Top positive review
18 people found this helpful
Bella, bella, bella .......... but don't forget your reading glasses!
on 22 July 2012
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.