Sonderbooks Book Reviews by Sondra Eklund

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I don't review books I don't like!

*****= An all-time favorite
****  = Outstanding
***    = Above average
**     = Enjoyable
*       = Good, with reservations

Italy Travel Books


****Karen Brown's Italy

Charming Bed and Breakfasts

by Nicole Franchini


****Eyewitness Travel Guides:  Florence & Tuscany


***Daytrips:  Italy

by Earl Steinbicker

Reviewed February 25, 2002.
Karen Brown’s Italy:  Charming Bed & Breakfasts, by Nicole Franchini.
Karen Brown’s Guides, 2000.  282 pages.  Available at Sembach Library (647.944 KAR).

Eyewitness Travel Guides:  Florence & Tuscany.
Dorling Kindersley, 1994.  312 pages.  Available at Sembach Library (914.5504 CAT).

Daytrips:  Italy:  40 One Day Adventures by Rail, Car or Bus, by Earl Steinbicker.
Hastings House, 2000.  287 pages.

Last week, we got 50 cent tickets to Italy via Ryan Air, so now I’m eagerly planning a week in Italy this April.  (Okay, with tax and fees it added up to 72 Euros for the four of us, round trip.)  I checked out almost all of the library’s books on Italy, which got me thinking about my philosophy of travel and which travel guides I like best.  (I wasn’t selfish--I’ve already turned most of them back in.)

I’m not one who likes to be told exactly what to do and where to go when.  I don’t like following someone else’s choices.  It’s almost inevitable that there will be some things that the so-called guide finds entertaining that don’t interest me in the least, and things that delight me that leave him cold.

So my favorite travel guides are those that lay out the possibilities for me to choose from, and the more pictures the better.  Because of this, the Eyewitness Travel Guides series is my absolute favorite.  As their slogan says, these guides show you what the other ones tell you.  The Sembach Library has several of these from different parts of Italy (and other places in Europe).  I mentioned the Florence and Tuscany one as a representative.  I plan to order myself my own copy of Eyewitness:  Italy.  By skimming these pages, I learned that Italian castles have a different look than castles in Germany or England or Ireland.  I quickly discovered that there are certain spots I simply have to see.

I was looking in the Shoppette for Eyewitness:  Italy, and found Earl Steinbicker’s Daytrips:  Italy instead.  I do like Mr. Steinbicker’s philosophy of travel.  (We do have some of his books at the library, and I also own some.)  He recommends staying in one hotel in a hub city and from there doing day trips, rather than moving to a different hotel every night.  I like this idea very much--only I don’t want the hotel I’m staying at to be in a big city, only near it.  I can use his ideas to figure out what places are worth seeing, and which ones I can reach from the hotels I’ve reserved.

This is where the Karen Brown Guides come in.  You’ll notice that we don’t have the most recent copy.  However, that doesn’t matter.  For up-to-date information, you can go to  The descriptions in her guides are enchanting and captivate me into wanting to stay there.  I must admit that many of the places she recommends are way out of our price range.  However, if we confine ourselves to the lowest cost of the Bed and Breakfast recommendations, there are some wonderful possibilities.  I’ve already booked three nights in a suite in a lovely-sounding Bed and Breakfast near Venice that is also in easy reach of Verona and Padua.  The cost is much less than anything listed in Venice. 

Where I wasn’t able to find a likely place in Karen Brown’s recommendations, I’ve referred to the Frommer’s Italy guide.  Most of the places that interested me in both guides have e-mail addresses, and it sounds like for once I’m writing early enough that there are vacancies.  I do have my heart set on the very least expensive inn in the Inns and Itineraries book--and it has only a phone number, not an e-mail address.  This place is right across the street from a fabulous castle on a lake.  (I can tell the castle is fabulous from the Eyewitness Guide.)  So far, I haven’t been able to get through, but I’m going to keep trying!

One problem in Europe is that usually hotels charge as much for children as if they were adults.  So when you read a guide that list prices for a double room, you still don’t know how much you will have to pay.  Whether they have a discount for children or even rooms that will fit a family makes a huge difference.  An inexpensive hotel is not inexpensive if you have to pay for two rooms.  That’s why I like to check on websites and e-mail first, to find out what the actual cost will be.  (We learned this the hard way on one of our first trips.  Actually, it was to a wonderful Karen Brown-recommended Bed and Breakfast in France.  I had thought it was inexpensive, but it turned out not to be.)  I wish that someone would write a European Bed and Breakfast or Hotel guide for families, but I figure that it’s not going to happen.  First, Americans don’t tend to come to Europe with kids.  Also, those who are here can’t afford to do the traveling it would take to write the guide!

I do like having hotel guides and sight-seeing guides separate.  Once I’ve made my reservations, I won’t need to carry around the Karen Brown books.  If we stay a few nights in one place, we can choose each day how we want to spend our time, using the Eyewitness Guide pictures to decide.  Be expecting to hear about more in-depth books on Venice in the next few weeks.  I’m excited!

Amazon Links:
Karen Brown's Italy
Eyewitness Travel Guides:  Florence and Tuscany
Daytrips:  Italy  

Copyright © 2005 Sondra Eklund.  All rights reserved.

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