Italian City & Town Guidebooks Reviewed 2019 - Rome, Florence, Venice & More.

What are the Best Travel Guidebooks for Italian Cities & Towns? 

Which Guidebook is Better? Rick Steves, Lonely Planet, DK Eyewitness or Frommer? 


Old Italy Guidebook, The Spell of Southern Shores Caroline Atwater Mason, 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 Cities & Towns (This Article)
⬩Rome ⬩Florence ⬩Venice ⬩Cinque Terre ⬩Naples

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

⬥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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Florence - The Best Guidebooks

Florence & Tuscany Rick Steves  (Amazon US)  (Amazon UK)
702 pages  (late 2017) next edition late 2019.
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.
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.

Pocket Florence Rick Steves   (Amazon US)  (Amazon UK)
2018    200 pages    7 ounces
Largely the same info as in the full Italy Rick Steves Guidebook. The reduced size makes it good for a 2 or 3 day Florence visit.

DK Eyewitness Travel Guide Florence (Amazon US)  (Amazon UK)
2019    256 pages    13 ounces
Visually very appealing, but the total amount of information is less. This book uses DK's new design which seeks more utility in the internet age and weighs less than previous versions (by not using coated paper). The Amazon reviews are conglomerated with the older edition so use date-sorted reviews when judging.

Streetwise Florence Map   (Amazon US)  (Amazon UK)
We would still be lost if not for Michelin's laminated maps.

Brunelleschi's Dome  (Amazon US)  (Amazon UK)
Florence's Duomo is stunning; so was its creation. Ross King's bestselling historic novel takes you back to 1418 to relive the building's development and understand this engineering marvel.

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Naples - The Best Guidebooks

Snapshot: Naples & the Amalfi Coast  Rick Steves 
(Amazon US)   (Amazon UK) 
160 pages    7 ounces   June, 2018
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.

Fodor's The Amalfi Coast, Capri & Naples  (Amazon US)  (Amazon UK)
2017    352 pages   Full Color
This guide suits this area where tourism is on a more luxurious plane. It covers a large variety of activities, as well as restaurant life - an essential part of Naples and Amalfi's attraction.

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Rome - The Best Guidebooks

Rome 2019 Rick Steves   (Amazon US)  (Amazon UK)  (UK Kindle Store)
628 pages   10 ounces    Sept. 2018 (next edition Sept. 2019)
1950 Cecil Roberts book, 'And So to Rome'
From 1950, reviews of Cecil's work said he
had thin plots & cardboard characters.
Includes useful maps 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.

Pocket Rome Rick Steves   (Amazon US) (Amazon UK)
2017    220 pages    8 ounces209 pages   8 ounces     June, 2017  (next edition June, 2019)
Largely the same info as in the full Italy Rick Steves Guidebook. The reduced size makes it good for a 2 or 3 day Rome visit.

DK Eyewitness Travel Guide Rome 2019   (Amazon US)  (Amazon UK)
Oct. 2018    352 pages    19 ounces.Visually very appealing with good photos, detailed maps, cut-away building illustrations, and interesting tangential info, but the total amount of practical information is less. Consider this as a companion 2nd guide or for pre-trip inspiration. This book uses DK's new design

Streetwise Rome Map  (Amazon US)  (Amazon UK)
Laminated, fold-able, pocket-sized, Michelin, readable.

A Day in the Life of Ancient Rome  Angela  352 pages  (Amazon US)  (Amazon UK)
Loved this book. The author, the Italian TV presenter Alberto Angela, made the city come alive and you won't believe the extent to which Romans were not like us. Tenements and sex and gods and cooking and laundry urine and slaves - just to start.

Four Seasons in Rome  Anthony Doerr  242 pages   (Amazon US)  (Amazon UK)
A Pulitzer-prize winning novelist is seduced by Rome and Italy and writes about it. How can you not read it?  It will change your trip - say the reviewers.

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Venice - The Best Guidebooks
Venice Rick Steves   (Amazon US)  (Amazon UK)
 Dec. 2016    524 pages   14 ounces   (next edition late 2019)
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'.
This book has more coverage of the subject than the full Rick Steves Italy Guidebook - useful for a stay of four days or more. Includes self-guided tours, a foldout color map, extras for kids, nightlife. Also coverage of Padua (a great day trip), Vicenza, Ravenna, and Shakespeare's fair Verona.

Pocket Venice Rick Steves   (Amazon US)  (Amazon UK)
2018   224 pages   9 ouncesLargely the same info as in the full Italy Rick Steves Guidebook. The reduced size makes it good for a 2 or 3 day Venice visit.

DK Eyewitness Travel Guide Venice and the Veneto (Amazon US)  (Amazon UK)
2019  220 pages  21 ounces
This colorful guide makes Venice into a delicious treat waiting for you. The beautiful maps, the clever building cut-aways, the interesting asides combine to charge your batteries. While it's not the best walk-around book, do consider using two guides, especially if you're driving around the Veneto region. Not yet the new DK design.

Streetwise Venice Map  (Amazon US)  (Amazon UK)
Excellent laminated & foldable map. Get lost (temporarily) in Venice anyhow, it's tradition.

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Cinque Terre - The Best Guidebook

Pocket Cinque Terre Rick Steves 2017
(Amazon US)  (Amazon UK)  (Kindle UK)
2017 187 pages (next edition 2020)
This edition contains contains the same info as in the RS Italy guidebook with the addition of a good Cinque Terre map.  We've written a lot on the Cinque Terre and this is the guide we'd want - hands down the best.

          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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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?

Old Italy Guidebook, The Spell of Italy, Caroline Atwater Mason, 1909
Caroline Mason was an avid Quaker pacifist
who opposed WWI. An avid writer she
published at least 30 titles - this 1909.
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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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?