Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Guest Post: A Quick Guide to Guidebooks

Today, John Gower the NerdWallet nerd/writer/analyst writes about guidebooks, and the best part is, it's about Italy! Please join me in welcoming John and once again, celebrate Italy together! Have you used any of these guidebooks? Are they any good? Do share YOUR travel thoughts.


Are you planning a trip to Italy? Eccellente! For those who like to plan their trips ahead of time, the good news is that there are a large number of resources both in print and online that can help you make the best of your time in Rome, Florence, Venice, Bologna, or wherever else you plan to go. However, there is so much information to wade through the task of planning may seem a little overwhelming. Here’s a selection of the very best guidebooks, depending on what kind of traveler you are and the type of trip you’d like to take.

Do you use any of these guides for other countries?

According to, the top-selling Italy guidebook is Rick Steve’s Italy 2013. This book is ideal for the casual American traveler who may have little to no experience traveling outside of the country. With its motto “get the most out of every day and every dollar” the guide’s goal is to make Italy accessible and affordable to Americans. It has lodging and sightseeing recommendations for all of the major destinations, and should make getting around in Italy much easier for any visitor.

Fodor’s Italy, another popular guidebook, is a slightly more expensive option that boasts hundreds of color photos, as well as tons of useful information and clear advice that will help you make the best of your time in Italy. Especially helpful are its sections on public transportation and conversions to local units of measurement. Frommer’s Italy is similarly thorough and colorful. It has maps of all the major cities and extends Frommer’s reputations for having some of the best guides around. For travelers who want guides packed with information, both Frommer’s and Fodor’s guides make for great choices.

For younger travelers who are visiting Italy on a reasonable budget, Lonely Planet Italy is a terrific option. The newest version is geared toward a younger crowd that’s beginning to eschew guidebooks altogether. Lonely Planet also has a companion website that’s very helpful and features user discussions for every destination, including Italy.

Of course, the Internet is the cheapest and most convenient way to learn about anything. In the time that it takes Amazon to ship you your guidebook, you could have already researched everything you need to know about Italy on websites like Wikipedia, TripAdvisor, and Lonely Planet. However, if you do buy a guidebook, make sure you’d get the physical version and not the e-book, as many buyers complain about the quality of the digital versions compared to their hardcopy counterparts. Also, be sure to read your guidebook of choice from the beginning before you go, or at the very least, skim through it to find the chapters about the places you plan to visit. After you’ve booked your tickets and hotel reservations, re-read your favorite parts on the flight over so your head's not stuck in your guidebook during your stay in Bella Italia.

John Gower is a writer for NerdWallet, a personal finance website dedicated to helping you save money with financial tips on everything from travel to the best apr credit card.