Life in Antwerp through the eyes of the Italian Guicciardini

Life in the Netherlands in the 16th century

Go back in time to Antwerp and the Netherlands in the 16th century. Lodovico Guicciardini, an Italian merchant who settles in Antwerp, describes in detail the life in the cities of the Netherlands at the time. Do we still recognize ourselves in his descriptions today?
Friday 03 December 2021 - Sunday 06 March 2022 from 10:00 to 17:00
Individual visitors

In 2021 it will be exactly 500 years ago that the Italian writer Lodovico Guicciardini (1521-1589) was born. The Plantin-Moretus Museum does not leave this special anniversary unnoticed.


Who is Guicciardini?

Guicciardini is an Italian merchant who works in the Antwerp branch of the family business since 1541. Like Christoffel Plantin, Guicciardini is a migrant who moves to the Netherlands for his job and settles in Antwerp. He remains in Antwerp until his death (3/22/1589).


A description of the Netherlands from 500 years ago

Lodovico's career takes a turn when he starts writing in 1552, an activity that he believes is more profitable than his work as a merchant. In 1567 he published his bestseller: Descrittione ... di tutti i Paesi Bassi altrimenti detti Germania inferiore. In this remarkable book he describes all the cities of the Netherlands. The book is published more than 60 times, by various printers. We read his experiences with Antwerp and the Netherlands from 500 years ago. Guicciardini not only describes the economy, politics, language, flora, fauna and national character of the prosperous Netherlands, but also criticizes the devastating influence of the Spanish War on the prosperous country. A striking amount of attention is paid to his hometown Antwerp. 

Kaart van Antwerpen


Do we still recognize ourselves in the description?

The description of Guicciardini stimulates and challenges. She spontaneously conjures up images of landscapes, animals, people, clothing. Well-known depictions of farm weddings, a dog on the hunt.

Do "we", residents of the city, recognize and trick us into the description? Do residents of foreign origin recognize themselves in the descriptions? What do they notice? What's the same? What is different?


Browse his book

Browse through his work now. The book was illustrated with many maps, city views and plans:

Museum Plantin-Moretus
Unesco werelderfgoed