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on 3 April 2006
I've been using Alastair Sawday's books for the past 7-8 years, and have discovered many lovely hotels and B&Bs thanks to them.
This latest Italy book is no exception. Even if you have no intention of going there, it's beautiful just to look at ! But I reckon it's impossible to own this book without wanting to try out most of the places recommended - my husband and I have just used it to book our summer holiday.
The great thing is, because the guides are so consistent, we know we're in for a special holiday.
The places to stay range from simple to stylish, through eclectic, traditional, surprising and inspirational. What they all tend to have in common is friendly owners and stunning locations.
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on 23 March 2008
If you are planning a trip to Italy a must purchase is Alastair Sawday's Italy guide. I bought my first Sawday guide (on Italy) four years ago and consider it one of the best purchases I've made. I went ahead and planned a three week holiday in Italy using only the recommended properties in the guide. It was one of the best holidays I have ever had.
After this I was converted. No matter where I was travelling, I checked first to see if there was a Sawdays book on my destination, and used it to plan my holiday. I now have a collection of these books and pick them up occasionally when I just want to dream of being somewhere else!
I have used the French, Paris, Italian and English guides, and have yet to be disappointed with them.

I was delighted to see the new edition of the Italy book released as I am off to Rome in October for a wedding and see there are a couple of new additions as well as the old trusted properties. I have every faith in the properties in this guide, both old and new, and I look forward to booking my trip with it.

This guide is very user friendly. There is a map section in the front showing exactly where your property is. You get a detailed description of the property then, with symbols telling you at a glance if kids are welcome, if there is a pool on the property, if they cater for vegetarians, if they are wheelchair accessible, etc. The back index is very handy if you want to do a quick search of the properties that lie in certain categories. For example, there are properties listed under the sections: "travel without a car", "on a budget", "cookery courses", "agriturismo", etc.

There is a big focus on green tourism and certain properties get a special green entry for their efforts towards sustaining the environment.
There is great variety of places and prices in the guide. From 60 euro b&b for two to a 650 euro suite for a night, the choice is endless. There is something to please everyone, whatever their budget.

I would like to metion a few really special places I have stayed in:

Frances Lodge in Siena: my mouth waters at the thought of Franco's french toast with his own lemon syrup. The pool has a stunning view of Sienna in the distance, and the owners are so nice. They even got us tickets for pre-palio dinner during our stay!

Antica Dimora Johlea in Florence: The roof top terrace here is lovely, it's nice to watch the different shades of the rooftops and duomo by evening. It feels like you are entering a Medici villa on reaching the main door, it's humongous, with a little door in the big one, and huge door handles. You are right in the heart of Florence...

Casa Albertina in Positano: The view from our room here was breathtaking. The people in the hotel couldn't have been nicer. I had the nicest olives one night on the roof terrace with a glass of prosecco watching the sun set over the bay, pure Heaven...

Hotel Gardenia al Lago, Lake Garda:
I still recevie Christmas & Easter e-cards from the hotel. I sent an e-mail a year or so after my stay enquiring about availability for a friend, and got a lovely personal reply asking how my sister and I were keeping. It is a really relaxed, laid back kind of place. It is on the shore of Lake Garda. Our room had double doors facing the lake that we left open by night, it was really beautiful.

The only problem I now face on planning my holiday, is whether to go back to some special place that I have stayed in already, or whether to look for some new special place to stay!
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on 13 June 2006
We have found delightful places to stay in a number of European countries using Alastair Sawday's Special Places to Stay series of guides. We have never been disappointed with any of the B & Bs, inns, auberges or small hotels which we have been introduced to by Alastair Sawday. He and his team seem to have an uncanny knack of finding out of the way, interesting and comfortable places to stay, always with welcoming hosts, who are often interesting people in their own right.

Therefore we were looking forward to trying out Alastair Sawday's Special Places to Stay - Italy. We had great fun using the book earlier in the year and were not disappointed in any of our "finds". We were introduced to several new places to stay. I will just mention two which particularly stood out.

The first is in the Italian lakes on the banks of Lake Como in a village called Cadenabbia, just up the road from the ferry terminal where we arrived over from the beautiful town of Bellagio. It is entry number 16 in the book and is called Alberghetto La

Marianna. The description in the book had sounded too good to be true, but I can confirm that it is accurate in every respect, from the description of the B & B to the delightful Paola who runs the B & B side of the business and her larger than life husband, who is a passionate and superb Italian cook. He told us that in the winter when they close the albergho they go to the US where he teaches Italian cookery. We are returning to their delightful little hotel later in the year.

The second is on the way to the Adriatic coast from Bologna and is as described in the book, in the country surrounded by vineyards. It is called Azienda Vitivinicola e Agrituristica Trere entry number 85. The bedrooms were delightful and we ate a lovely dinner in what we were told was the refurbished cow byre (or shed); a lovely meal accompanied by their own rich and delicious red wine.

We enjoyed ourselves so much that we have another Italian trip planned later in the summer using Alastair Sawday's Special Places to Stay Italy guide to search out yet more hidden hotels to stay. Unlike some other Italy guides which we have used for rural retreats in Italy Alastair Sawday's descriptions are always detailed, accurate and in English! He also gives detailed directions, which is essential to find small Italian B & Bs in the country! Therefore the research must be detailed and painstaking as some must be very difficult to find, but I am sure the work is rewarding and fun!
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If you've bought or used a Sawday book before and have come to expect high standards, "Special Places to Stay: Italy" will not disappoint. Having browsed it pretty thoroughly, I feel confident that I can rely on this new guide. In fact, it's made me switch my holiday plans so that I can tour Italy in September. Sorry, Oregon - maybe next year!

The book is beautifully illustrated and well-written, as ever. I love the use of clear, attractive symbols for things like no-smoking, pool, bikes, cards accepted, that enable me to find places fitting my precise requirements. Decent-scale maps help with tracking down a property in a chosen area.

I have yet to regret booking a property from any of the Alastair Sawday range, whether B&B, hotel or self-catering. This book covers a good mix of all of those property types, so there should be something for everyone.
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Standards of Sawday guides are as high as ever: reliably accurate and up-to-date descriptions with high-quality photographs and very helpful symbols to identify establishments with specific features such as wheelchair access, wi-fi availability, swimming pool, no-smoking, dogs accepted

We stayed at several of these "special places" when they were in the previous edition of the guide and found them very much as described.

Coverage is fairly even throughout Italy, including Sicily, Sardinia and even two places in the Aeolians, although of course the main concentration is holiday areas.

We're looking forward to touring Italy again next year and will book most of our accommodation from this book - highly recommended.
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on 16 March 2008
As usual with the Sawday books, as soon as you pick this one up it looks & feels quality & as ever it lives up to this impression on the inside as well. Alastair & his team have done it again.
As a result of a recommendation to the Sawday series from a friend I've stayed in several places in both the UK & France & have enjoyed every one of them, your hosts are always pleased to see you & delight in inviting you into their homes, they are obviously not just in it for the money & have been excellent value
The beautiful photographs of the properties never seek to disguise the real thing, what you see is what you get. The descriptions are always fair & honest, read them carefully for all their little nuances & you won't be disappointed. In short, if you want to stay somewhere really special and different then this book is a must. There are dozens of varieties of places to stay and include B&B, self catering & unique hotels.
To find where to stay in your desired area is dead easy as the book also contains some basic maps of the country & indicates the whereabouts of the various properties. These are then referenced to the entry number in the book. You'll still need a decent road map to find your way to them though.
Take time also to read the books introduction as it gives a valuable insight into the nature of the country & its people that you are visiting. It will also tell you about the Sawday philosophy which in itself is very interesting. I can't wait to give this book a test drive; I certainly won't go to Italy without it.
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on 10 October 2007
Alastair Sawday is simply the best. We first purchased this Italy Guide book with the aim of getting an idea of where we would like to stay on our Honeymoon in Italy. Before booking anyting we decided to buy the UK Bed and Breakfast guide and try out a few places. We stayed in Yorkshire, Devon and Dorset and were sold. During our Honeymoon we stayed at 3 places listed in the Italy book and all were absolutely perfect. These are the only guide books we have found where the description perfectly matches reality - we had an amazing couple of weeks! Since this trip we have travelled in France, again using these guides, this time staying in 4 places, and we were not dissappointed once. Thanks Alistair.
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Like all Sawday books, this one is superbly illustrated and refreshingly enjoyable to browse. The use of clear symbols and accurate mapping make it very easy to locate suitable accommodation, whether your priorities are smoke-free, children welcome, or just about anything else. I have never been disappointed by Sawday advice, so strongly recommend this book.
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on 13 April 2008
Since I was introduced to Alastair Sawday's books & website about 2 years ago I have never looked back. As per previous publications 'Italy' did not fail to live up to its title of 'Special Places'. I have spent a number of evenings traveling, in my mind, through the wonderful countryside, city & coast of Italy with Sawdays as my guide.

Sawday's is just wonderful as it gives you a very informed idea of each place and depending on what you are looking for there is always something to please. As always the book is perfectly laid out and very easy to use - it was also great to see the green emphasis of the book. I have recommended Sawday's to family & friends and will continue to do so.

Italy was always on my short list for our honeymoon and the Sawday's book has now pushed it right to the top - it will be the perfect accompaniment to us planning our 'special' holiday. I believe that our only problem now will be short-listing where to stay!!!

Well done on capturing the charm & beauty of Italy.
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on 3 April 2006
This book is a must for anyone planning a trip to Italy. I have used the previous edition for trips to Italy and the accommodations have impressed me each time. When this new edition was released I bought it and am now looking forward to my next trip to Italy, and in seeing some new accommodations on the way. It will make the difference between a good holiday and a great one!
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