FROMMER'S NORTHERN ITALY is a 504 page guidebook with a large, glossy, full-color fold-out map of northern Italy. The book, which is by Eric Sylvers, is a huge detailed effort. The writing is straightforward, and there are no attempts at writing that is cute or coy (there is no, "nudge-nudge, wink-wink" type writing to be found). There are thirteen (13) chapters. The first three chapters are of an introductory nature. The chapter titles are shown below:
(1) Chapter 1. The best of northern Italy;
(2) Chapter 2. Northern Italy in depth;
(3) Suggested Itineraries;
(6) Trentino-Alto Adige;
(7) Friuli-Venezia Giulia;
(8) Milan and Lombardy;
(9) The Lakes (Garda, Coma, Maggiore);
(10) Piedmont & Valle D'Aosta;
(11) Liguira and the Italian Riviera;
(12) Planning your trip;
(13) Useful terms and phrases.
CHAPTER THREE (pages 76-89) shows a full-page photo of the town of BELLAGIO with Lake Como and snowy mountains in the background. Page 81 shows an old stone bridge crossing a sleepy canal in the town of VICENZA. We learn from a map on page 80 that the towns of Brescia, Verona, Vicenza, Padua, and Venice, all occur in a straight line going from east-to-west, and that all are recommended for tourists. Page 83 shows a huge cliff at a place called, CINQUE TERRE, where a sidewalk with railing allows tourists to walk through a crevice carved into the sheer walls of the cliff. Later on in the book where details are provided, we learn that this is actually "part of a popular hiking trail that hugs seaside cliffs, affording heart-stopping views of the coast and of romantic little villages looming ahead (page 448 in CHAPTER ELEVEN). Continuing with Chapter Three, we find a photo of a chef in the town of ALBA, serving white truffles. Since I have training and experience in finding and eating fungi (morels, urnulas, and hen-of-the-woods), I found the disclosure of the "Truffle Town" of Alba to be interesting. At a later point in the book, details are provided of ALBA and its Truffle Festival held in October (pages 392-394 in CHAPTER TEN). We learn of a restaurant in Alba called Piemontese which serves pasta made of barley flour. Pages 88-89 have photos of the snowy Dolomite Mountains, and we learn that the town of Turin was the site of the 2006 winter Olympics, and that a 1-hour drive will take you to the town of AOSTA, described as being in "the heart of the Alps" (page 88). Later on in the book, a section devoted to AOSTA discloses its Roman ruins, an archaeological museum, and give a warning that most hotels require guests to stay at least three days (page 397-404 in CHAPTER TEN).
CHAPTER FOUR (pages 90-177) concerns VENICE. We read that, once arriving at the Venice airport, one needs to take a 20 minute bus ride or taxi ride to get to the ferry boats ("vaporetto") and from there, take the ferry to your hotel. Page 95 shows a photo of a canal in a downtown area, where several buildings have huge domes. The place looks like New Orleans right after Hurricane Katrina. We learn that Venice has six districts: (1) Cannaregio; (2) Castello; (3) San Marco; (4) San Polo; (5) Santa Croce; and (6) Dorsodura. These districts are also shown on a 2-page map (page 108-109) which resembles the landmass to the south of New Orleans, which is criss-crossed with hundreds of bayous (but in Venice, it is canals, not bayous). This map identifies hotels, and an almost identical map (page 126-127) identifies restaurants. And again the same map appears on page 140-141, but this one identifies museums and cathedrals. The book warns the reader that many buildings do not have street numbers, that many streets change names repeatedly, that getting lost is common, that most commercially available maps omit streets, and that the best map of Venice is published by STORTI EDIZIONI.
The photos in Chapter 4 include Piazza San Marco (page 143), which contains Palazzo Ducale, Campanile di San Marco (with elevator for tourists taking you up 318 feet for a view of the city), and Ponte dei Sospri (a bridge that bridges the upper stories of two buildings, where the two buildings are separated by a canal) (page 146). We see a photo of Chiesa di San Salvador (page 152), which is a church built in 1508 that houses paintings by Titian, a photo of a gondola boatyard (page 156), a photo of the "Ghetto" where Jews were once forced to live until liberated by Napoleon in 1797 (page 161), photos of the annual "Carnevale" (pages 165, 167), and a photo of the bombastically decorated LA FENICE theater (page 172).
CHAPTER FIVE concerns VENETO (page 178-230). The topics in this chapter include the cities of PADUA, TREVISO, ASOLO, VASSANO DEL GRAPPA, VICENZA, and VERONA. We read that Veneto contains artifacts of William Harvey (discoverer of circulatory system), St. Anthony, Galileo (you can see his podium at Universita Palazzo Centrate), and Giotto (frescos made during 1303-1306). We read about ancient bronze relics dating from 5th century BC at MUSEO BAILO in the city of TREVISO (page 194-198). We read about a medieval walled village of MAROSTICA, which is 20 miles north of Vicenza, and which has an annual festival commemorating a 15th century chess game between two knights. Near the town of VICENZA, one finds one of the world's most influential pieces of architecture, namely, VILLA ROTUNDA, designed by Palladio and built in 1567. Tourists are allowed inside only on Wednesdays (page 211). We learn that the city of VERONA devotes itself to the operas of Verdi, and that opera season is June to August, where performances are held in an ancient amphitheater.
CHAPTER SIX concerns Trentino-Alto Adige (pages 231-264). The photos include cows by Tyrolean mountains, a castle built in the 11th century containing frescos of battle scenes, where the castle is topped with a wall with spaces for archers to shoot arrows. We learn of a 13th century church (Chiesa dei Domenicani) with a fresco depicting court life, and another fresco called, "Triumph of Death." We learn of a nearby museum that houses a 5,300 year old "ice man" (an actual man) who was discovered inside a glacier. Further on in this chapter, things get more dramatic, and we read about two national parks, Parco Nazionale Della Stelvio and Parco Nazionale di Tessa, which contains many hiking trails and animals (elk; chamois), huge glaciers, and skiing. This part of Italy has a German influence, and the book provides German names for the towns. We learn of a hotel containing frescos of an elephant, because at one time, a 16th century guest marched into town riding an elephant. There are three photographs of the dramatic Dolomite mountains.
CHAPTER SEVEN concerns Friuli-Venezia Giulia (pages 265-282), and brings the reader down from the mountains back to sea level. This area of Italy includes the town of Trieste, which once belonged to Austria. We learn of CAPITOLINE HILL in Trieste, which has many ancient Roman ruins. The book recommends a visit to CATTEDRALE DI SAN GIUSTO, which contains structures built in the 5th and 14th centuries. We learn that admission is free to this cathedral. Those who like to read James Joyce, will be glad to learn that he wrote Ulysses at Caffe-Pasticceria Priona, which is still located in Trieste. The book recommends a mosaic-filled Basilica, built in 313 AC.
CHAPTER EIGHT is about two cities, Milan and Lombardy (pages 283-337). Page 283 has a full-page photo of "Duomo," a complicated looking building resembling Notre Dame in Paris. Construction started in 1386 on Duoma, which is one of the largest churches in the world. We read that Pinacoteca di Brera, built in 17th centry, has the world's best collections of northern Italian paintings, including paintings by:
* di Brera;
Milan also contains da Vinci's LAST SUPPER. Although this fresco has substantially deteriorated, page 298 advises that you need to buy admission tickets months in advance. In contrast to so much of the other material in this guidebook, we learn that Milan has a museum devoted to contemporary works (avant garde furniture, lamps, and photography). Milan also has a museum filed with working models of da Vinci's inventions (Museo Nazionale della Scienza e della Tecnologia Leonard da Vinci). Pages 304-308 disclose high fashion boutiques that sell works of leather, fur, and linen. Located in the town of CREMORA, we find two museums devoted to violins (Museo Stradivariano and Raccolta dei Violini). For tourists interested in being overwhelmed by art, we learn that the town of BERGAMO has an art museum with paintings by Lotto, Botticelli, and Raphael. BERGAMO also has a town square filled with amazing architecture, e.g., Palazzo della Ragione, Torre Cirico, and Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore.
CONCLUSION. This book is the result of a massive literary, fact-finding, and photographic effort. I was impressed by the details, such as details of cuisine, details that provide phone numbers for ticket offices, and advice that certain attractions are open for selected days of the week, or occur only in specific months.