Lonely Planet – £17.99

You can have the Universe, if I can have Italy,’ said Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi, and I couldn’t agree more. Because after two decades of travel, I see no end to the peninsula’s pleasures and surprises. Of course, there is the outstanding artistic heritage, the gorgeous landscapes and the food – my God, the food! – but more than that it is Italy’s warm humanity that I admire most. It imbues life’s most simple pleasures – a street-corner chat, fresh seasonal produce, a perfect negroni – with reverence and joy. It’s a philosophy that soothes the soul.

(Paul Hardy, ‘Welcome to Italy’).

It’s hard knowing just where to begin with regards the most beautiful and mesmerising nation of Italy, although it being referred to as ‘’a philosophy that soothes the soul,’’ is as good a start as (m)any.

At 1007 pages (excluding Behind the Scenes, Index, Map Legend, List of Writers and a Lonely Planet pull-out Map of Rome), this is a jumbo size guide if ever there was one.

There again, the subject simply exudes a colossal amount of class and culture.

Two qualities that are wholeheartedly reflected throughout this hefty wallop of book.

The sort of book which, depending on your mood, can make for a mighty good read in and of itself. Regardless of the fact that Lonely Planet’s Italy is first and foremost, a travel guide. A travel guide which could quite easily double-up as being a really enticing historical novel. There’s so much to read and find out about.

Once again, It’s hard knowing where to begin.

Okay, obviously at the outset; but you hopefully know what I mean.

It would after all be possible to just focus on say Sicily. Or Rome. Or Milan.

There’s an overt saturation of information to take in, of which the following are two mere examples:

‘’Most seminal movements in western art – from classical, Renaissance and mannerist to baroque, futurist and metaphysical – were forged in Italy by a red-carpet roll call of artists including Giotto, da Vinci, Michelangelo, Botticelli, Caravaggio, Carracci, Boccioni, Balla ad de Chirico. This is the reason why touring Italian art cities such as Milan, Venice, Florence, Rome and Naples was considered an essential scholarly pilgrimage in the days of the Grand Tour’’ (‘Mighty Masterpieces’).

‘’Italy is a gastronomic powerhouse, a mouth-watering, knee-weakening Promised Land of culinary decadence. To say Italian cuisine is regional is an enormous understatement when striking differences can often be found valley to valley, village to village. Wherever you eat, your taste buds will be delighted by the sheer diversity of the Italian pantry from Sicily’s Middle-Eastern-influenced palette, to the New World-inspired tomato dishes of Naples, Piedmont’s truffle-loaded plates and the Swiss-style fonduta of the Valle d’Aosta’’ (‘Feasting & Foraging’).

Unlike an array of Lonely Planet guides, Italy includes a number of Itineraries very early on (essentially from page 40 onwards). Thus, allowing you to plan before hand; depending on what it is you’re fundamentally after. Especially given that Italy has so much to offer. Starting with Italian Highlights (9 days), followed by Northern Jewels (2 weeks), The Grand Tour (4 weeks), Venice to Milan (2 Weeks), Central Italian Escape (10 days), Northeastern Interlude (2 weeks), A Lakes Tour (1 week) and concluding with Southern Coastal Route (2 weeks).

Naturally, there’s all the usual the features herein (Top Experience, Need to Know, First Time Italy, What’s New, Accommodation, Activities and Regions at a Glance – along with numerous maps, colour photographs and definitive descriptions. For instance, here’s (just) the intro to Rome’s most famous Trevi Fountain: ‘’[…] the iconic Fontana d Trevi, is a baroque extravaganza – a foaming white-marble and emerald-water masterpiece filling an entire piazza. The flamboyant ensemble, 20m wide and 26m high, was designed by Nicola Salvi in 1732 and depicts the chariot of the sea-god Oceanus being led by Tritons accompanied by seahorses that represent the moods of the sea.’’

So much to read and find out about.

David Marx

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