I kept buying travel books for Italy, looking for something but not quite knowing what -- until I discovered this book. It's not just a list of restaurants or a list of hotels -- you can get that in any travel book, and feel uneasy, because you can't help wondering if anyone really stayed at the place or ate the place. Plotkin's book is about the whole experience of going to Italy, with details about the specialties of each region, so that if you go into ANY restaurant anywhere in Italy, you will know what to look for.
At the same time, everything is put into a historical and cultural context, so you know what you're eating and where it's from.
So many travel books feel like they were written for the sake of writing a travel book. That is, they give the impression of a squad of writers dispatched to a location, with an expense account and a limited number of days, who have to inspect so many hotels and restaurants and write up a summary. Recommendations seem arbitrary.
THIS book seems more like a sincere journey of exploration that happened to turn into a travel book. And Plotkin is the ideal guide, because he lives there, knows the country, loves it . . . and yet he's American, so he has an American perspective. He's just one guy, so you'll inevitably, in practice, find that you disagree with some of his choices. So what? That's part of learning how to use the book. At least with this book, you know they really ARE his choices. And they're informed choices.