on 15 October 2002
This guide isn't big and flashy, and it's better for it. It is genuinely pocket-sized, and does not waste space on photographs (what's the point of them if you're going to see the buildings or pictures anyway?). Instead it has a number of clear and reliable floorplans of galleries and churches linked to a more than adequate and intelligent commentary on the features to see. For instance, unlike some bigger guidebooks, it devotes a dozen pages to the Uffizi Galleries, with pointers to all the famous and significant (if not so well-known) paintings, together with (in a lot of cases) a brief explanation of what is notable about the work and how it fits into the artistic or political history of the Renaissance. Its judgments on some works of art and galleries (eg the Accademia) are sometimes unfashionable but in the week we used it they were always found to be reliable. In other words, it treats the reader as someone who is not an art historian but reasonably intelligent and interested in what they are seeing, without being highbrow or patronising. The chapter of potted biographies of leading Florentine artists and the chapter on history were among the best of their kind I've seen in a guidebook.
The guidance on shopping and markets was spot-on, and though we didn't use it so much for eating and drinking it was again reliable when we did (except in the case of a trattoria in Fiesole where we learned the word for 'rip-off' is 'bidonata'!).
The short sections (with street maps) on excursions to Siena and
Fiesole proved to be perfectly adequate for day-trips, without the need to buy another guide.
The only slight criticisms are that the street plans of Florence are inevitably small, although they are handy to use. The one irritant with them, however, was the lack of a street index or a map of bus routes. Apart from that, which doesn't warrant docking it a star, this comes highly recommended following actual use on the ground.
on 30 May 2001
Having booked a short weekend in Florence, I went looking for guide books to help me make the most of my limited time there. This book came the most highly recommended and I wasn't disappointed. It contained all the information I needed to know about the major attractions, admission fees (which are missing out of other books I tried), and opening hours, as well as short but informative histories. It also lists a variety of restaurants, cafes and wine bars. Another great section described day trips to Pisa and Sienna, which in my case proved invaluable as I was arriving in Florence via Pisa Airport. There only drawback to this book is the lack of photographs, but there are plenty of maps and diagrams to compensate. In short, this is small concise book pakced full of information. And it fits easily in your handbag/pocket.