Rick Steves' Italy 2005 Paperback – Oct 30 2004
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Steves preaches a low-cost, low-to-the-ground style that not only saves money, but gets you closer to the real Europe, the way Europeans experience it.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Rick Steves' books are not recommended. They may be an interesting read but their helpfulness is very poor. They don't do well on updates, transportation details, or anything but the first-time-tourist routine and even that is somewhat superficial on anything but the mega-major sites.
These are time tested guides that pride themselves on being updated annually. Although I think the guides below provide information that is in more depth or more concise (depending on what the guide is known for), if your main concern is that the guide has very little old or outdated information, then this would be a good guide for you.
Lonely Planet has City and Out To Eat Guides. They are all about the experience so they focus on doing, being, getting there, and this means they have the best detailed information, including both inexpensive and really spectacular restaurants and hotels, out-of-the-way places, weird things to see and do, the list is endless.
Without doubt, the best of the walks guides.... the Blue Guide has been around since 1918 and has extremely well designed walks with lots of unique little side stops to hit on just about any interest you have. If you want to pick up the feel of the city, this is the best book to do that for you. This is one that you end up packing on your 10th trip, by which time it is well worn.
MapGuide is very easy to use and has the best location information for hotels, tourist attractions, museums, churches etc. that they manage to keep fairly up to date. It's great for teaching you how to use the public transportation system. The text sections are quick overviews, not reviews, but the strong suite here is brevity, not depth. I strongly recommend this for your first few times learning your way around the classic tourist sites and experiences. MapGuide is excellent as long as you are staying pretty much in the center of the city.
The Time Out guides are very good. Easy reading, short reviews of restaurants, hotels, and other sites, with good public transport maps that go beyond the city centre. Many people who buy more than one guidebook end up liking this one best!
Let's Go is a great guide series that specializes in the niche interest details that turn a trip into a great and memorable experience. Started by and for college students, these guides are famous for the details provided by people who used the book the previous year. They continue to focus on providing a great experience inexpensively. If you want to know about the top restaurants, this is not for you (use Fodor's or Michelin). Let's Go does have a bewildering array of different guides though. Here's which is what:
Budget Guide is the main guide with incredibly detailed information and reviews on everything you can think of.
City Guide is just as intense but restricted to the single city.
PocketGuide is even smaller and features condensed information
MapGuide's are very good maps with public transportation and some other information (like museum hours, etc.)
Famous for their quality reviews, the Red Michelin Guides are for hotels & Restaurants, the Green Michelin Guides are for main tourist destinations. However, the English language Green guide is the one most people use and it has now been supplemented with hotel and restaurant information. These are the serious review guides as the famous Michelin ratings are issued via these books.
Fodor's is the best selling guide among Americans. They have a bewildering array of different guides. Here's which is what:
The Gold Guide is the main book with good reviews of everything and lots of tours, walks, and just about everything else you could think of. It's not called the Gold guide for nothing though....it assumes you have money and are willing to spend it.
SeeIt! is a concise guide that extracts the most popular items from the Gold Guide
PocketGuide is designed for a quick first visit
UpCLOSE for independent travel that is cheap and well thought out
CityPack is a plastic pocket map with some guide information
Exploring is for cultural interests, lots of photos and designed to supplement the Gold guide
My biggest criticism about Rick Steeves is that he seems to have little interest in food, and his restaurant recommendations are not as good ( I follow the Michelin guide for those).
Italy 2004 (buy the 2005) was indispensable for my 'parachute' 3-day visits of Florence and Venice this summer. With just a little reading you can arrive totally prepared, immediately have a ton of fun, and dig deep into the local culture while avoiding the tourist scrum.
Just a thought: try not to be too slavish to the Rick Steves method of everything, take chances. And be discreet. It's a pain to see everyone pulling the RS books out in every recommended restaurant, etc. Read before you go, or be discreet, and preserve the ambiance of old Italy. It's not that hard to remember how to order food is it?
Downside, I only felt a few things could NOT have been updated for '04, based on some drastic increases in price, and 2 or 3 recommendations going completely down hill, compared to the description. No big deal, Italy is a crazy but fun place.
That being said, there is a reason why so many tourists clutch onto his tour book as I did--they do so because it's a darn good book! And even if his back doors are not as pristine as they might have once been, my fondest memories from Italy are from places like the hill cities of Tuscany and the beautiful towns of the Cinque Terre, places I probably wouldn't have visited (or even heard of) if I had stayed with the mainstream guides. His recommendations for restaurants and hotels were right on the mark as well.
Say what you will about Rick, but his guide is an indispensable guide for first-time travelers to Italy, and a great stepping stone for repeat visitors. This book was informative and fun to read, as it was nice to have a tour book that actually had opinions and some spice. Thanks Rick, for being my tour guide on an unforgettable tour around Italy!