The Travels and Journal of Ambrosio Bembo, translated from the Italian by Clara Bargellini; edited and annotated, with an introduction by Anthony Welch; with the original illustrations by G.J. Grelot; and maps. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007, 452 pp. $24.95 (paper)

In the summer of 1671 young Ambrosio Bembo decided to leave his hometown, Venice. At 19 he was too young to take up any position and he did not want to hang around doing nothing until he had reached 25, the day he could enter public service. So he decided to spend the interim traveling.

Not only did he have a relative in Aleppo, northern Syria, but he had already been inspired by the writings of other Italian travelers — those of Marco Polo and the later Pietro de la Valle. Also, he wanted to keep a traveler's journal himself, though he later said that his youth and inexperience did not permit him make a very good job of it. "Nevertheless, this diary will be the truthful account of the voyage."

He kept his eyes open and noted many details a grander traveler might have missed. In Muslim mosques he marveled that no one ever stole anyone else's shoes. Someplace else, people were often sold as slaves even after they had been baptized. Elsewhere, one of the warlords would throw the prisoners into a pond then have the trumpets sounded to call the local alligators.