire trip is centered around him, with no room for them to enjoy the ...more
Illyria Nightshade
Sep 28, 2014 Illyria Nightshade rated it it was amazing
LOVED this book! If you have an interest in traveling to less savory locations with historical significance, read this and take notes. Personally, I saved several sites to visit and loved the in-depth description of places I could never hope to enter, such as Sade's Chateau, the warehouse with Edward VII's infamous sex chair, or the Stufetta di Bibbiena in the Vatican, never mind its state of disrepair. This book was informative and engaging!
Sep 15, 2011 Alex marked it as to-read
Recommended to Alex by: Chinook
I thought this was already on my TBR list.
Jul 20, 2015 Sarah rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
Very entertaining.
Mar 17, 2014 Miriam rated it really liked it
There's something so gently hilarious about taking one's family on a tour of Europe looking for naughty places. And he's my kind of parent: he has his own interests, he doesn't worry too much about what he's "exposing" his kids to (and therefore they take everything in stride and will hopefully grow up with an actual appreciation of the variety of tourism), and he knows they're mostly little urchin monsters rather than precious blessings. Except for the part where they're always annoying other p ...more
Nov 09, 2013 Elizabeth rated it really liked it
Tony Perrottet is a New York journalist who travelled across Europe to explore the more infamous areas of sin in history - with his wife and four year old son.

First stop: to British Museum, to see the collection of items deemed too prurient to show to the average Victorian. As it happens, the average person of our own time is considered bold enough to look at uncovered penises and other shocking matters, so there isn't much left there - except and overflow of Jewish cultural artifacts that need
Jun 20, 2011 Kristin rated it liked it
This was quite a good book, and I can see why Library Journal (or was it Booklist?) compared Tony Perrottet to Bill Bryson. It had all the elements of travel and history with a touch of humor and personal philosophizing. The subject was quite an interesting one, but the book was remarkably tame considering. Perrottet obviously had out his thesaurus and made every effort to write a book about sex without all the standard vocabulary. Even the descriptions that would seem relevant and, frankly, nec ...more
Nov 14, 2014 Karen rated it it was ok
In many articles and reviews this was billed as a funny guide through Europe's sexual history, and while it was that, it was also a sometimes excruciatingly detailed memoir of a man who drags his family across the continent without regard to their vacation wishes as he attempts to get into places the public cannot, for the most part, get access to.

As the book wore on, I started nitpicking at the story. If something is great, small things don't matter when the whole of it is enjoyable. But I fou
Lesley Thelander
Jun 04, 2011 Lesley Thelander rated it it was amazing
I picked this up after seeing the youtube video of the royal 'sex chair' in Paris and thought it was really hilarious and entertaining. It careens across western Europe from Scotland to Italy, stopping in at various wicked places on the way, and I learned a lot of juicy little tidbits about Marquis de Sade and Casanova and a lot of other characters I actually didn't realize were real historical characters. My favorite has to be the chapter on Provence where the marquis de Sade's castle has been ...more
Jan 16, 2016 Robyn rated it it was ok
I can't remember how I stumbled across this book, but its description as a recreation of the hidden, taboo aspects of the classical Grand Tour caught my attention. I envisioned trips to opium dens and brothels, Oscar Wilde's London and Byron's Swiss exploits. Some of my hopes were met -Byron had his own chapter and I was pleasantly surprised by a journey to Casanova's Venice -but the book as a whole seemed haphazard and random. Perrottet was not really uncovering the dirty secrets of the classic ...more
Lori Anderson
Nov 23, 2011 Lori Anderson rated it liked it
Recommends it for: history buffs
Shelves: history
The title alone caught my attention as I passed the travel section at Barnes and Noble. However, the book is more of a historical reference than a travel guide (although the fact Perrottet carted his wife and two young boys with him all over Europe did make for some hilarious moments).

If you're interested in the era of the Borgias, Casanova, and those time periods, you'll probably be interested in the book. Luckily, I read a lot of that sort of thing so many of the references made total sense.
Mar 25, 2015 Steph rated it really liked it
Shelves: brain-food
I give this a 4.5. I enjoyed it immensely. To be certain, it is not for those of prudish disposition, but for those with a sense of humor, there is much to be learned that was definitely not in your history text.

It is also a satisfying travelogue. in fact, I might go so far as to say that it was more travelogue than history. That's okay though. I could wish it included more of Europe than it did, but what it covered I enjoyed. the author has a very conversational style and seems like the sort o
Shannon Black
Jul 11, 2012 Shannon Black rated it liked it
Pay no mind to my stars -- I never set a standard 1-5 rating, haha.

This book was a fun little travel romp. It was less about the actual erotic history and more about his adventures in trying to find things. He talked a lot about his family, about travelling, about their lodgings, etc. while interspersing it with seedy anecdotes about old perverts. It was fun. I wouldn't recommend it to people who wanted the actual history of these events, but it was a fun travel memoir with enough interesting ti
Aug 19, 2012 Jessica rated it really liked it
A cute generalist history/travelogue book. The writing style is fluid and engaging without being overly flowery (a problem I often have with travel books). Yes, the authors family comes along on his adventures, but to me that never detracted from the story.

It was a very quick read and quite light in tone, which is exactly what I was looking for. I borrowed my copy from a friend (sorry author! no royalities here) and found out others in our social group had bought the book independent of each ot
Jun 18, 2011 Laurie rated it liked it
Awesome summer reading. Tony Perrottet drags his wife and young children around Europe as he compiles a patchy history of people who had sex with each other a long time ago. I'm sure this would be highly unsatisfying to anyone picking this up with quasi-scholarly intentions, as the dearth of real information is probably why there is so much Perrottet family in the book in the first place. Regardless, it ends up a nice balance of their charming quirky family adventures and mishaps and the histori ...more
Rachael Cain
Feb 13, 2014 Rachael Cain rated it really liked it
Shelves: travel
Went through this book very quickly, so I guess that is a good sign. Usually I hate when travel memoirs are heavy on the history of the place, but this one required it and worked really well. First of all, the subject matter was fascinating and was a side of history you don't quite learn about in the classroom. It was great for a quickie history lesson, it wasn't what you would call a high-brow and thorough account, but I don't think its supposed to be. It is interlaced with little tales about h ...more
Oct 28, 2012 Laura rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2012
Okay. The author is obviously a good writer and a persistent researcher. In the course of this book he is able to talk his way into several places notorious for being difficult to gain access to. When he is writing about what this book is actually about (the sexual history of Europe), I enjoyed it quite a lot. I learned some interesting things; in that regard this book is a good launch point for further research. The major downside for me (as is evident to anyone reading my updates as I moved th ...more
Fernanda Bueno
Apr 04, 2016 Fernanda Bueno rated it liked it
Could use more photographs, and the ones included should be in color since black and white reduces the quality of detail. I got tired of using google to find every single image of objects and places he was talking about. Also, the author gives you this wonderful story of how the next artifact is going to matter and be such a discovery, then he never finds it. I felt cheated most of the time. If you can't get to it, don't say you can. One last thing, I thought the book would be more complete rega ...more
Aug 13, 2011 Georgette rated it really liked it
My only complaint with this book is that it was so short- I would love this man to write a longer, more comphrehensive version of all the historical seedy places he's inhabited in his writing career. Perrottet has a great sense of irony in his writing, and he doesn't mess around when trying to complete a quest to see a place of the underbelly in history. This travel memoir's highlight is the attempt to get through the Vatican guard to see the infamously hidden Pope's bathroom(aka the place where ...more
Mar 20, 2012 Amy rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2012
I thoroughly enjoyed this journey through the strange and secretive sexual world of (primarily) 18th and 19th century Europe. Tony Perrottet is clearly enthusiastic about the subject and therefore makes the book a fun and quick read. Some of the research clearance he manages to get is pretty incredible, mainly access to the Vatican's secret archives, and admittance to the enigmatic "Stufetta." He also wormed his way into one of Pierre Cardin's private homes, previously inhabited by the Marquis d ...more
Rock Angel

+ Vatican exposure

Juicy stuff on "Dirty Bertie", King Edward VII "Prince of Whores", early 1900's:

A peek at Dirty Bertie's fauteuil d’amour, circa late 19th century :

Caitlin Marineau
Feb 09, 2012 Caitlin Marineau rated it liked it
Shelves: history
Eh, I found this book fairly mediocre. The history was interesting, but the book, which is written more as a travelogue than a history book, became rather annoying at times. I read this book to learn about scandalous papal bathrooms and dirty gentleman's clubs from years past(!) (wink wink nudge nudge), not to hear about the trouble the author had finding a public swimming pool that would allow board shorts, or the seedy hotel rooms he forced his wife and kids to stay in during his research. Not ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Madison Mega-Mara...: The Sinner's Ground Tour 1 3 Jun 09, 2012 06:59PM  
  • Florence: A Delicate Case
  • The Tao of Travel: Enlightenments from Lives on the Road
  • Venice: Pure City
  • Dark Water: Flood and Redemption in the City of Masterpieces
  • Delizia!: The Epic History of the Italians and Their Food
  • Live Working or Die Fighting: How The Working Class Went Global
  • The Discovery of Jeanne Baret: A Story of Science, the High Seas, and the First Woman to Circumnavigate the Globe
  • Big in China: My Unlikely Adventures Raising a Family, Playing the Blues, and Becoming a Star in Beijing
  • Rounding the Horn: Being the Story of Williwaws and Windjammers, Drake, Darwin, Murdered Missionaries and Naked Natives--a Deck's-eye View of Cape Horn
  • Clean and Decent: The Fascinating History of the Bathroom and WC
  • Sex Lives of the Popes
  • Only Pack What You Can Carry: My Path to Inner Strength, Confidence, and True Self-Knowledge
  • The Beach Beneath the Street: The Everyday Life and Glorious Times of the Situationist International
  • Continental Drifter
  • Germania: In Wayward Pursuit of the Germans and Their History
  • No Man's Lands: One Man's Odyssey Through The Odyssey
  • Eastern Europe!: Everything You Need to Know About the History (and More) of a Region that Shaped Our World and Still Does
  • Europe East And West

Share This Book