on 6 September 2012
First, can I express what a godsend the Blue Guide to Sicily (8th Edition) was on my recent trip. I have used many guides in the past and this was by far the most in-depth and resource laden book I have used to date. The author, Ellen Grady, certainly writes from a position of knowledge and authority. Without this book I would not have experienced a multitude of sights and food! For that, she is to be commended.
My partner was using the previous edition as a backup copy. This came to be an intriguing situation when we made comparisons. It is inevitable with newer editions that details may change - that is the point, to make additions and correct errors. But what was interesting was that some restaurants detailed in the previous edition were missing from the latest edition. In addition, new restaurants were detailed in the latest edition - no great surprise. Our thinking was that the restaurants in the earlier edition had closed and that the ones mentioned in the latest edition were replacements of equal merit - makes sense, doesn't it?
Well, no actually. Restaurants detailed in the previous edition were not only still operating but were very good and to be recommended. However, many of the new additions in the latest edition were, to be honest,, unworthy of inclusion. Given the high standards of this book, I am at a loss to explain how this has come to pass. It was especially noticeable in the listings for Syracuse, where we spent several days of our tour.
To clarify, the omissions: Don Camillo, in Via Maestranze, we found absolutely superb and well deserving its international reputation. Also at the Osteria da Mariano, a more homely establishment, we enjoyed a wonderful evening.
New unworthy additions: We found the Zafferana to be pretentious and expensive, the pizza at Piano B was inedible, and the freshness of the fish at the Apollonion was dubious to say the least.
What I also found interesting whilst comparing the two editions was that the newest is edited by a Dr Michael Metcalfe. I fail to see what his contribution is after comparing to the previous edition. However, it must be significant as he warrants three times as much space on the inner cover as the author herself!
In summary, it IS a fantastic book bar a few inconsistencies in restaurant recommendations. But, If you heed this review as a kind of addendum, you can't go wrong.
on 20 August 2012
Like pretty much every Blue Guide I've ever bought, this is a superb guide, as long as you're more interested in learning something than looking at pretty pictures. You won't find recommendations for lively bars or nightclubs, but you will learn a lot about the history, culture and architecture of Sicily. Can't rate this highly enough.
on 29 July 2014
Simply the best! The editor of this Blue Guide, Sicily is Dr Michael Metcalfe, whom I had the immense pleasure to meet on several trips organized by Peter Sommer Travels.
This travel guide starts with a sketchy presentation of Sicily’s complex history. After that, each province of Sicily is being explained in detail, beginning each time with a short history of its own followed by the role its capital and other main cities played over the centuries, highlighting the main buildings and others, inclusive opening hours, entrance fees and handy phone numbers. Clear town plans and site maps help the prospective visitor to find his way among the Greco-Roman ruins and in the web of streets and alleys of these cities and towns. Key events or key personalities receive special attention in a framed window, and clear drawings and an occasional (black & white) picture definitely help to get a good idea of what to expect.
At the end of each chapter treating a separate province, there is a list of hotels and restaurants that deserve to be taken into consideration. That goes for all the provinces of Sicily: Palermo, Trapani, Agrigento, Caltanissetta, Enna, Ragusa, Syracuse, Catania and Messina.
The guide concludes with some practical information about opening hours, emergency numbers, means of communication and travel, and finally some details about accommodation and the island’s wide range of typical food and drink (wines). There also is a glossary of special terms, mostly pertaining to Greek temples and theatres, handily completed with drawings of the basic temple design, the classical orders of the temples, the design of ancient theatres, as well as the names and shapes of all kinds of pottery one can encounter. It also includes a list of Sicilian architects, painters and sculptors. At the very end of the guide we find a full road map of Sicily and a series of more detailed maps by province. In short, everything you need to know before heading for this beautiful island but also extremely useful while travelling around.
To my greatest pleasure and utmost satisfaction I did indeed visit this island in a two-weeks tour led by Dr Michael Metcalfe in person (for the tour details of Peter Sommer Travels, see Exploring Sicily), who truly brought Sicily and its rich history and culture to life!
on 22 November 2012
The Blue Guides are by far the best cultural guides. Obviously they cannot provide a exhaustive coverage of any large area but I have yet to fault the information contained, and the presentation is scholarly. This guide to Sicily is well up to standard and enabled us in a recent visit to the island to view it with a decently knowledgeable approach.
on 26 September 2013
[for a more detailed review with pictures, see my blog. I couldn't figure out how to include links/pictures in the Amazon review system. [...]
I chose this guide because when I go to do `culture' rather than `adventure', I want information on the history and architecture of the place that I have gone to. This is why I chose the Blue Guide for Sicily and it did not disappoint. While the blurb on the back of the guidebook is somewhat limited [see photo], the publisher's description was more detailed and swayed me to buy the book. It states:
`Fully revised and updated new edition of this popular Blue Guide, by Sicily resident and tour guide Ellen Grady. The author is assisted on this edition by ancient historian Michael Metcalfe, who contributes his scholarship to the entries on the ancient Greek and Roman remains.
While this guide retains the Blue Guides' traditional focus on architecture, art and archaeology, with in-depth coverage of all the sights, both the famous and those off the beaten track, the author is also an expert on the cuisine of Sicily and each chapter contains detailed and up-to-date listings of where to eat and what local specialties to sample. Fully revised accommodation sections are also included, along with information on Sicilian wine.
Ideal for on-site use as well as for at-home study and to help visitors plan ahead.'
In this review, I'm going to focus on the three things that I find useful in a guidebook: food recommendations (for the limited times we eat out), detailed maps of different sites and clear information on opening times/how to get there, and clear, informative and easy to follow historical/archaeological/architectural information about the site itself.
The best thing about this guide was that all the recommendations concerning where to stay, where to eat and the local attractions were helpfully put at the end of each provincial chapter. This meant I could quickly flick to the back of the chapter, and look at the recommendations by place and price. The description given in the guide book was clear, to the point and very informative.
We only ate out once, and used the guide as the basis for our decision. There were three recommendations for Sciacca and we looked at each in turn. One was very snobby and pretty much booted us out immediately, one was very definitely closed, and the final option was a success. We ended up at La Lampara in the port of Sciacca.
I especially liked the additional section on local specialties, and the section on local festivals and events. These sections are informative and reading the descriptions of the local delicacies made my mouth water. These specialties aren't just limited to food and also cover things such as pottery and coral. However, if you do go to Sicily you have to eat the deserts as they are out of this world. Especially the pastries and granita.
Maps and detailed information of cultural sights:
I found the maps in the guide very informative and detailed. The points of interest are very clearly outlined on the map, and the distances are very clear as well. I found it easy to direct other friends to our rendezvous point after we were separated and we found a lovely walk that took us off the beaten track in order to explore areas of the Park that I had not yet seen.
Information about the history, archaeology and architecture of different sites:
The guide gave detailed information about most of the usual tourist sites such as Agrigento and Syracuse. However, it also included detailed information about sites that are usually off the beaten track and as a result I got so much more out of our trip. We went to places that I had not heard of, or only had limited information about and they were quiet!
We mainly focused on the ancient history of Sicily. I'm not fussed about churches and things like that unless they're truly spectacular. The guide is excellent and provides easy to read and in-depth information into the history of each site along with the differing academic opinion about them. Perhaps as I'm an academic myself, I like the fact that the guide acknowledged that there are differing interpretations of the ruins and jumbles of rocks that I was walking through!
I would really recommend this guide for anyone going to Sicily. If you have done your research before hand on where to stay and the usual issues of safety etc, you don't really need that in your travel guide. This Guide includes both, but strongly focuses on the interesting and informative rather than the practical.
on 26 June 2014
we travel often to sicily to see relatives and stay in our house there. we have used mnay guides and without doubt this is the best and most informative one if you eawnt to focus on history, culture and the island itself.
on 11 January 2013
The Blue Guide Sicily is very helpful and gives the necessary information needed to choose one's destination in Sicily and the places of interest to visit
on 14 March 2015
one of the best books I have found for information on Sicily. If you want pretty pics go elsewhere.. this is really great on the information side. A much better format for me than DK
on 1 August 2014
A well written and comprehensive guide combining a succinct history of the island with useful information for the serious traveller. An ideal companion for a tour of Sicily.
on 9 March 2015
Incredibly dense archaeological information, very thoroughly covered. To be read as mandatory if travelling to Sicily for long