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Guidebooks for Italy

Start your trip planning by reading guidebooks. These books will help you decide where to go and how to plan your trip. Bring your favorite guidebooks with you; good guidebooks and maps will make your trip more enjoyable. You could carry a shoulder bag full of books, maps, printed out web pages (including pages from this site), tourist brochures, restaurant listings. Keep this bag in the car whenever you go out, so that if your plans change during the day, you still have all the information that you need. When you leave the car to go touring, take the one book and map that you need. With the Cadogan guides you can tear out the pages about your destination and slip them into your pocket.

Another option would be to purchase guidebooks for your tablet (e.g., Kindle, iPad). They are a fantastic way for you to travel with multiple guidebooks without having the actual burden of books to weigh you down. Be careful though, as maps and diagrams in guidebooks do not always transfer well to liquid ink displays or may not be visible on backlit displays while outdoors (another time when ripping pages from the book may be an additional solution).

Lastly don't forget to check out our Top Travel Books for Italy as suggested by our members.

Note: Be sure to check that you are buying the most recent edition. Some guidebooks are updated yearly; some every few years.

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General Travel Guidebooks for Italy

There are many good series of guidebooks for Italy. I have listed my favorites below. Most guidebook series have different editions for the different regions of Italy.

Cadogan Guides

Many of the Italy travel guides for Cadogan are written by Dana Facaros and Michael Pauls who have lived in Italy and Ireland. They now live in France. There are editions of these books for the different regions. ("Cadogan" rhymes with toboggan - sort of.)

These books are in black and white on thin paper and, as a result, are light weight but packed full of information. There are good descriptions of the towns with recommended hotels and restaurants. The restaurant recommendations are usually reliable. They also give suggested itineraries and vocabulary lists.

Cadogan: Italy, 5th Edition, by Dana Facaros, Michael Pauls, Cadogan Guides, 5.00 edition, 2004

This is a good general guide for all of Italy. Use this for regions not covered in separate guides or to get a good overview of the country.

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Cadogan: Tuscany, 5th Edition, by Dana Facaros, Michael Pauls, Cadogan Guides, 2010

Great details and good maps for this popular tourist destination in central Italy.

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Cadogan: Umbria, 4th Edition, by Dana Facaros, Michael Pauls, Cadogan Guides, 2009

Great details and good maps for this popular tourist destination in central Italy.

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Cadogan: Lombardy and the Italian Lakes , 7th Edition, by Dana Facaros, Michael Pauls, Cadogan Guides, 2008

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Rough Guides

Many people on our forums highly recommend these guidebooks. They are similar to the Cadogan guides, with good travel details and maps for each town.

The Rough Guide to Italy, 10th Edition, by Martin Dunford, Celia Woolfrey, Robert Andrews, Jules Brown, Ros Belford, Jonathan Buckley, Mark Ellingham, Tim Jepson, Rough Guide Travel Guides, 10th edition, 2011

Great details and good maps for all regions of Italy.

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The Rough Guide to Tuscany & Umbria, by Rough Guides, 8th edition, 2012

Great details and good maps for this popular tourist destination in central Italy.

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The Rough Guide to Sicily, by Rough Guides, 8th edition, 2011

Great details and good maps for this island with so much history.

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The Rough Guide to Venice & the Veneto, by Rough Guides, 8th edition, 2010

Great details and good maps for this island with so much history.

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Eyewitness Travel Guides (Dorling Kindersley)

This series of travel guides are in full color on thicker paper and are heavier, but are a convenient small size. I find the color pictures helpful to decide if we would like to see a place.

They have excellent information for larger towns (for example, there is great detail about Florence and Siena in their Florence and Tuscany guide). They have good hotel and restaurant recommendations at the back of the book (listed by town). Their restaurant recommendations are usually reliable and I have used their hotel recommendations several times to pick hotels. They also include good city maps.

Eyewitness: Italy, by DK Publishing, 2012

A good general guide for all regions of Italy with lots of photos and maps.

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Eyewitness: Florence and Tuscany, by DK Publishing, 2011

A good general guide for the city of Florence and the region of Tuscany with lots of photos and maps.

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Eyewitness: Umbria, by DK Publishing, 2011

A good general guide for Umbria with good details for Assisi.

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Eyewitness: Italian Riviera, by DK Publishing, 2011

A good general guide for coastal Liguria including the Cinque Terre.

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Italy Survival Guides

In our Slow Travel Italy - Instructions for Visitors section of this website we have detailed information on how things work in Italy: language lessons, driving, trains, ordering in caffes and restaurants, food shopping, and more. A shorter version of this type of basic survival information is found in most guidebooks.

Nan McElroy, Italy, Instructions for Use: The Personal, On-Site Assistant for the Enthusiastic but Inexperienced Traveler, Illustrata Press, 2007
Thisbook is small enough to fit into a hip pocket but contains all the basics that you need for survival in Italy. Topics range from planning your trip to how things work in Italy - driving, trains, buses, phones, eating and drinking, shopping, etc. Sound familiar? Yes, it is very similar to the information we have on Slow Travelers Italy in our Instructions for Visitors section, but this compact book is easy to take with you. Originally published in 2004, this book was written by an experienced Italy traveler, travel consultant and Slow Travel Talk forum member.

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Other Guidebook Series

Rick Steves' Italy 2012, by Rick Steves, Avalon Travel Publishing, 2011

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Heritage Guides: Italy, A Complete Guide to 1,000 Towns and Cities and Their Landmarks, With 80 Regional Tours by Touring Club Italiano (Corporate Author), Touring Club of Italy (Editor), 1999

The Heritage Guides are very detailed, more like the traditional Blue Guide, but have some photos and very good maps of regions and towns. They are compact in size.

Heritage Guides are available for the different regions and cities in Italy.

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Michelin Green Guide Italy, by Gwen Cannon (Editor), Michelin Travel Publications, 2012

These guidebooks are not as "chatty" as Cadogan, but are packed full of information. A good resource for museums because they have very detailed descriptions of the art.

Green Guides are available for the different regions and cities in Italy.

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Vacation Rentals

Most vacation rental listings are available on the Internet, but there are some books available listing all agritourisms (farm vacations).

Italian Farm Vacations: The Guide to Countryside Hospitality, by Touring Club of Italy (Editor), 2003

This is not a recent publication, but is still a good reference. Agriturismo (agritourism) places do not change that much over the years.

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Europe on a Dime: Five-Star Travel on a One-Star Budget, by Dru Pearson, 2012

This book contains great information, in general, for planning trips to Europe, however it has some excellent advice (much of which can also be found here) on finding, booking and using vacation rentals.

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Take at least one book for each region you will visit. Don't be afraid to staple all kinds of things into your guidebooks: cards from restaurants or hotels, receipts for a place you enjoyed, torn out articles with restaurant recommendations. That way when you pull out a guide book for your next trip, you can remember what you liked on your last trip.

Notes on Other General Travel Guidebooks

Frommers or Fodors: These are basic, high level guidebooks, with standard restaurant recommendations, often geared to your package tour participant.

Let's Go: These are aimed at a more budget-oriented traveler.

Blue Guides: These books are packed with historical detail that while interesting, may better serve for prepratory research or, after a trip, when curious about the background of places you have seen. As a carry along, they can be cumbersome, and would actually be a good option for an e-reader.

Art and Architecture Books

Italy Revealed, A Guide to Art and Architecture in the Italian Landscape by Charles FitzRoy, photos by Joe Cornish, Little, Brown and Company, 1994 (Out of print but available used.) Wonderful book with art and architecture driving tours through Italy.

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Paul Hoffman

Paul Hofmann, writes books about Italy that are part travelogue, part guide book. They are wonderful to read. He lives in Rome. Some of his books, that are more "memoirs" than guide books, are listed in Memoirs.

Paul Hofmann, Umbria: Italy's Timeless Heart, Henry Holt and Company, 1999

A must-read if you are visiting Umbria. Great details about the major towns. A lot of information about Assisi. Hotel and restaurant lists.

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Paul Hofmann, The Seasons of Rome: A Journal, Henry Holt and Company, 1997

Another one of Paul Hofmann's great books about Italy. Lots of good details about Rome, where he lived for many years.

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Paul Hofmann, The Sunny Side of the Alps - Year-Round Delights in South Tyrol and the Dolomites, Henry Holt and Company, 1995

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Paul Hofmann, Cento Citta - A Guide to the "Hundred Cities and Towns", Henry Holt and Company, 1988

I have listed his 100 cities and towns in the Travel Notes section.

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Other Travel Guidebooks

Pat Byrne, Kids Europe Italy Discovery Journal, CyberRead, 2006
Activities for kids age 6 - 16 in Italy.

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Theodora van Meurs, Designer Bargains in Italy, Editoriale Shopping Italia, 2008 (6th edition)
"This guide with over 1100 addresses of top name factory outlets in Italy will tell you where to find the best designer bargains. Save 20% to 70% on all your purchases and pay for your holiday." Well organized by region with driving directions and opening hours. Unfortunately, this book is out of print though older editions are available.

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Mary Jane Cryan and Norman M. Roberson, Affreschi - Exploring Etruria, Davide Ghaleb Editore/Etruria Editions, 2006

Essays about the northern Lazio area, contains travel essays, photos, drawings and maps.

Available at shops in Rome and northern Lazio or from www.elegantetruria.com.

Wayland Kennet and Elizabeth Young, Northern Lazio: An Unknown Italy, John Murray Pubs Ltd, 1991
Detailed guide to Lazio. Out of print. A detailed guide of Lazio.

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History of Italy

Mary Jane Cryan, Travels to Tuscany & Northern Lazio, Davide Ghaleb Editore, 2005

This historical "On the Road" is based on the travel diaries of Henry Cardinal Stuart and other historic travelers to central Italy.

Available at shops in Rome and northern Lazio or from www.elegantetruria.com.

Ian Campbell Ross, Umbria, Penguin UK, 1999

Recommended by Letizia Mattiacci (madonna del piatto): Excellent reading before departure if you want to know more about history, art and architecture of our wonderful region.

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Hiking Books

Walking and Eating in Tuscany and Umbria, James Lasdun and Pia Davis, 1997, revised 2004, Penguin Books
We have done some of the hikes in this books and enjoyed them. For each hike, they list public transportation options and restaurants. My only complaint is that they do not have more circular hikes - where you can park the car and hike for a few hours and end up back at the car.

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Walking in Tuscany (A Cicerone Guide), by Gillian Price, Cicerone Press, 2010
This book describes hikes are in the Etruria region (parts of Tuscany, Umbria and Lazio). Good descriptions and the hikes look good. I have only done one hike from the 2000 version of this book (Walking in Tuscany).

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Walking Easy in the Italian & French Alps, by Chet Lipton, Carolee Lipton, Globe Pequot, 2002
This same couple have written a few other Walking Easy books. This one used to be just the Italian Alps, but was republished to include the French Alps. Personally, I love hiking in the Swiss Alps, but if you want to do some hiking on a trip to northern Italy, this would be a good book to have. Good descriptions of hikes/walks at all levels. I have used their book for Switzerland hikes.

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Tuscany (Sunflower Guides), by Sunflower Guides, Hunter, 2006
This general touring guide for Tuscany describes several walks throughout Tuscany. I have used their guide for the Amalfi area hikes and have looked at the descriptions in this Tuscany book, and it looks like a good hiking book.

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Sunflower Landscapes of Sorrento, Amalfi and Capri, by Julian Tippett, Hunter; 6th edition, 2010
I used this book on our Fall 2001 trip to Sorrento, but had a hard time working with the book. Instead I just bought a map with hiking trails. The book has a very complicated approach to putting together your hikes - I didn't have the patience for it - maybe you can figure it out better. It does look like there is some good hiking in the area.

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The Independent Walker's Guide to Italy, Frank Booth, Interlink Books, 1998
35 hikes in Italy, but not many in Tuscany and Umbria.

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Lonely Planet Hiking in Italy, Lonely Planet Publications, 3rd edition, 2010
These are longer, more difficult hikes in Italy.

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Explorer's Guide 50 Hikes In & Around Tuscany, 1st edition, 2007

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Walking in the Dolomites (Cicerone Guides), 2nd edition, 2010

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Shorter Walks in the Dolomites: 40 selected walks (Cicerone GuideS), 2nd edition, 2012

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100 Hut Walks in the Alps (Cicerone Guides), 2nd edition, 2010

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Only Available in Italy

I found this book in Italy in English:

Trekking & Mountain Bike around Florence and Siena, Curzio Casoli, Apice Libri, 1992 (tel:055-218153)

At the map stores in Florence or Rome you can find hiking books in Italian. We get these and Steve translates the hikes for us, but the translating can be difficult. They tend to use flowery prose which is hard to translate. These are detailed hiking books in Italian. They refer to the IGM and Kompass maps.

A Piedi nel Chianti (Guide Iter 1991)

A Piedi in Toscana (Guide Iter 1987)

A Piedi in Umbria (Guide Iter 1994)

L'Umbria Per Strade e Sentieri (Minerva Editrice Assisi)

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