Top positive review
21 of 21 people found this helpful
Good, but the previous edition was better
on 13 July 2010
Several years ago, my preparation for any trip abroad would always include an hour or so spent comparing guidebooks. My comparisons became more cursory after I realised that I always ended up with the Lonely Planet; usually it was the excellent town maps that gave LP the edge.
After seeing this offering, I will go back to looking more closely.
I did my preliminary trip planning with an older version, so I was excited to see that an updated version was available. But I was disappointed to find that, far from being a more comprehensive guide, large chunks of information have been cut.
Whole towns and villages are now deemed unworthy of mention; in their place we are offered driving tours and a more spaced out layout with cutesy subtitles for each section (e.g. 'Central Market - stock up on artichokes, asparagus and atmosphere'). Where a town has been retained, its map may not have been. And at least one of the maps that have remained has dropped outlying areas (and their accommodation options). Accommodation options have been mostly moved to a directory at the back of the book, strangely arranged alphabetically by establishment name within subregions, with no grouping by town. Some may prefer this, but it does make it more difficult, while browsing the text, to get an idea about which of the smaller towns has suitable accommodation (however you may define 'suitable'!).
I am left with the impression that the target market for this book is car-based tourists with plenty of money to spend on restaurants and shopping. While much useful information on how to get between places by public transport has been retained, details of towns where a public transport user may spend time waiting for a connection have not. So, for example, we lose Chiusi - a jumping off point from the Milan-Florence-Rome rail line, with some Etruscan remains and a new hostel - and Colle di Val d'Elsa, departure point for buses to Volterra and itself a crystal-making town with a historic centre.
All that said, there is plenty of practical and background information here, written in a style that is engaging without trying to be alienatingly hip. If this is your first trip to the area, or you are travelling by car, or are mainly interested in food and/or the better-known destinations, this book may well meet your needs. If you're planning a walking or cycling tour with less flexibility about the distances you can cover, or are heading for somewhere off the beaten track, or just want more details on the smaller towns you may pass through, you might like to look at a previous edition. The previous editions also feature more of the quirky 'boxed text' anecdotes.
If you've read this far you'll have gathered that for me the new layout does not justify the sacrificed information, but some may find it easier on the eye. You can compare the old and new with Amazon's 'Look Inside' feature - use 'Search Inside This Book' for a place that interests you to see a sample of the destination pages. 'Look Inside' also includes the indices - so before you buy you can at least check which towns are covered in the area you're planning to visit.