Best Italy Guidebooks 2019 Reviewed - Advice on Choosing & Planning.

What's the Top Italy Travel Guidebook for Rome, Florence & Venice? 

Which Is Recommended? Rick Steves Italy guidebook or Lonely Planet Italy guidebook? 


Early Italy Guidebook 'The Spell of Southern Shores' 1914
1914 Ms. Mason began in Liguria and visited
Portofino: 'the quaintest fishing village under
the sky'.Cinque Terre was not yet famous.
Let's start off on the right foot: there are no best travel guidebooks. All have strengths and weaknesses, and all travelers have different approaches and needs. We have recently completed our independent review of almost all the popular Italy travel guidebooks. We give you our recommendation along with enough description help you decide if it fits your needs.

We cover everything you need in three articles:

⬥Guidebooks for Italy (This Article)
⬩All of Italy  ⬩Best of Italy   ⬩Southern Italy
+Publishers of Italy Guidebook Series Reviewed
⬩Rick Steves ⬩Lonely Planet ⬩Rough Guides
⬩DK Eyewitness ⬩Fodor's ⬩Frommer's

⬥Guidebooks for Italian Cities & Towns (Click)
⬩Rome ⬩Florence ⬩Venice ⬩Cinque Terre ⬩Naples

⬥Guidebooks for Italian Regions (Click)
⬩Amalfi Coast ⬩Cinque Terre ⬩Italian Lakes ⬩Liguria, ⬩Puglia ⬩Sardinia ⬩Sicily ⬩Tuscany

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▸Guidebooks in each category are in order of preference.▸All books have Paperback and Kindle editions.
▸ On Amazon UK the Kindle editions may be in the Kindle store.
▸Clicking links doesn't affect the price, but helps us help travelers. See About Us and Disclosure below.
▸See Who Are The Reviewers below to read about the criteria of the reviewers.
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⬥Italy - Entire Country - The Best Guidebooks

No guidebook fully covers all of Italy. Use the Amazon 'Look Inside' feature to see the Table of Contents or Index to make sure your areas of interest are covered.
Early Italy Guidebook 'The Spell of Sicily' 1922
1922 Monroe had a special perspective on
Sicily. A Stanford-educated Professor of
Psychology, he wrote 5 books on Europe.

Italy Lonely Planet 2018 (Amazon US)  (Amazon UK)  (UK Kindle Store)
Color  992 pages    27 oz.   Feb. 2018 (next edition 2020)
Approachable and fairly thorough with straight ahead writing. The comprehensive coverage has good clear maps interspersed in the articles and it includes more out of the way sights. The index can be somewhat spotty.

Italy Rick Steves 2019  (Amazon US) (Amazon UK)  (UK Kindle Store)
Mostly B/W     1244 pages      21 oz.     2019 (next edition late 2019)
Complete info on the frequently visited sites in Italy presented in an effective format. The writing imparts a feeling because the places are actually selected by RS himself. Includes excellent maps, suggested itineraries, good info on opening hours, fees, etc. They don't include many of the less traveled places.  No coverage on Sicily, Sardinia, or Puglia (Apulia).



DK Eyewitness Travel Guide Italy 2019 (Amazon US)  (Amazon UK)  
560 pages   23 oz.  Recommended primarily for pre-trip ideas.
Visually very appealing, but the total amount of practical information is less even though there's a lot of  interesting cultural material. Some places may get just four sentences, but then you'll learn great stuff about castle life. This book uses DK's new design which seeks more utility in the internet age and weighs less than previous versions (no more coated paper). Not recommended on Kindle.

☛ FYI: Kids' Travel Guide - Italy (Amazon US)  (Amazon UK)
Some help for your enthusiastic tour guide. Well-reviewed, 46 pages.

Michelin Italy Road Atlas 1:300,000 (Amazon US) (Amazon UK)
2017 Spiral Bound 12 ounces.   A book of maps makes sense if you're driving in several areas of Italy. The scale is useful for main and secondary roads, and there are city maps included. Works best in concert with a smartphone or car GPS for finer detail when needed. Priced a bit more than two of the 1:200,000 folding maps.

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Early Italy Guidebook 'The Spell of Italy' 1909
1909 Caroline Mason was a Quaker pacifist
 against WWI. She wrote at least 30 books.

Italy - Best Of - The Best Guidebooks

Best of Italy Rick Steves  (Amazon US)  (Amazon UK)  (UK Kindle Store)
All Color  528 pages   17 ounces    2018 (next edition 2020)
Includes Amalfi Coast, Cinque Terre, Florence, Naples, Rome, Tuscan Hill Towns, Venice & more.
This is a targeted version of the full guide above for travelers visiting just the more famous destinations. There's good coverage, though even more limited than in the full guide.

 Lonely Planet Discover Italy   (Amazon US) (Amazon UK)  (UK Kindle Store)
All color    356 pages   15 ounces    May 2018  Titled Best of Italy on Kindle.
A target version edited from the LP full guide, somewhat more espresso than the Rick Steves Best above. Rome, Florence, Tuscany, Cinque Terre, Milan, Venice, Italian Lakes, Naples, Pompeii, Amalfi Coast, Sardinia, Sicily.

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Italy - Southern - The Best Guidebook

Lonely Planet Southern Italy   (Amazon US)  (Amazon UK)  (UK Kindle Store)
320 pages    11 ounces    March, 2018
Not Lonely Planet's best effort, but there is not a lot of competition. If you are traveling away from the popular sights, you'll want to add information on your particular interests. Covers  Naples, Pompeii, the Amalfi Coast, Campania, Puglia, Basilicata, Calabria, Sicily, Capri, the Aeolian Islands, the Ionian Coast.

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Travel Guidebooks - The Publishers Reviewed

Early Italy Guidebook from TCI, Touring Club Italiano 1908
Begun by bicyclists, Touring Club Italiano
has produced outstanding guides and maps
since 1895. Now with 300,000 members.
All the publishers have a somewhat different approach that defines their line of books. Here's our viewpoint on the widely available brands, listed by our general preference.

Lonely Planet Travel Guides.  Popular for a reason, the Lonely Planet books provide comprehensive coverage with well written information on a subject area along with good maps. Presented neutrally without many photos, they are a useful resource for the traveler who wants to be able to change plans mid-trip. Helpful travel tips are often right on the money. Some guidebooks are not updated often, so check the publication date.

Rick Steves Travel Guides.  By far the best-selling Italian guidebook series on Amazon, it's not hard to see the appeal. Not only are the areas covered well, the books include thoughtful opinions which help the traveler choose. Good maps, not a lot of photos, frequently updated editions. However, the books do not attempt to cover every possible place to see; rather the most representative are selected.


Rough Guides.  Similar to the Lonely Planet formula, the Rough Guides have a journalistic approach to writing and cover many aspects of the subject area. Good maps, though not a large number, and fewer photos. There are now almost no regional and city paperback editions for Italy, and most of the Kindle regional and city editions are simply slices of the Rough Guide Italy book.


DK Eyewitness Guides.  This series is known for visually appealing design with photos, illustrations, and good maps. However, the series has comparatively less practical travel information, even though they often include fascinating sidebars. We think they are best for pre-trip travel inspiration or as a 2nd guide rather than the primary on-the-road guide. An updated design is now being rolled out, and some 2019 editions weigh less and offer somewhat better organization.

Fodor's Travel Guides.  These books have a pleasant, positive attitude toward the subject city or region. While they provide basic information and decent coverage of many sights, they generally don't give a feeling for the attractions nor much info outside the mainstream. Good enough for travelers with a defined itinerary with just a couple of days per stop, but you will definitely need to supplement the maps.

Italy Guidebook from TCI, Touring Club Italiano
For readers of Italian there are
 TCI guides with great coverage
  not found in English guides.
www.touringclubstore.com
Frommer Travel Guides.  For us, the Frommer books are like a Chevy Impala: they get you where your going, but there are no thrills. The analogy is helped by the larger type they use. Frommer books are criticized for lacking relevant information, and the descriptions do tend to be short. However, they cover some places other books do not. Overall, they do the job if your needs and time are limited - say for a cruise ship's ports and excursions.

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Guidebook Ideas & Tips

Make Your Own.  As part of trip planning, we create organized supplemental material on towns, buildings, restaurants, geographical features, etc. from the internet or books before we leave home. If you have particular interests, a travel guide won't go into enough detail - so bring more. We often print out or download Wikipedia articles, local blog articles or good tourist office publications. For easy access, create a document on smartphone or computer with links to websites by subject or location. It will save a lot of time in your hotel room.

Kindle Limitations. Kindle users can be inconvenienced while touring because screens can be hard to see in bright sun, and map details can be too small. Also, devices are hard to share which can make you the de facto guide. Consider getting a pocket guide in paperback to carry with you in Rome or Cinque Terre or wherever, as well as a large Kindle Italy guide for the full coverage with less weight.

Library. Don't forget your local library. Many have a good section of travel guidebooks so you can figure out which guidebook is for you. They also are good for inspiring ideas beyond the obvious and adding information your chosen guidebook doesn't cover.

Lose Weight.  With bigger guides we isolate the sections we need and slice the binding. We put duct tape on the binding of each of the newly created sections so they don't fall apart. Now you can leave some of the book at home and discard no-longer-needed sections during your trip.

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Who Are The Reviewers?

Venice Observed by Mary McCarthy
Venice & Vassar meet and confront
tourism existentially - even in 1956.
McCarthy - known for 'The Group'
also wrote 'The Stones of Florence'.
What kind of travelers reviewed these guides? We usually do self-guided trips with a relaxed schedule, by train to large cities and typically by car otherwise. We want a guide with a practical, well-organized approach without superficial writing. Beyond basic facts, we want cultural insight, helpful advice, historical background, and a large selection of sights both great and small - with particulars about hours and prices.

We don't look for guidebook hotel and restaurant recommendations because they give just a limited number of popular places, making it hard to avoid the beaten path. The books can't match online sources where you can learn about virtually all the choices along with recent feedback. Fortunately, Italy now has lots of free wifi, and almost all accommodations will have quite good wifi service.

Finally, we greatly value comprehensive coverage in a guidebook since the internet makes it easier to vary from a planned itinerary to respond to weather, crowds, or new information. We change plans during almost every trip as we discover new aspects of an area, and hopefully your guide books will help you take advantage of the serendipity that makes travel so enjoyable.

Hotels & Restaurant Selection
For accommodation, we typically rely on close reading of the verified hotel reviews on Booking.com  (2nd choice AirBnB) along with map study. For hotels, we avoid TripAdvisor and Online Travel Agencies (Travelocity, etc.) due to unverified reviews, higher prices at times, and lack of added value. We use Google Street View to see what the building, the neighborhood or the traffic are really like if we have any doubts.

For restaurants, we study up on the area's specialties and then become skeptical readers of TripAdvisor reviews (Yelp is not used much in Italy). TripAdvisor reviews in English are skewed to the positive in Italy by happy travelers who are new to real Italian food - good for them, but we want more knowledgeable opinions. We look for reviewers who've written a good number of intelligent reviews with specifics we can evaluate - hopefully an Italian or Italophile. Also, if a restaurant is listed in the Slow Food guide (Osterie & Locande d’Italia), or display the Slow Food snail logo, they automatically are given serious consideration.

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Really good Italy travel website writers
Fall 2017: our 56th Italy trip.

About Us
We are Mike and Martha from Boston and we have visited Italy over 50 times in the past 30 years. We are retired photo editors and we've had an apartment eleven miles by crow or drone from Cinque Terre for over 25 years. We know Italy well and we keep current by reading the local news and travelers' forums and keeping up with travel websites.  We also maintain the web's only archive of  Cinque Terre ferry schedules to help people off-season. We hope our information will help you have a great trip. When planning, remember there are no right choices, just different pleasures. Buon Viaggio.

Disclosure
We receive no money or free stuff for writing our articles or opinions. We may receive a commission if you buy from a commercial link (Amazon is ~ 4%). Those commissions help support this website and (occasionally) local vintners. Your encouragement and trust mean more to us than any money.
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Accommodation in Italy? We often use Booking.com because we like the verified reviews, good search filters, good maps, and clear cancellation policies.  Link: Booking.com
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Italian Travel Questions?  How to get from Florence to Venice?  What to do in Mantova? Agriturismo in Umbria? We recommend using the search function on Link: Martha's Italy
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Renting a car in Italy? You really, really need to read our popular article:

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Don't miss our Cinque Terre articles:
          Every Answer You Need for Your Cinque Terre Trip
          Cinque Terre - 16 Tips for Avoiding the Crowds 
          A Guide to the Local Food of La Spezia & Cinque Terre 


Ligurian Proverb: Ogni promessa e un debito. (Every promise is a debt.)

Written by Martha.

Compiled in March, 2019. The books listed are the latest editions available at the time of writing.
Copyright 2019 Amendola Media LLC.   Where is the Giovanni Amendola of our era?