If you are planning a trip to Italy a must purchase is Alastair Sawday's Italy guide. I bought my first Sawday guide (on Italy) four years ago and consider it one of the best purchases I've made. I went ahead and planned a three week holiday in Italy using only the recommended properties in the guide. It was one of the best holidays I have ever had.
After this I was converted. No matter where I was travelling, I checked first to see if there was a Sawdays book on my destination, and used it to plan my holiday. I now have a collection of these books and pick them up occasionally when I just want to dream of being somewhere else!
I have used the French, Paris, Italian and English guides, and have yet to be disappointed with them.
I was delighted to see the new edition of the Italy book released as I am off to Rome in October for a wedding and see there are a couple of new additions as well as the old trusted properties. I have every faith in the properties in this guide, both old and new, and I look forward to booking my trip with it.
This guide is very user friendly. There is a map section in the front showing exactly where your property is. You get a detailed description of the property then, with symbols telling you at a glance if kids are welcome, if there is a pool on the property, if they cater for vegetarians, if they are wheelchair accessible, etc. The back index is very handy if you want to do a quick search of the properties that lie in certain categories. For example, there are properties listed under the sections: "travel without a car", "on a budget", "cookery courses", "agriturismo", etc.
There is a big focus on green tourism and certain properties get a special green entry for their efforts towards sustaining the environment.
There is great variety of places and prices in the guide. From 60 euro b&b for two to a 650 euro suite for a night, the choice is endless. There is something to please everyone, whatever their budget.
I would like to metion a few really special places I have stayed in:
Frances Lodge in Siena: my mouth waters at the thought of Franco's french toast with his own lemon syrup. The pool has a stunning view of Sienna in the distance, and the owners are so nice. They even got us tickets for pre-palio dinner during our stay!
Antica Dimora Johlea in Florence: The roof top terrace here is lovely, it's nice to watch the different shades of the rooftops and duomo by evening. It feels like you are entering a Medici villa on reaching the main door, it's humongous, with a little door in the big one, and huge door handles. You are right in the heart of Florence...
Casa Albertina in Positano: The view from our room here was breathtaking. The people in the hotel couldn't have been nicer. I had the nicest olives one night on the roof terrace with a glass of prosecco watching the sun set over the bay, pure Heaven...
Hotel Gardenia al Lago, Lake Garda:
I still recevie Christmas & Easter e-cards from the hotel. I sent an e-mail a year or so after my stay enquiring about availability for a friend, and got a lovely personal reply asking how my sister and I were keeping. It is a really relaxed, laid back kind of place. It is on the shore of Lake Garda. Our room had double doors facing the lake that we left open by night, it was really beautiful.
The only problem I now face on planning my holiday, is whether to go back to some special place that I have stayed in already, or whether to look for some new special place to stay!