Let me get right to the point: I highly recommend this book. It’s as useful for planning an actual trip as it is enjoyable to read while dreaming about a hopefully-maybe-someday trip.
To be honest, I didn’t expect to love this book, only because I stopped reading Italy guidebooks years ago, when the information started becoming repetitive. But I agreed to review this book because I was curious about which 100 places the author had picked and why she had chosen to target women. (Marketing, I know. But it got me.)
Not only is this book a fun read, but Ms. Van Allen has organized her suggestions in an incredibly useful way: by topic rather than by location. So if you’re looking for a Top 10 list for Rome, you won’t find it here. But if you’d like suggestions on where to drink wine in Rome, chapter 57 is about wine bars. Chapter 55 begins with a short introduction to gelato, then includes specific recommendations for Rome, Florence, and Venice. Chapter 89 is about where to see opera, and starts with an interesting description about the difference between a diva and a prima donna. Chapters 40 through 46 describe some of Italy’s prettiest beaches and the best way to enjoy your day at one of them.
Van Allen also helps the reader avoid the very common Italy Information Overload (which is often the first thing I address with new clients) with a simple solution: at the end of most chapters, she describes a Golden Day, which is just a day’s plan around the chapter’s theme. Golden days are the secret to falling in love with the country, but are hard to plan and can be elusive amid train strikes or tourist crowds or the energy-draining heat of the summer. But I was so impressed with the Golden Days recommendations in this book that I’d even suggest creating a whole trip by just stringing together as many as you can (referencing a map, of course).
Now, about the 100 places and whether this book is more for women… Van Allen recommends many more than 100 places in the 100 chapters in this book, and many of the places are not towns or cities at all. But you could argue that a jazz bar is a place, or a cooking school on the Amalfi Coast is a place. And while several chapters focus on female saints, goddesses, madonnas, and Venus of the beautiful behind (love it! Don’t miss the photo. Chapter 15), I’d recommend this book equally for men.
The only thing that I can think of that this book is missing is big glossy photographs. But then it would be heavy. Therefore not portable. And more expensive. So ideally, plan on doing online image searches while you’re reading this book.
In short, I’d recommend this book if you:
- Want to go to Italy someday and enjoy reading Italy articles to start dreaming about where you’ll go.
- Are definitely going to Italy but haven’t yet decided where to go, and you’re looking for unique, specific ideas based on your interests.
- Are going to Italy and have decided on an itinerary more or less but have room to add something.
- Are going to Italy, have decided on your itinerary, and want specific suggestions for the places you already know you’ll be. In this case you want to use the Index at the back.
If you want to buy this book, here‘s the link to it on Amazon.
Full disclosure: I was sent a free copy of this book to review but this review reflects my own opinions about the book.
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