I had found Nan McElroy’s site Living Venice, a few years back while searching for other blogs about Italy. Nan lives in Venice, a favorite city of mine, and captures it beautifully in her blog. We had occassionally conversed through our blogs.
Recently, we had found each other on Twitter as well and Nan knew that I was headed to Rome and she had a bit of a proposition for me.
Nan wrote a wonderful book about Italy called – Italy : Instructions for Use. Not the typical guide book. No pictures, no maps, no hotel recommendations, no museum hours. No, this book is different. Different in the best sense of the word.
This little gem is a guide to Italy itself. Her customs, language, food, transportation and more. It’s exactly what it says. Instructions on how to use…Italy.
Nan kindly asked me if I would read the book, bring it along on my trip to Rome and test it.
Of course, I agreed. Who wouldn’t?
This book is both great for the first-time newbie going to Italy, as well as the seasoned, experienced traveler. There is always something new to learn about Italy.
I really, really love this little book.
The book is split up into color-coded sections dealing with:
- In-depth considerations when planning and preparing
- Easy-to-understand language pronunciation guide
- Eating, drinking, ordering, tipping
- Driving (with color road sign illustrations)
- Phoning (local, international and cell calls)
- Understanding Italian train systems
- Shopping, shipping, and getting your VAT refund
- Vocabulary in context, Italian to English, and vice-versa
- Tourist information resources
The book is so portable, weighing in at only a few ounces and measuring in at about the size of a large index card, you could also slip it in a pocket. THIS is the guidebook you don’t mind packing in your luggage and bringing along in your travel bag everyday.
The vocabulary and pronounciation information is spot on and concise- no info on how to conjugate a verb. I love how the accented text in a word is bolded, so that you immediately know which syllable the accent falls on, helping you to pronounce the word, easily. Included are helpful phrases like how to order tap water and carafes of house wine.
The in-depth chapters on car rental, driving and taking the train are especially helpful. She provides actual pictures of road signs and what they mean, self-service ticket kiosks and train schedules.
And the chapters on Shipping, the Post Office and VAT taxes are so informative and helpful. This was all new to me, as I haven’t really purchased things to send back to the U.S. But, for those looking for those wonderful handmade Italian ceramic dishes, bowls and biscotti jars, this info will prove to be worth it’s weight in gold!
Perhaps my favorite tips are the ones interspersed between paragraphs called Worth Noting and Attenzione. Helpful tidbits like how to dial the + sign on a cell phone when calling in Italy, the fact that that there is no consistant odd or even numbering for addresses on either side of the street like in the US, and how to adjust your seat on a Eurostar train are offered. I can tell you that the first two helped me immensely on my recent trip to Rome.
I especially love this piece of advice- Remember, Italy is a country-not a theme park!
The book is very visually appealing as well. Each chapter has beautiful illustrations, meaningful quotes or cute expressions that has Italy just dripping off the pages.
I recently had a friend of mine who used to be a travel agent read it for her upcoming family vacation to Italy. Though she had purchased several guidebooks for the vacation, she thought this one was the most helpful, portable and ridiculously affordable at $10. She is buying her own copy to take on the trip!
So for those headed to Italy, those that have already been, or those who just want to learn more about the Bel Paese, run right out and buy this book. I can’t recommend it highly enough. It’ll be the best $10 you’ve spent on a guidebook, guaranteed!
And in case you are interested, I have added Italy: Instuctions for Use, to my Amazon Store. You can purchase it there.
Heading to Venice? You might be interested in these hand-selected food, wine and cultural tours.