Thursday, August 18, 2016 | Category: Travel Tips, Travel Writing
If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there — George Harrison
There are a lot of guide books out there, but I have always liked what Lonely Planet guides have to offer. The company was launched 40+ years ago by two crazy kids who got married and, for their honeymoon, decided to cross Europe and Asia and end up in Australia. On a very slim shoestring. And then they wrote about it. Today, the company has been bought and sold twice, but still manages to maintain its edge of writing about — and encouraging travel to — some off-beat locations and authentic experiences. And those two crazy kids — Tony and Maureen Wheeler — are still very much involved.
I have just been given the fourth edition of Lonely Planet’s Discover Italy (Top Sights, Authentic Experiences) guide, and I thought I’d say a few words about it. A quick perusal of the Lonely Planet website, and you’ll see the empire that this company has become. They have all kinds of travel guides for all kinds of travelers, plus so much more: links to special tour experiences, travel insurance options, digital chapters, apps, e-books and so on.
But when somebody gives me a book about Italy, I dive right in. Discover Italy is a well-organized, beautiful pictorial guide for someone who knows what they want to see in Italy. It covers in text, maps, and photos what it calls “Italy’s Top 12” areas: Rome, Florence, Tuscany, Cinque Terre, Assisi, Venice, Milan, the Lake District, Naples, Pompeii, Amalfi Coast, and Sicily. Even better, it provides some actual itineraries for travelers to take, either by public transportation or by driving themselves. The “If You Like” and “Month by Month” pages help travelers pin down things they shouldn’t miss and when they should book their travel.
And here’s where some of the off-the-beaten track stuff comes in. Everybody knows about Carnevale in Venice in February, but did you know that in January, you can see the Regatta of the Befana (witches) – the gondoliers in drag? (See why here . . .) Or that in April the city of Milan hosts the world’s most prestigious furniture fair? How about Tuscany’s Chianti Classico Expo in September? Well, now you know.
And if you need to get inspired to go to Italy, Lonely Planet offers that too, with a page of books, movies and music to get you in the mood. As if . . .
This is a book that will help you tailor your travel according to your interests and needs. Of course there’s a section on travel with the family, and lots of insider tips about how to save money and time and how to get around like a local. It provides all the usual essential information (hours, fees, websites, transportation tips) as well as reviews for eating, sight-seeing and shopping on a few different budget levels. And on almost every page, you’ll find a “Top Tip,” “Did You Know?,” or “Don’t Miss” suggestion to make your experience even richer.
I particularly like the “In Focus” section which takes on topics like “Italy Today,” “The Italian Table” and “Lifestyle” as well as providing a good overview of Italian history. There’s also an invaluable “Survival Guide” and a great pull-out map of Rome (in the printed guide).
So, as I always say, go to Italy. Figure out what you want to see and get this guide to help plan a magnificent trip.
My only negative about this edition of Discover Italy? It completely left out my beloved mezzogiorno – Southern Italy. Especially Abruzzo and Puglia, which are very hot tourist destinations right now. Maybe that will change in the next edition — or maybe Lonely Planet will update its guide to the southern regions by including Abruzzo. I’ll be watching!