Dangling from the centre of western Europe like a Christmas stocking, Italy is stuffed to the brim with marvels such as the opera of Verdi, Brunelleschi's dome over Florence Cathedral and the pagan tombs deep beneath St Peter's. With its bribery scandals and Mafia trials, even contemporary Italy is extravagant. Northern Italy is the wealthiest third of the republic: Italy's industrial revolution began in the region's capital city of Turin, now home to the Fiat Corporation, Europe's largest car manufacturer. Central Italy is home to rolling hills and olive groves, while those who venture further south will discover Roman ruins and the infernal volcanic Phlegraean Fields. You cry twice in Italy, the introduction tells us: once when you arrive and once when you leave. Dana Facaros and Michael Pauls' 900-page guide includes sections on travel, crime, tourist offices and toilets, with the main bulk of the book dedicated to the country's many regions. The history section is particularly impressive, tracing Italy's development from 750 BC through to the present day. Considering the book's weight--and the fact that its maps are scattered throughout rather than gathered together at the back--this may not be the one to lug about in a rucksack; for those who wish to study before leaving home or the hotel, it's ideal.--Daren King
With so much to see, do, experience, and eat in Italy, the only way to get the best from a visit is with a copy of Cadogan's authoritative guide in hand. Written by experts and full of fascinating stories and anecdotes, the best places to stay and eat and the wondrous churches, cathedrals, piazzas, galleries, olive groves, and rolling hills of this magnificent country.
Excerpt: Contemporary History
The dark side of the arrangement was the all-pervasive corruption that the system fostered. It is fascinating to read the work of journalists only a decade ago, seeing how almost without exception they would politely sidestep the facts; Italy was run by an unprincipled political machine, whose members were raking in as much for themselves as they could grab, and everyone knew it, only it couldn’t be said openly, for lack of proof. Even more sinister was the extent to which the machine would go to keep on top. The seventies, Italy’s ‘years of lead’, witnessed the worst of the political sleaze, along with a grim reign of extreme left- and right- wing terrorism, culminating in the kidnap and murder in 1978 of an honourable DC prime minister, Aldo Moro, who had attempted to forge a compromesso storico between mainstream left and right to balance power. ...click here to read the rest
Excellent In-Depth Background for Serious Travellers, /5
The great asset of the Cadogan series is the in-depth historical and cultural context that the authors set their desciptions in. While all of the usual nuts-and-bolts information on hotels, restaurants, nighlife, etc. is there, the emphasis is on really getting to know and appreciate the cultures you are travelling through, rather than just being able to name the Top 5 sights in each city and take home postcard shots of each. If you read this book, you'll come away with a whole new appreciation for the country and its people, and you'll understand why you've decided to travel there in the first place.
Useful on the whole, /5
Informative and entertaining to read, although it could be made more relevant by using the Italian names for towns and regions, rather than the English ones.
The 'photo essay' right at the beginning just gets in the way.
Note that there's a publication blunder - the map on pp488-9 is NOT of Bologna as it claims but is of Bergamo: it's identical to the one on pp278-9. Pity they hadn't just interchanged them - then, at least, there would be a map of Bologna somewhere in the book.
(I was reviewing ISBN 1-86011-113-0.)
Dana Facaros and Michael Pauls can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org