Guidebooks for Italy's Regions Reviewed 2020 - Cinque Terre, Tuscany, Sicily & More.

What are the Best Travel Guidebooks for Italian Regions?

Which Guidebook is Better for Driving Through Tuscany or the Italian Lakes?  

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 finished 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 Italian Regions (This Article)
⬩Amalfi Coast ⬩Cinque Terre ⬩Italian Lakes ⬩Liguria, ⬩Puglia ⬩Sardinia ⬩Sicily ⬩Tuscany

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

⬥Guidebooks for Italy (click)
⬩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


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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.
▸See Who Are The Reviewers below to read about the criteria of the reviewers.
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About our Links. Links to products and services we recommend often are Affiliate links where we receive a small commission from a purchase. Clicking on them doesn't affect the price offered, so please help these retired photo editors help travelers like you.  As Amazon Associates we may earn such a commission on qualifying purchases via Amazon links - in 2019 we averaged a whopping 25¢ from Amazon per 1,000 pageviews!  See also About Us & Disclosures below and in the sidebar.

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Amalfi Coast - The Best Guidebooks
Snapshot: Naples & the Amalfi Coast  Rick Steves 
(Amazon US)   (Amazon UK)   US release Feb. 4, 2020 - UK Feb. 27, 2020  Pre-order via links.
160 pages    7 ounces   Jan. 2020  Next edition: Jan. 2022.
The Snapshot edition is an excerpt from the Italy Rick Steves Guidebook. Covers Naples and the Amalfi Coast, including Pompeii, Vesuvius, Positano, and the town of Amalfi.

Amalfi Coast Road Trips Lonely Planet  (Amazon US)  (Amazon UK)
136 pages     January, 2016
While it's a bit older, this adapted edition features a driving orientation, so it can make decisions easier. A word to the wise: read some traveler reviews - driving the Amalfi coast is torture for some drivers, a fun pseudo-video game for others. Covers Naples, Sorrento, the Amalfi Coast, the Cilento Coast.

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.
Michelin Campania Basilicata Map 1:200,000  (Amazon US)  (Amazon UK) For driving, this yellow series 1:200,000 has the right level of detail. We use a paper map for overview and a smartphone with Google Maps for detail.

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Cinque Terre - The Best Guidebook
Pocket Cinque Terre Rick Steves 2017
(Amazon US)  (Amazon UK)  (Kindle UK)
June, 2017 187 pages  Next edition July, 2020.
This edition contains contains the same info as in the RS Italy guidebook with the addition of a good Cinque Terre map. It also covers Portofino. We've written a lot on the Cinque Terre and this is the guide we'd want - hands down the best Cinque Terre guidebook available.

          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 

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Italian Lakes - The Best Guidebooks

Snapshot: Milan & the Italian Lakes District Rick Steves   (Amazon US)  (Amazon UK)
US release Feb. 4   UK release Feb. 27    Pre-order via Links above.
Feb. 2020   112 pages  Next edition Feb., 2022
The Snapshot edition is an excerpt from the Italy Rick Steves Italy Guidebook. This large region is well suited to Rick Steves' selective emphasis and honest evaluations.

Eyewitness Travel Guide Milan and the Lakes
(Amazon US)  (Amazon UK)  2017  248 pages   16 ounces
Not yet the new DK design. This DK guide makes a good companion to the Rick Steves book just above. The DK visuals and sidebars will inspire you and the practical RS will make getting around easier.

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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.

Liguria / Italian Riviera - The Best Guidebooks

DK Eyewitness Travel Guide Italian Riviera
 (Amazon US)  (Amazon UK)  2017  224 pages  14 ounces
Not yet the new DK design. Good photos to inspire, good maps to follow, and good illustrations to explain. There's solid coverage of Genoa and other major locations though the Cinque Terre section is small.

Liguria - Brandt Travel Guides  Whitehouse  3rd Edition 
(Amazon US)  (Amazon UK)  2019 304 pages 11 ounces
The author, Rosie Whitehouse, first visited Liguria as a kid and now visits yearly with her own. She provides engaging coverage of the entire Ligurian coast with a personal feeling including some wonderful out-of-the-way towns. She has a moderate section on the Cinque Terre. This guide has assisted us for a dozen or so Ligurian excursions over several years and we recommend it.

Michelin Liguria Map 1:200,000  (Amazon US)  (Amazon UK)  For driving, this yellow series 1:200,000 has the right level of detail for discovering back roads. We use a paper map for overview and a smartphone with Google Maps for detail.

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Puglia (Apulia) - 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. Use it as a base for adding information on your particular interests. Covers  Naples, Pompeii, the Amalfi Coast, Campania, Puglia, Basilicata, Calabria, Sicily, Capri, the Aeolian Islands, the Ionian Coast.


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.
Michelin Puglia Map 1:200,000
(Amazon US)  (Amazon UK)
For driving, this yellow series 1:200,000 has the right level of detail. We suggest a paper map for overview and a smartphone with Google Maps for detail.

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Sardinia - The Best Guidebook

Sardinia Lonely Planet 2018
(Amazon US)  (Amazon UK)     288 pages
Comprehensive, no nonsense coverage of the whole island. Whether you are a sunbather or cultural explorer, you'll find more than enough to keep you interested and busy.

Rough Guide Sardinia  2019  (Amazon US)  (Amazon UK)
344 pages 12 ounces  July 2019
Now the most recent publication, it includes a free e-guide. This guide has one author - Greg Ward - and the consistency helps one judge the information. Covers the whole island and all budgets with a friendly tone. We don't know how much info was updated from the 2016 edition which had the same number of pages.

DK Eyewitness Travel Guide Sardinia   (Amazon US)  (Amazon UK)
2017   244 pages  17 ounces Not yet the new DK design.
As always the visuals are good for inspiration and the sidebars are fascinating.

TCI: Italian Touring Club Sardinia Map 1:200.000
 (Amazon US)  (Amazon UK)
For driving, this has the right level of detail. TCI maps are even better than the Michelin yellow series, though nearly double the price. We use a paper map for overview and a smartphone with Google Maps for detail.

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Sicily - The Best Guidebooks

1956 Italy Guide, Easter in Sicily, Herbert Kubly.
Our excellent 1956 guide for Easter 1986
Trapani's procession went all night
& the road was slick with candle wax.
Rick Steves Sicily  (Amazon US) (Amazon UK)
2019  350 pages  18 ounces  April, 2019   Next edition April, 2021

This is a new 1st edition, written with two experienced collaborators, and it is already the category leader. There's satisfyingly full coverage as it features bible-thin paper. Enna, Ragusa, Catania, Messina, Palermo, Trapani, Syracuse, Agrigento, Caltanissetta, the Aeolian, Aegadian, and Pelagian Islands, and more.

Sicily Lonely Planet (2020)  (Amazon US) (Amazon UK)
352 pages  14 ounces
US release Feb. 18, 2020. UK Feb. 14. Pre-order via links above.

Also a good Sicily choice - comprehensive coverage overall both by geography and by subject. This 8th edition doesn't have many photos, but 60 decent maps more than compensate. Some travelers point to omissions in the 7th edition, so this one is 32 pages larger. Most buyers will find the book suits the purpose quite well.


Michelin Sicily Map 1:200,000  (Amazon US)  (Amazon UK)
For driving, the yellow series 1:200,000 has the right level of detail so you can get on or off the beaten track as you wish. We suggest a paper map for overview and a smartphone with Google Maps for detail.

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Tuscany - The Best Guidebooks

Florence & Tuscany Rick Steves  (Amazon US)  (Amazon UK)  
702 pages    Dec. 2019     Next edition 12/ 2021.
Besides full Florence coverage with itineraries, it includes Siena, Lucca, Pisa, and a bunch of hill towns. Good maps and extra consideration like Florence with kids and suggested itineraries. Good info on opening hours, fees, etc. This book has more coverage of the subject than the full Rick Steves Italy Guidebook - useful for a stay of four days or more.

Snapshot: Hill Towns of Central Italy  Rick Steves   (Amazon US)  (Amazon UK)
2018   228 pages    8 ounces  ➨Look for the next edition due January 2020.
The Snapshot edition is an excerpt from the Italy Rick Steves Guidebook. Most coverage is in Tuscany - it includes Siena, San Gimignano, Volterra, Montepulciano, Pienza, Montalcino, Assisi, Orvieto, Civita di Bagnoregio, and more. When the attractions are infinite and the time finite, the Rick Steves guides are at their most useful.

Not recommended: Tuscany Road Trips Lonely Planet  132 pages
Nice title, but the coverage is too thin to compete.

Michelin Tuscany map   (Amazon US) (Amazon UK) For driving through the Tuscan countryside, this yellow series of scale 1:200,000 is perfect whether you are aimed or aimless. We use a paper map for overview and a smartphone with Google Maps for detail - for instance near towns.

 Amazon Products Mike & Martha Recommend - Article Continues Below.

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Guidebook Ideas & Tips

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'.
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?

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 and apartment reviews on Booking.com which has the most useful map and search options in our opinion. Our 2nd choice is AirBnB but it's more expensive and the same apartments often appear on both services. 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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Ligurian Proverb: Ogni promessa e un debito. (Every promise is a debt.)

Written by Martha.

Compiled in April, 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?