The best of Florence lies mostly on the north bank of the Arno River. The main historical sites cluster around the redbrick dome of the cathedral (Duomo). Everything is within a 20-minute walk of the train station, cathedral, or Ponte Vecchio (Old Bridge). The less impressive but more characteristic Oltrarno area (south bank) is just over the bridge. Though small, Florence is intense.–Reprinted from Rick Steves’ Florence and Tuscany
Pages: 748 pages
Dimensions: 8 x 4.5 x .8 inches
Weight: 10.4 ounces
Maps: Rick Steves includes hand drawn maps in his books which can be helpful in showing you the layout of an area but are not helpful in getting you to a specific place, especially in larger cities where more street names and landmarks would be helpful. You will definitely need a supplemental street map to accompany those in this book.
Pictures: There are no photographs to speak of
What I like about Rick Steves’ Florence and Tuscany:
- The Table of Contents in his city books are organized well unlike in his guidebook to Italy which only points you to the city and not to sites within the city.
- I prefer guidebooks that focus on a city or region so I do not have to carry big books around and this meets that criteria.
- People who like Rick Steves follow him with an almost fanatical devotion. I have to admit his are among my favorite guidebooks but I am always hesitant to try his small hotels for fear of running into a hoard of Rick Steves devotees.
- The Rick Steves guidebooks provide tips on hotels, restaurants, etc. that are out of the major tourist zones.
- The sites are rated and generally I agree with his ratings.
- Mr. Steves has loads of opinions and he is not afraid to share them. This is helpful for your first trip to Italy and maybe even your second, but as you make repeat trips to a country his advice can become annoying as you start to form your own opinions.
- Suggestions for day trips, walking tours and trip itineraries are provided.
- These guidebooks provide the names of budget hotels and restaurants as well as more expensive places to stay and eat and he often lets you know when it is worth spending the extra money.
- There really is a Rick Steves. It is nice to know that there is a real face behind the books.
- Rick likes to get to know the locals and encourages others to do the same. Strike up a conversation with the staff of a hotel or restaurant. Talk to the person sitting next to you on a train or waiting in line to buy a ticket. These conversations give you insights into the place you are visiting that you will not find in any guidebook. To encourage this Rick Steves provides names of hotel and restaurant owners which is a nice touch, one I have not found in other guidebooks. Since ownership of establishments does not change hands as often in Italy as in the US, chances are the names he provides are still current.
- Side boxes with helpful information are included. These boxes provide information on such things as tipping.
- The “Helpful Hints” section has useful information on avoiding theft, pickpockets, etc. , a problem many of us have encountered.
- These books make for good reading before your trip and his folksy style makes you comfortable with traveling to a foreign country.If you have ever seen him on TV you get the feeling that if he can travel then so can I.
- His writing is conversational – you feel like he is talking directly to you.
What I Don’t Like about Rick Steves’ Florence and Tuscany:
- When Rick Steves writes about it, his fans will flock there in droves making whatever it is ….hotel, restaurant or site, crowded with American tourists. I have stayed in small hotels where everyone there was carry a Rick Steves Guidebook.
- This book covers most of the major museums and churches in Florence, but I think other books cover more sites and they cover them better.
- Florence is full of art and architecture. If you want to learn about the great art and architecture of this magnificent city do not rely on Rick Steves. His knowledge is limited and his opinions worth no more than your average tourist.
- After a while you get tired of reading his opinions on evvveeerrrrything.
- His writing is conversational, sometime you just want to facts.
- Florence is one of my favorite places (I don’t go there in the summer) in the world. Rick Steves does not share my enthusiasm for the city.