Planning is something I enjoy, both for my travel and other areas of my life. I can’t imagine my life without the internet. This despite the fact the internet wasn’t invented until I graduated college. Combine the two and you get a person who does a lot of research online before going on a trip.
Except for when I return to well-loved travel guidesbooks.
Although a paper book cannot be updated as quickly or frequently as an online travel guide, there are still some guides that are worth buying. These are my top picks, books I love to read, recommend, and update whenever possible.
You can check out a few at your local library to find the one that suits you best. But then, if you are anything like me, you will need to purchase your own copy to make notes and stick sticky-tabs to pages you want to refer to later.
Note: These are affiliate links. This means that I earn a small commission if you purchase through one of the links. However, it will not cost you more. A review copy of Top 10 Rome 2016 by DK was also sent to me. However, I have DK guides (which I bought myself) on my bookshelf since years.
Are you looking for more options than the ones I have listed? Browse my list of favorite books and the travel gear I recommend to make an Italy trip more enjoyable at the Italy Explained Store.
Rick Steves is my favorite guidebook author. Although he covers more than Italy, he has a special affection for it. He makes people feel comfortable when they travel – that’s why I refer to him as the “gateway drug for independent travel.”
Rick Steves guides have a friendly tone that makes me feel like I’m receiving travel advice from a friend. This is the feeling that I want my readers have when they read Italy Explained.
However, Steves’ folksy style is not for everyone. Some people find him a bit too eccentric. If you’re one of these people, I recommend getting a copy his new Italy book from the library. It contains tips and recommendations on places to see and sights to visit. His tips are fantastic. This will allow you to do deeper research using a book that is more in line with your interests.
Rick Steves’ Italy Guide on Amazon.com
This Rick Steves book is co-authored with Gene Openshaw. It deserves its own category, however, because it is one of my most treasured travel books. This book is a compilation of Steves’ self guided tours of major European cities and museums. The instructions in the book tell you to only take out the sections that are relevant for your trip. Rubber bands hold mine together. When I return from a trip, the sections that I have removed go back in the book.
I believe that Steves has many self-guided tours available in his guidebooks. Others can be downloaded from iTunes. The latter gives you the opportunity to have Steves personally walk you through an attraction or city. Mona Winks is still my favorite book. It’s one the few books that I won’t lend out.
Purchase used Rick Steves’ Mona Winks at Amazon.com
After I had graduated from Let’s Go! After I graduated from the Let’s Go! guidebooks, I switched to Lonely Planet. Lonely Planet covers the entire country while Rick Steves guides do not. This means you have to decide what you want to do, rather than having someone else do it. However, it does mean that there are some less-visited areas of the country that can be found in Lonely Planet’s guide with some information.
Lonely Planet has undergone some changes over the years and I’m not certain I’ll use the newer LP guides. However, I still pull my old one from my bookshelf for basic research and as a starting point for deeper reading.
Lonely Planet’s Italy Guide on Amazon.com
DK Eyewitness Travel
My first DK guide was for Paris. I remember drooling when I opened it. It was almost overwhelming to see all the colorful and detailed images in the DK guide, compared to the text-only Lonely Planet guides. The cutaways and diagrams were particularly exciting to me. One example was a drawing of Paris’s church with its walls removed. It pointed out the places to find the various things in the book.
The problem was the fact that it weighed over a ton. It was thick and glossy so, even though it was thinner than my other Paris guides, it was still heavier. It was left at home when I went on my trip.
Although the DK Top 10 Rome guide is full of diagrams and colorful photos, it was light enough to be taken with me on my recent trip to Italy. Contrary to what you might think, there are more than 10 things to see and do in Rome. It is a compilation of 10 (really well-thought out) top 10 lists. These include top 10 green spaces, cultural festivals, free things you can do in Rome, ancient sites, underground sights, and many more. There are also top 10 lists that cover different areas, such as Trastevere and Piazza Navona.
The book has beautiful fold-out maps within its covers. I took a map that was removable into the back of my book on my Rome trip, even though it was in my bag.
DK Eyewitness Travel’s Top 10 Rome Guide on Amazon.com
Italy for the Hungry Traveler
Since I first read this book before I went to Italy, I have loved it. This book is the ideal companion for Italy travelers, and it’s broken down by region and includes a translator. This is another of those prized-book-possessions, also out of print, and also never loaned out. It was impossible to find an affordable used copy of this book, so I didn’t include it in this list. However, I couldn’t talk about Italy without mentioning it.