Della Valle is one of the more unique figures in the history of travel in the East. He left Italy for Constantinople in 1614 and spent more than a year in the city. He travelled through Syria and into Persia, where he married the Circassian Sitti (or Setti) Maani, and he spent some time at the court of Shah Abbas. His wife died at Persepolis in 1622. Della Valle continued on to India and he did not return to Italy until 1626.
Della Valle’s account of his voyages is based on the letters he wrote to his friend Mario Schipano, a doctor in Naples, and the text remains in the form of letters. Only the first part of the voyages was published during Della Valle’s lifetime: it appeared in Rome in 1650 and contains the letters from Turkey, where he spent 13 months. Della Valle’s work had a great success, and numerous editions and translations followed. The history of these editions is complicated.
Viaggi Di Pietro Della Valle Il Pellegrino, Con minuto ragguaglio di tutte le cose notabili osseruate in essi, Descritti da lui medesimo in 54. Lettere familiari, Da diuersi luoghi della intrapresa pellegrinatione. Mandate In Napoli All’erudito, e fra’ più cari, di molti anni suo Amico. Mario Schipano. Diuisi in trè Parti. Cioè La Tvrchia, La Persia, Et L’ India, Co’l ritorno in Patria. [... La Persia Diuisa in due Parti. Parte Prima ... Parte Seconda ... Parte Terza Cioè L’ India, Co’l Ritorno Alla Patria.] In Venetia, M. DC. LXIV. Presso Paolo Baglioni. Con Licenza de’ Superiori, e Priuilegio. [... M. DC. LXIII.]