Charlotte and Lucy are products of their very proper and conservative English middle-class background. Charlotte is completely caught up in her responsibilities to her young cousin and views life and all of its occurrences from her perspective as a “prematurely aged martyr.”
However, one of the rites of passage into adulthood for middle-class English youth is a tour of Europe, an opportunity to be exposed to the carefully selected and presented examples of classic culture present there. Charlotte and Lucy journey to Italy to partake of the intellectual experiences originated there.
Of course, Lucy gains experiences and understandings that were completely unanticipated and unapproved by Charlotte during the course of the story. Lucy's education encompasses discoveries that go in completely different directions from what Charlotte intended.
...have you ever noticed that there are people who do things which are most indelicate, and yet at the same time—beautiful?" "Beautiful?" said Miss Bartlett, puzzled at the word. "Are not beauty and delicacy the same?" "So one would have thought," said [Lucy] helplessly. "But things are so difficult, I sometimes think."