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Pietro della Valle
Italian traveller in the Orient, b. at Rome, 2 April, 1586; d. there, 21 April, 1652. He belonged to a noble family and received an excellent education. As a young man he was a poet, orator, a soldier in the papal service, and a member of the Roman Academy of the Umoristi. In 1611 he took part in a campaign against the Barbary States. An unfortunate love-affair was the cause of a pilgrimage, lasting eleven years. On 8 June, 1614, he started from Venice by sea and went first to Constantinople where he remained a year and learned both Turkish and Arabic. On 25 September, 1615, he traveled to Alexandria, thence to Cairo, and in the spring of 1616 on to Jerusalem. After visiting the Holy Places he continued his journey to Damascus, Aleppo, and Bagdad. Here he married a Syrian Christian named Maani who accompanied him on his travels during the succeeding years. It was probably on account of his marriage that he visited Persia, for the parents of his wife had been robbed by Kurds. In 1618 he was hospitably received in Northern Persia by the Shah Abbas the Great whom he followed to the capital Ispahan. He acted as mediator between the shah and the Christians of Persia. During the next four years he explored Persia; then in October, 1621, he started for Perseopolis and Schiras. He was prevented from continuing his journey as far as India by the war between the Portuguese and Persians. His wife died on 30 December, 1621, and he kept her body with him until his return. In 1622 he took part in the siege of Ormus from which the Portuguese were driven. He then spent two years (1623-24) in India, where his headquarters were Surat and Goa. In 1625 he started on the return journey by way of Muscat, Basra, Aleppo, Cyprus, and Naples, and arrived at Rome, 28 March, 1626. Urban VIII appointed him a papal chamberlain. The rest of Valle's life was fairly peaceful. His second wife was a Georgian orphan Mariuccia, who had accompanied him on his travels. The most important of his works is his account of his travels (Viaggi) in fifty-four friendly letters (Lettere famigliari) addressed to Mario Schipano, a professor of medicine at Naples. They appeared first at Rome in three volumes (1650-53) and were translated later into English, French, German, and Dutch. The narrative is distinguished by learning and keen observation but inclines to credulity and stories of marvellous occurrences.
The Travels of Pietro della Valle, ed. GREY (London, 1892); CIAMPI, Della vita e delle opere di Pietro della Valle (Rome, 1880).