DELLA VALLE, Pietro. Rome 11.4.1586 — Rome 21.4. or 11.4.1652. Italian (Roman) Traveller in Iran and India. Born in aristocratic family, had good education. In his youth served as a soldier. According to his own account left Rome because of an unhappy love in 1614 and began a pilgrimage, which then turned into a travel of curiosity. Sailed from Venice to Constantinople, proceeded to Egypt, Jerusalem, Syria and Mesopotamia, where in 1616 he married a local (Assyrian Christian) girl, Sitti Maani Joerida. Then in Iran, in service of Abbas I, but after his wife’s death in 1622 continued his journey to India. Arrived at Surat in February 1623, visited Cambay and Ahmedabad, went from Cambay to Goa by land describing local politics and customs. Visited Mangalore with surroundings and Calicut, returned to Goa in the end 1623 and in the end 1624 left for Musqat, Basra and Alep. Returned to Italy in 1626, buried the embalmed corpse of his wife, married her maid, Maria Tinatin di Ziba (of Georgian origin) and spent the rest of his life mainly in Rome. He had at least 14 children.
Della Valle described his travels in a series of letters to his friends, mostly published only after his death. He was a keen observer and eager collector, who contributed much to the knowledge of Asian countries and civilizations. He spoke Turkish and Persian. Among other things he brought the first Coptic manuscripts and the first relatively good copies of Cuneiform inscriptions to the West. Often he was remarkably objective and impartial in his attitudes, but also remained a firm Catholic, looking for the possibilities of mission and believing that Hindus were worshipping the Devil. In the 17th century he was also known as a composer and author of librettos.
Publications: Viaggi di Pietro Della Valle il Pellegrino. 1-2. Rome 1658-63 and many editions and translations (in 15 years in English, French, German and Dutch, again in English, transl. by G. Havers, ed. by E. Gray, The Travels of Pietro della Valle in India. Hakluyt Soc. L. 1892); writings on music, etc.
Sources: *J. D. Gurney, “Pietro della Valle: the limits of perception”, BSOAS 49, 1986, 102-116; *Jürgen Jensen, “Ethnographische Datenerfassung, Dokumentation und Beschreibung bei Pietro Della Valle (1586-1652)”, Anthropos 102, 2007, 421-439 & 103, 2008, 179-190; S. La Via, D.B.I. 37; Oaten 1909, 127-138; J.-B. Rubiés, Literature of Travel and Explor. 1, 2003, 326-328; Tucci 2005, 86-90; Wikipedia (with portrait originally published in his travel book and further references).