Pamela Fiori on ‘The Best Travel Magazine That Ever Was’

Years before Pamela Fiori worked as the editor who revitalized Town and Country (and the first woman to be editor in chief of that magazine), and before she was the editor in chief of Travel + Leisure,she worked as a researcher at Holiday, the travel magazine that was published from 1946 to 1977.

Holiday featured essays by writers like E.B. White, John Steinbeck and Joan Didion. It was praised for its design, which included images by prominent photographers and illustrators.

The magazine is the focus of Ms. Fiori’s book, “Holiday: The Best Travel Magazine That Ever Was,” which was published in September by Rizzoli. She has also written books about St. Barths, Monte Carlo and Palm Beach.

At its height, Holiday’s circulation reached more than a million subscribers.

“My time at Holiday was a very happy time,” Ms. Fiori said. “I could almost physically feel I was growing, and that is like falling in love for the first time, you just never forget.”

In a way it chose me. I was introduced to Charles Miers, publisher of Rizzoli New York, and we started talking about my doing a memoir. When he found out that I had worked at Holiday, which unbeknown to me, he was fascinated by, he asked if I’d be interested in doing something on the history of it. I only worked there for a few years, but I knew a fair amount about it. It’s the magazine that gave me my wings. I was immediately interested.

Some. There were no archives to speak of. The company — Curtis Publishing — had folded. I went to eBay and I started to buy up as many issues as I could. There was a lot there. Not everything, but enough to give me a good sense of why the magazine was so special. Before it, there had been nothing like it.

Holiday started just after World War II, when a lot of soldiers were coming back with a great sense of optimism. But they also wanted to be home, and home meant doing a lot of things under the G.I. Bill — getting an education, buying cars, buying houses.

What Curtis Publishing did was take a risk and bet that eventually these people would become a little restless and curious about what was out there and, with their new cars, would be able to take trips.

The first few issues were edited by a fellow who was pretty mundane in his view of the world and they were not very interesting graphically. Curtis wisely found another man who was much more worldly — Ted Patrick — and he edited the magazine until the early 1960s. His vision was that it not only be a travel magazine, but a magazine about places, people, culture, popular culture and much more.

He expanded the view of the magazine so that it included a lot of great writers and fantastic photographers. It was a great place for ex-combat photographers who had been through the war and wanted no more of conflict. This magazine would send them to beautiful, peaceful places.

Travel writing today is very different. There is plenty of good reporting out there. It’s just that Holiday was able to give its writers room to tell a comprehensive story about a place or a country, even an entire continent — thousands of words instead of the usual 800 we are now accustomed to reading.

Not all of Holiday was about sunny places. When Ted Patrick and his art director sent people out, it was with wide open eyes. They were tasked with telling about places as they were, not as people wished them to be. They knew that telling the truth about a place was going to be far more interesting than depicting it as a place where things were perfect.

Until I was in my 20s, I was conservative about my travels and limited because my family couldn’t afford it. We had been to Miami Beach and the Jersey Shore.

I was an avid reader and dreamer, and I got the chance to go to Italy on my own in my 20s. I spent several months in Florence. I came back, was full of ideas and enthusiasm, and feeling incredibly independent. When I was in Italy and traveling through Europe I was fascinated by hotels and restaurants and the cultural underbelly of places. I came back with that frame of mind.

This interview was edited and condensed for clarity.

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