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Rough is not always enough!
on 14 October 2012
We used this book as our sole reference on a long weekend in Naples.
On the plus side, we were aware of little that was missing or inaccurate. However, we found it a bland, uninspiring book which gave commentaries on what you could see but because of an apparent phobia towards expressing an opinion or describing the relative merits of one attraction versus another, made it very difficult to make informed decisions about how to spend limited time. For instance, we love subterranean attractions, be they catacombs, underground cemeteries, churches, tunnels or sunken cities. Naples has all of these in abundance and far too many to see all in the limited time we had available. However, when we tried picking out the 'best' we simply couldn't use the text to help us form an opinion and nearly missed the incredible Saint Gennaro catacombs which is one of the best we have seen anywhere in the world. The old practice adopted by Michelin guides of using a simple star rating system is what is really needed to determine what is 'unmissable' and what is 'worth a detour' but a good guide expresses opinions which serves the same function. And tho we may not always agree with the author's opinion, an experienced traveller learns to read between the lines and make his own mind up. This guide is all information and no guiding.
Another issue concerns the maps. Generally adequate (tho often missing the names of streets useful for navigation), the habit of just placing an arrow to indicate the general direction of an attraction which is a few hundred yards off the map is extremely unhelpful and irritating in a place like Naples where it can be very easy to lose your orientation or get lost. There must be a better technique than the lazy arrow! Also, who at Rough Guide thinks it's a good idea to indicate the physical route of a metro and the physical location of the platforms? We wasted a big chunk of one evening trying to locate the Amedeo metro station. We found ourselves at the top of a hill, bang on the spot where the metro was indicated, yet no sign of it. Passers-by told us the station could be reached via the nearby funicular or by going back down the hill and turning right, neither of which was apparent on the map. In the end, we realised, we were in the right place, only 200 metres ABOVE the platforms! The map editor should be aware of this risk in hilly locales and, as a rule, adopt the practice of indicating the entrances, not the platforms.
In conclusion, this book is not bad, it just lacks character and needs backing up with other guides so you are not abandoned by its indifference to the guiding bit of "Rough Guide".