chapter  11
14 Pages

Viewing towns – generating space

Part of the experience of travel is to gaze upon or view landscapes (Urry 1990: 1). Pliny in his description of his villa at Laurentum (Ep.2.\l) does not simply refer to the physical structure, but importantly includes a description of the journey to the villa and the view of the landscape on that journey. This shows an acute emphasis on the gaze of the traveller to his home and we should consider the viewing of landscape as a crucial element in the ancient experience of travel. The traveller's gaze depended on a series of signs that indicated the location in the landscape of physical and human presences, but also on a system of signs that pointed to the nature of the socio-economic activity associated with that landscape (Urry 1990: 2; also Cosgrove’s 1984: 13 view of landscape generally). For Pliny, the relationship was clear:

The view on either side is full of variety, for sometimes the road narrows as it passes through woods, and then it broadens and opens out through meadows where there are many flocks of sheep and herds of horses and cattle driven down from the mountains in winter to grow sleek on the pastures in the springlike climate.