The ancient Romans were responsible for many remarkable achievementsstraight roads, decent plumbingbut one of their lesser-known contributions was the invention of the first tourist industry.
The first society in history to enjoy safe and easy travel, Romans embarked in droves on the original Grand Tour, traveling from the lost city of Troy to the top of the Acropolis in Athens, from the fallen Colossus at Rhodes to the Pyramids of Egypt, ending with the obligatory Nile cruise at the very edge of the Empire. And as travel writer Tony Perrottet discovers, the popularity of this route has only increased with time.
Perrottet first discovered this ancient itinerary when he came across the world's oldest surviving guidebook in the New York Public Librarythe Description of Greece, dating back to the second century AD. Intrigued by the possibility of re-creating the tour, and wanting to seize the opportunity for one last excursion with Lesley, his pregnant girlfriend, before their lives changed forever, Perrottet set off to rediscover life as an ancient Roman. He was armed for travel with only the essentialsa backpack full of ancient texts and a second-century highway map reproduced on a twenty foot scroll. As he retraced the historic route, fighting the crowds and reading two-thousand-year-old descriptions of bad food, inadequate accommodations and pushy tour guides, it became clear that tourism has actually changed very little since Caesar's day.
A lively blend of fascinating historical anecdotes and hilarious personal encounters, interspersed with irreverent and often eerily prescient quotes from the ancients, Route 66 AD recaptures the magic of the ancient world in all its complexity and wonder.