TRAVELLERS OF ISTANBUL: EDMONDO DE AMICIS"Gentlemen! Tomorrow morning at dawn, we are going to see first the minarets of İstanbul". These words, uttered by the captain of the ship that departed from Italy to Istanbul in 1874, were enough to excite the passengers, who have been waiting to arrive in Istanbul for eight days.
Among them was Edmondo de Amicis, who would become world-famous when he would publish a children’s novel entitled "Cuore" (Heart) in 1886. Comprising of the notes he took in his Istanbul voyage, his travel book, "Constantinopoli", was first published in 1876, in Italy. Although 141 years have passed since, Amicis' book still continues to be one of the most intense and subtle texts written on Istanbul.
Born in 1846 in Italy, Edmondo de Amicis took a series of trips to Spain, Holland, London and Morocco just after he left the military, where he served as an officer. He collected his observations of these trips in travel books and memoirs published one after other. His book "Constantinopoli" was first translated to English in 1879, which has since deeply influenced many readers and authors, from Umberto Eco to Orhan Pamuk. The first Turkish translation of "Constantinopoli", on the hand, came in 2010, with the title "Istanbul".
Amicis’ "Istanbul" could as well be read as a love letter written for this city. Explicitly showing his admiration for the city right from the beginning, Amicis, in an almost cinematographic talent, takes the reader to a marvelous journey, spanning from the Galata tower to Uskudar, from the clothes of the inhabitants of Istanbul to the nights alongside the Bosphorus, and from the joyful boat trips on the Goksu Stream to the birds flying above the city.
When the ship that brought Amicis to Istanbul came close at dawn on the ninth day, the crowd gathered on the deck to see Istanbul for the first time got disappointed because of the dark grey fog hiding the city like a veil. Amicis, who was among the crowd at that time, wrote in his notebook; "I would not exchange a single gaze to Istanbul with an empire". He began writing the first lines of his love letter as the fog slowly faded away and Istanbul showed itself with all its glory: "Here’s Istanbul! Grandiose, proud, magnificent Istanbul! Thanks to the creator and the created as well! Honestly, I did not imagine such a beauty."