Olives & Morra
Obelisk Odyssey
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Proud Bersagliere
Languages of Italy
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Mysterious Etruscans
Family Dining
Italy Guidebooks
Italian Vacation
Italian Cars
Italian Fashion
Italian Games
Italian Holidays
Money & Measures
Kids In Rome
Meet the Gladiators
Music of Italy
Packing Tips
Pasta for Kids
Italian Puppets
Statues of Florence
Italian Geology
Savor Siena

Kids Europe Guidebook
Grab Your Guidebooks
Discover Italy Newsletter

We have all kinds of of ideas about guidebooks to pass along to you and your family. We have bought and used many of them and when I wrote the Italy Discovery Journal, I evaluated all the current guides for families traveling in Italy, so below you will find specific suggestions.

P L Byrne  

Buy Before You Fly
Local Selection Limited
Eyewitness Guide to Rome Don't wait till you get to Europe to buy your guide books. The selection on Amazon is phenomenal, while in Italy it is typically limited and expensive. You can find Michelin guides, which have their uses, but it seems the only editions I see are in German or French.

Locally produced guides, even the ones for a specific site such as a museum, are often dry and poorly translated. Don't let that stop you from buying the information you need to enjoy a site, just be forewarned.

Read before you go:

  • Take Your Kids to Europe is great for attitude and general suggestions for handling day-to-day challenges. It is a little light on Italy, but great for France, the UK, and Spain.
  • Rick Steve's Italy is a good, general-purpose guide book but best, I think, for his light-hearted approach to the joys of travel. He offers a whole line of books for different countries and regions. Also consider his guide that provides background in history and art -- it has probably been a long time since you studied the Renaissance. As long as I am touting his line, I like the "backdoor" approach he offers to travel preparation and to making travel a fun and personal experience. Buy them all, I say!
  • Italy With Kids is a good for planning where you will go with your family.
  • To get a flavor of a country, I like to watch travel videos. I recommend Rick Steves' Europe: Italy, and browse other offerings, there are many videos that you can pop into the DVD player to give you and your family painless background to your travels. (DVD)
  • Fodor's Italy offers hotel suggestions that are useful only before you travel. You shouldn't travel with your family in Italy during high season without previous reservations. It can also serve as a general purpose guide that includes restaurant suggestions.

Day-to-day reference while you travel: These are the dog-eared books that travel with you all the way.

  • Eyewitness Guide to Rome is just one of the Eyewitness series. The three-dimensional maps of target areas are good for navigation and are just plain interesting. The graphics are wonderful, captivating for kids and adults. The detail is very helpful; if you happen across something interesting and want to figure out what it is, you can find it in the Eyewitness Guide. They do not cover restaurants and hotels. We buy one for every area we
  • Michelin Green Guide to Italy, as well as regional and city editions, is factual and complete. It ranks sights so you can use the guide to decide which sight might be the most interesting or are likely to be the most crowded. When you are driving, the Michelin Green Guides (Red is for restaurants and hotels) are indispensable. All the towns (well, almost) are in there, so if you see a lovely-looking hill town in the distance and a road sign with a name, you can look it up and quickly determine whether you want to make a detour. And, sometimes it is just nice to know that you are driving past an area known for certain history or agriculture.
  • Italy Discovery Journal is great for kids and the young at heart with activities, facts and observations you won't find in any of the above.
  • Fodor's Around Rome with Kids presents only sites that might interest kids and also directs you to the closest kid-friendly restaurants. I think the red ink is hard to read and I still don't understand how it is organized, but, like the Italy Discovery Journal, if it brightens just an hour of your precious vacation, it is probably worth it!

And, there are many more: Top Ten Guides are really helpful for brief stays. Rough Guides support serious and budget-minded tourists. Most general purpose guides have good sections on basics like how to use phones and toilets. I evaluate them by checking them out of the library and then buy my favorites. A suggestion is to let each member of your family select and bring a different guidebook.

Summer in Tuscany
Some Weeks Still Available
Villa in TuscanyThis handsome, restored Tuscan farmhouse  is an ideal base for discovering the large and small sites of Tuscany. And when sightseeing is not on the agenda, you can swim in the pool, enjoy the view, and shop in the little local market. Sip the famous local Brunello wine while you turn fresh, local ingredients into a relaxed meal under the loggia.

You will appreciate the splendid stone-built farmhouse, set on a hill and surrounded by vineyards and olive trees. The view sweeps out over the hills of Montalcino down to the valley of the Orcia River and as far as Monte Amiata. In the valley below is the majestic Abbey of Sant'Antimo which dates back to the 12th century. The property is private and tranquil.

A previous vacationer notes: "It is about 2 hours from Florence, 45 minutes from Siena, an hour from Montepulciano, and 10 minutes from Montalcino... We were thrilled with our luck, and the place was worth the money we paid. I wish I could have packed up the house and moved it lock, stock and barrel to Charlotte! The layout was perfect -- plenty of privacy provided between the bedrooms and baths, and I can envision having a blast with a group of close friends who love to cook and relax by the pool."

This is a high-end rental for four that costs about the same as two first-class hotel rooms. The other part of the villa sleeps six, so a party of ten could have the entire gorgeous property. More information about Tuscany Villa Rentals.

Guide For The Day
Take Turns Taking Charge

Guidebook for Kids Kids, volunteer to be the guide of the day, taking turns with your parents and other kids. Read about a place or an event you are interested in and look it up in the guide books. If it is a museum or other location where you will have to get in, check the times it is open, how to get tickets, and how much they cost.

Find it on a map and figure out how you will get there and when. You might even look into restaurants and refreshments. While you are there, show your family things that might interest them.

Magellan's Travel 

This kid-focused guide book and journal offers more than 500 ideas to help kids and their families enjoy travel in Italy. It reduces whining and gets them engaged in popular culture, goofy observations, and strange history.

Cynthia Harriman, author of Take Your Kids to Europe, reviewed the Italy Discovery Journal and wrote: "Italy Discovery Journal is the best educational travel-guide available for kids. Starting with the reasonable assumption that other guides already list places to go and things to see, Pat Byrne has largely skipped those listings. In their place, she's created a unique collection of activities that encourage kids 6-16 to truly observe and interact with Italy during their visit..."

Tear Up Your Guidebook
Save Weight and Space
A great idea from seasoned travelers is to rip apart your guide books and bring with you just the pages you need for the day. A lighter bag and ready information may be the highest and best use of your book.

Shameless promotion: The Italy Discovery Journal is a book you can assemble yourself, so you can choose and print only the pages you want. You can put it in a loose leaf binder and include the pages torn out of your other guidebooks.

Get Maps
What is Swedish for One-Way?
  Not only are good guidebooks hard to find when you are in Italy, so are maps. I think that the early tourists get them and leave me only maps of places I don't want to go or that are in languages I can barely read. This is especially important if you are driving, so go ahead and order up your set of driving maps before you leave.

I also recommend getting a map to put on your wall now so you and your family can become familiar with the lay of the land and as you learn about Italy, you can locate planned and possible destinations.


Get New Guides
Who took the mummies?
Imagine taking boys aged 6, 7, and 9, to the British Museum promising them the chance to see lots of real mummies, only to find two mummified cats. That's all. Every other mummy was out for cleaning for an extended period of time, something not mentioned in our two-year-old guidebook. And, yes, a fellow tourist had a current edition that noted the situation.

Having written a report on the Code of Hammurabi, my niece conceded to a trip to the Louvre. My sister, with her 10 and 12 year old daughters, proudly navigated the daunting museum with an ageing Michelin. The Code was not in the room indicated in the book, nor in any of the surrounding rooms. The guards she approached, of course, had no idea what she was asking about. With little girls now prostrate with fatigue and hunger, they fled the Louvre, mission failed! Well, Hammurabi's Code was still in the Louvre, but it had been moved as an up-to-date guidebook would have noted.

Hours of operation change, dates of events change, hotels and restaurants come and go, phone numbers change, and prices go up. For less than $20, the price of most guidebooks, you are paying for a team of editors to check all those details. Isn't that worth it?


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Vacation Rentals In Italy

Luxury Apartment Arno View Central Florence


Florence, Central, Arno View

Sleeps 6

3 bedrooms, 2.5 baths

Daily Maid Service

Total Royal Luxury 

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4 night minimum

Location and Value 

for a Family

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near Florence on Chianti Estate 

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Beautiful Historic Palazzo

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2 Apartments

4 night minimum

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Vistas & Weddings

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4 night minimum

Perfect Family Apt

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Vacation in Tuscany Villa in Tuscany
Villa Colle

Colle di Val d'Elsa


Sleeps 2+2/Apt

5 nights minimum

Great Value

Walk to Hill Town

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Comfortable Convenient Apartment in Florence
Ponte Vecchio

Center  of Florence

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1 bedroom,  1 bath

1 week minimum

Perfect Value & Location for Small Family

Venice Apartments

Venice, btw Rialto - St Mark's

Sleeps 5

2 Bedrooms, 1 Bath

Real Noble Palace

Apartment Venice

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Via Veneto


Sleeps 2 + 2

4 night minimum

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Magical Castle and 

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