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

3.4 of 5 stars 3.40  ·  rating details  ·  282 ratings  ·  67 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)
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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
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
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 3 of 5 stars
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.
Rob Atkinson
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
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
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
Illyria Nightshade
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!
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
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
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!
Rachael Cain
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
Sep 15, 2011 Alex marked it as to-read
Recommended to Alex by: Chinook
I thought this was already on my TBR list.
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
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
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
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
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 3 of 5 stars
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.
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
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
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
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
Helen Callaghan
There were some nice locations and objects but felt they were a little buried under all of the detail about the author's family who travelled with him. Was tempted to skim in places after a while, to be honest.
I liked this as much for the commentary about traveling with one's family as for the lurid stories the author was researching in his travels. Very amusing.
Frustrating lack of info on women. Whole sections on prostitutes--from the male client POV almost exclusively. Still, interesting and fun.
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
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
I enjoyed the read and was glad I wasn't along for his actual family-accompanied journey. I think it's a good thing that he didn't really examine his own motives or attitudes towards the sexually charged museum items he sought to find. It really is a tour-ist's account of what one can see now of notorious landmarks of the past.
Mar 20, 2012 Amy rated it 4 of 5 stars
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
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