Postcards from the Top

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The inimitable Roland Barthes begins an essay about the Eiffel Tower with an anecdote:

Maupassant often lunched at the restaurant in the tower, though he didn’t care much for the food: “It’s the only place in Paris,” he used to say, “where I don’t have to see it.”
[In Barthes’s book The Eiffel Tower and Other Mythologies.]

If Maupassant didn’t like looking at the tower in the years right after it appeared in the Parisian skyline, these days exactly no one shares his opinion.

Story continues below.



The Chamber of Commerce of the northern Italian Province of Monza and Brianza, near Milan, just completed a study of the “tourism value” of prominent European historical monuments, and the Eiffel Tower came in first. By a lot. Like, a lot.

A press release (in Italian, naturalmente) from the chamber of commerce explains that they considered a number of factors in their rankings. The factors, though, seem rather vague-except for the ones that just seem completely made up-so this makes for a fun arts tourism story, but doesn’t seem to mean very much beyond that. For example, they established a “Tourism Value Index.” I don’t know what that means, either. Basically, they judged the monuments on “image, brand and visibility,” and then assigned a Euro value to each tourist attraction.

They found that the Eiffel Tower was worth €434 billion. That is five times as much as the runner-up: the Colosseum in Rome (€91 billion). In the church division of the throw-down, Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia upset hometown favorite, the Milan Cathedral: €90 billion to €82 billion. The list rounds out with two locations in England: the Tower of London (€70.5 billion) and Stonehenge, which hardly seems worth the trouble at €10.5 billion.

The Chamber of Commerce notes that the value of the Eiffel Tower, alone, in their ranking is one and a half times that of the total “brand Milano.” This latter brand includes Milan’s Cathedral, the fashion scene, La Scala Opera House, and anything else tourists might associate with that city.

French newspapers are very. very. excited!

I can only imagine how the Germans must feel about all of this. If the Italians are jealous of the Eiffel Tower, Germany didn’t even make the list.

Honestly, I’m not sure if any of this really means anything, but I’m pretty sure it had the desired effect, judging by my intense desire to go on a European vacation right now.