Most helpful positive review
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Excellent 'on the ground' guidebook
on 15 June 2014
The world of travel guidebooks has changed greatly in the last ten or so years. When I started travelling, I would go for the comprehensive close print of Lonely Planet or Rough Guide to plan my trip and see me round. Now, however, I plan using the internet and am more likely to use a phone app when on the move. So a paper guidebook needs to offer something extra to still be relevant, and for me these Eyewitness Guides have cornered the market.
The books are easily portable and robust, with good quality paper pages and durable covers. The layout is easy to use and the wealth of colour photos make them a pleasure to browse through casually, but also good to find details in quickly when out and about. I find the choice of photographs much better than that in some other guidebooks - they tend to show the things you want to see i.e. the buildings and sights you are looking for, rather than 'local colour' type pictures which might make nice pictures but aren't much practical use. The photos are fully integrated into the text rather than being only in a 'photos' section as in many books.
The top 10 style may not be the most comprehensive, but for the majority of tourists with limited time, or supplementing a guided trip, they cover everything you're going to need. And if you have extra or special interests, chances are you've already looked up what you need on the net ahead of time. It can be a real help if planning a trip with limited time, to select the 'best bits'. I found it covered everything I could want to do and more. For Florence I found the 'top 10s' within the galleries particularly useful, as faced with these vast museums and knowing little about art, all I wanted was to see a selection and make sure I didn't miss anything particularly good or famous.
This guide covers not just Florence but the other major cities/towns and the countryside itself, including Sienna, Pisa, Lucca, Chianti, San Gimignano, Cortona, and the Southern Coast. There are specific top tens for each of the major sights, including the Uffizi Gallery, the Duomo complexes in Florence and Sienna, the Pitti Palace, and the Campo dei Miracoli in Pisa. The maps are very easy to read and use, although I rely more on smart phone maps these days, it is good to have a paper back up in case of technology failure, and for some of the smaller towns where app maps tend not to be so good.
Over the years, Eyewitness have also improved their practical information. They now include more helpful tips (although not enough to do full trip planning based on this book alone) but around things that you need prompting to know on the ground. The information on public transport and arriving by train is better than in older editions of the guides and includes helpful info like where to find the left luggage office. The only real gap is a basic phrasebook. This didn't bother me as this is another area where my phone has taken over, but a page of the absolute basics would still be useful.
I would highly recommend this to travellers going to the region, whether on a guided trip or self-planned. In fact, I'd go as far as to say I wouldn't personally even consider taking any other brand of guide for a holiday to a region where there's an Eyewitness Guide available.