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TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 22 July 2012
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I used the previous edition of this guide during a 3 week stay on the borders of Tuscany and Umbria, and so was keen to see what changes had been made. As with all guide book publication, this guide attempts to balance portability, inclusiveness, visual appeal, clarity of text and maps, detail of essential practical information, price and the expectations of the kind of traveller who buys this kind of book. Considering that this edition is shorter by 120 pages, I was expecting to see the glorious detail of the familiar 7th edition brutally hacked away and the book lacking some of its former appeal. I really shouldn't have worried. The splendours of Florence, Siena, Assisi, Lucca, Pisa, Perugia and all the other gems of these regions are fully documented. Even our 3 weeks home of last year, Citta della Pieve, retains its informative page and a half! And (despite the views of other reviewers) the book also includes plenty of information about national parks, scenic delights, and assorted activities which it would be hard to define as 'cerebral'. However, the region is one of the great cultural (with a capital C) centres, so it's unsurprising to find that most of the information is about such things. That suits my tastes perfectly: for those with different interests, there are plenty of guides which tell you less about such things!

Visually, the book is a treat: the (rather pointless in my opinion) black and white, often rather grainy and unclear images of older editions have disappeared and the photography is now all in colour, distributed throughout the book and no longer confined to the top attractions list. The book is a much more appealing browse and appetite whetter. Mapping is significantly clearer, on a par at least with the Lonely Planet maps which I have generally thought superior. Travel, accommodation and eating info has been sensibly pushed to the back of each area or city section so the guide elements appear first - after all, those are the parts one continually revisits as one travels around a place, and they need to be easily found. With a view to this, the leading edge coding to help the reader find the entries for, say, Siena, have been improved.

Even though the Florence section is the one most obviously trimmed (124 pages down to 98 in the new edition) I could find few sacrifices. Most sections seem virtually identical, with one or two filleted sentences here and there. The only listing I spotted which had completely disappeared was the Museo di Firenze com'era, somewhere I have never visited in my numerous stays in the city, so I don't know how great a sacrifice that is. (I DO like guides which suggest more obscure attractions!) Plans of historic buildings and fresco/floor layouts are just as comprehensive and more clearly printed. Detail about churches, galleries, historic sites, historical background etc, the things which I buy guides for, remain as exemplary as ever. Listing of accommodation and restaurants etc is at least as comprehensive, though there has been some sensible tweaking of how these are grouped for searching within city districts.

So what has been sacrificed? Print size, for one thing. The new guide seems to get onto 1 page what the older guide got onto 1.25 pages. This IS an issue, especially for people of a certain age like myself. With my reading glasses this presents few problems: without them ...... But the use of sub-headings has been improved and there is better spacing between subsections. 'Historical Contexts' to the regions seem a little slimmer and the listings of books for the culture nerd (me) has withered from 71 down to 28. For me that is a real loss as the 7th edition prompted explorations I might not otherwise have made, but, as I implied at the beginning, these guides remind me of quarts and pint pots - a forgiveable compromise if it helps portability.

Overall, I think the new edition an improvement: virtually all the information of previous (excellent) editions, with colour and improved mapping. Slightly slimmer, also because of slightly thinner paper, and almost 10% lighter. This is definitely in my bag for the next trip! But I really MUST NOT forget the glasses.
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on 14 October 2017
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on 18 August 2014
Good book if you wanted knowledge on the main places of interest of this area.. We bought it for our visit to Florence and we found it lacking information on a lot of the churches etc. Maybe our fault but there was not any other up to date guide book available covering primarily Florence
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TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 13 August 2012
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is a useful guide both for planning a trip and then to take with you. As you would expect, Florence receives the greatest attention, taking up probably a quarter of the book, and there are good sections on the places on the main tourist areas of Siena, Pisa, Lucca, the Tuscan hill towns & wine areas. However, it is pleasing that less well known places, such as the beautiful country around Bagno di Lucca, are also covered in enough depth to whet the appetite.

Although Umbria appears in smaller letters on the cover, there is still good information about this less visited province. Assisi and Perugia get the lion's share of attention but there is decent information about places like Trevi or Todi (I haven't been to the latter for maybe twenty years and the description now suggests it may have become overly gentrified which would be a shame as it was a charming place - not sure whether I want to go back now).

The book is perhaps disappointing in having little or no information about walks apart from usually brief mentions, a lacuna that is all the more surprising since there is precious little of this information readily available in Italy either.

The layout of Rough Guides has improved over the years and this guide benefits from colour photos and is laid out in a logical way. Practical information such as travel information, accommodation & restaurant listings is grouped at the end of the description of places/sites. It is always difficult to comment on accommodation & eating suggestions as this is so much down to personal taste and expectation. This side of things, certainly in relation to hotels & lodgings, has to a large degree been superseded by internet searches and the likes of Tripadvisor so that the listings are less useful than they would have been in the early days. That said, the accommodation and restaurant listings cover a range of price points so there should be something for everyone. Early Rough Guides were often somewhat 'hair shirt' but this seems no longer to be true (I say this based on a number of more recent Rough Guides, not just on this guide).

One area of weakness is the maps & plans of e.g. cathedrals. The font is so small that even with my specs on I struggle to read details or street names. I compared this with a Rough Guide that was published I think about 18 months ago and the font size is appreciably smaller. I suppose there is always a trade-off between keeping books to a compact size and weight. In fairness there isn't much difference between the Rough Guide and the equivalent Lonely Planet guide.
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VINE VOICEon 2 September 2012
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Tuscany and Umbria are among Italy's most exalted regions, with the serene Renaissance cities of Florence, Sienna and Perugia at their cultural heart, and any guide book attempting to adequately reflect the inspirational landscapes, the amazing hill-top towns and villages, the nostalgic pines and fountains, the architecture, arts, history and high civilization of this part of Italy... has to write with a sense of the aesthetic, refinement and pure enchantment as well as with sufficient mundane factual expertise... the Rough Guide accomplishes this aim very well.

The guide perfectly balances text, description, photographs, maps and practical information on where and when to go, what to see, where to stay and eat etc, in 580 pages packed with everything one needs to know, including some useful Italian vocabulary and a comprehensive index. There are chapters on the history of Tuscany and Umbria, the famous Medici, as well as a directory of artists and architects whose creative masterpieces so transformed medieval peasant Italy into the High Renaissance. Most guides are printed on glossy paper which often gives an artificially enhanced and unreal quality, especially to the photographs, but the Rough Guide is printed on a satin type of paper which softens the photography and induces a much more tranquil effect on the reader's mind and senses.

The Rough Guide is very inclusive, designed and offering something for every individual taste and level of financial means, supplying facts and information for every type of traveller, from air flights to travel by train, car, bus, bicycle and walking. There is information on hotels, self-catering accommodation, bed and breakfast, student hostels and even camping. Tuscan food, cuisine, restaurants, wines, media, newspapers, TV and radio, festivals, a calendar of events worth coinciding with one's trip are included. As one would expect there is much information on the region's churches, cathedrals and duomos, museums and art galleries, piazzas, theatres, palazzos and famous beautiful villas.

This is a fine quality guidebook, intelligently and expertly written, full of history and intimate stories which bring the sites described interestingly to life, in a style that is neither too concise nor too elaborated. And it covers just about everything.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 15 August 2012
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Lonely Planet or Rough Guide? It's always a tough decision but perhaps not as tough as it used to be.

The Rough Guide publishers are clearly working very hard to get one over on the competition, and with much success. I really am impressed with the depth of information here, revealing all sorts of things I'd missed about places I've visited on a number of trips to the region. There's also more to this particular Rough Guide than others I've owned, with some excellent photos and improved use of colour in maps. Even simple improvements like coloured bars on the edges of pages to make navigation through the book easier are very welcome. The book is well-structured and makes an enjoyable read, with quality, objective writing and clear typefaces.

My only criticism is one I've always had of RG vs LP - I wish they'd identify places of interest on street maps with numbered lists. That way, they could show more of them and make them easier to find. It's particularly annoying to spend ages scanning a map for something, only to find it isn't marked - I could work that out much more quickly from a list. Even when it is marked, the exact location isn't always as clear as it would be from a number instead of text. The index, while comprehensive, doesn't highlight pages containing maps.

That's about all there is to moan about, though. I can't wait to go back to Tuscany or Umbria and use the book `in anger'. I feel confident that I'll be very happy with it, so am very happy to recommend it.

[I make no apologies for the similarity of this review to my review of RG Wales - the T&U book takes the same approach and is of an equally high standard]
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TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 13 August 2012
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
'The Rough Guide To Tuscany and Umbria' is, like its many cousins, blighted
at first glance by a lack of clarity about whether or not we are looking at its
most recent incarnation. The spine declares it to be both a 'New Edition'
and 'New Design' but not the specific season to which it is dedicated. We
have to root around inside until page 574 for clarification that this is,
indeed, the 2012 edition. A minor grumble perhaps but an irritating omission.

Once between its covers, however, the book is a sound introduction to these
two beautiful neighbouring Italian regions and a valuable source of information
with which to plan your travels. Rough Guides have been traditionally aimed
at those of us journeying on a tight budget but are also happy to tempt us
with the odd treat here and there, especially with regard to accomodation
and dining. Must-sees and must-do's are well chosen with a refreshing number
of itineraries pointing us towards lesser known towns and villages which would
deliver rich rewards for those visitors who are willing to stray off the well
beaten tourist track. Florence, Pisa, Sienna and Perugia, as one might expect,
get more than their fair share of the spotlight but with a little more effort
the remoter hill towns beckon with their smaller but no less worthy treasures.

The maps are clear and well organised but the photographs somewhat dingy.

All-in-all a good buy, even though a tad on the heavy side for a backpack.

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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 14 September 2012
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This guide covers probably my favourite region(s) of Italy and my favourite tourist destination (Florence) so it already has a nose ahead of other guides – but how does it actually measure up?

At over 580 pages it cannot be considered a “pocket guide” that’s for sure. I’m unsure I would want to carry it even in my bag around any of these towns and cities as it is rather on the heavy side!

It has all of the usual useful information in the Introduction and Basics sections – how to get there and how to get around, accommodation, festivals, outdoor activities, travel essentials etc

The body of the book is divided into 13 regional sections. Each section is packed with maps, diagrams and very detailed descriptions of places to visit. Information on tourist offices, getting around (by bike, taxi, bus or train) is given as well as information on accommodation – a selection of hotels, good restaurants, shopping etc What you don’t get is many colour pictures of the places you are to visit which lets it down a little in my opinion (I like to see what I am going to visit!)

I will just detail the first section or two in a bi more detail and then just summarise the other sections. The first (and by far the largest) section is devoted to that wonderful city of Florence (my favourite tourist place in the world!) You get almost one hundred pages of places to visit and useful info. All of the usual places are included – the Duomo, Uffizi Gallery, Piazza della Repubblica, the Bargello. Santa Maria Novella, San Lorenzo, San Marco, Santa Croce, Palazzo Pitti etc – plus many, many more. All are described in meticulous detail to ensure each visit goes smoothly and that you do not miss anything.

The next section is called “Around Florence” which covers the area up to about 30 km from Florence and again details all of the places to visit like the hill town of Fiesole, the Medici villas, Greve in Chianti, Prato, Pistoia, San Vivaldo (“the Jerusalem in Tuscany”) and Certaldo. There are some fantastic little places to visit here – and only about 30 mins drive from Florence!

The Lucca and northern Tuscany section covers the wonderful walled town of Lucca – another beautiful destination well worth a visit. It’s particularly nice to visit at night and has a nice vibe to the place. The rest of the section includes the Alpi Apuane – a really stunning part of Italian landscape.

Pisa and the coast are covered next – Livorno, Elba and Capraia. Pisa is of course worth a day visit – all of the major attractions (the Duomo, Baptistry and leaning tower) are collected in the Campo dei Miracoli.

The Maremma covers the western coastal strip down to the start of Lazio and includes places like the “classic Tuscan hill-town” of Massa Marittima with its “glorious Romanesque cathedral”

Next there are 35 pages on the wonderful city of Siena. The Sienese hill-towns include the famous walled town of San Gimignano with its “stunning skyline of towers”. Southern Tuscany includes the roofless abbey of San Galgano. Arezzo Province covers Arezzo itself plus the Valdichiana (valley of Chiana). Perugia and northern Umbria is the next section. The last three sections deal with “Assisi and the Vale of Spoleto”, “Spoleto and the Valnerina” and “Orviety and Southern Umbria”.

There is just too much in this book to write about – so many places to visit. Every time I open the book I feel enthusiastic about visiting a new part of Italy and adding a few more to my “must visit” list.

A great book and reasonably good value for money given the huge amount of useful information covered within..
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VINE VOICEon 11 August 2012
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I ordered this book in preparation for a trip to Tuscany and a part of Italy that I have never been to before. This guide is a very informative book and is as overstuffed as my average suitcase with essentials and the bizarre required for a good holiday. It was almost too informative if that makes sense - much like my suitcase this book would take so long to go through and use that it almost rendered it unusable.

What I mean by that is that if you wanted an easy 'at a page glance' into one of the destinations then this book is probably not for you - as there is just so much to read, but what I think this book will be great for is to pre-read before you go to an attraction, or to learn more on your return. I will use this guide as a planner and probably look for a much smaller, simpler guide to put in my pocket when I go.

So to sum it up - a very thorough book, too thorough really but does paint a good picture of the region and I can't wait to go now.
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on 27 May 2013
good book and a good guide but total rubbish as far as for use on the kindle fire, as you cannot access the maps. therefore you are not getting value for money, as to whose fault that is, I dont know but it should have been offered at a cheaper price and in BIG BOLD LETTERS 'WARNING YOU CANNOT ACCESS THE MAPS ON KINDLE FIRE HD' it would have been helpful
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