How much I wish that back then there'd been Italy: Instructions for Use... The Personal, On-Site Assistant for the Enthusiastic but Inexperienced Traveler!
As its author, Venetian resident Nan McElroy explains,
"here's the catch: since you've never been, we guarantee you won't know all the questions you have until you actually arrive. And once in Italy, because you're completely unfamiliar with the environment, language and way of life, information--and therefore understanding--can be that much more difficult to come by."
So, in a single book, little more than 4 by 5 inches and weighing just a few ounces, Nan has assembled TONS of easy-to-look-up helpful hints on everything from planning a visit to Italy to getting around on all kinds of transportation; from how to pack and where to stay to ordering in restaurants; from handling money to the best ways to shop! And throughout, right there in the book, is all the basic vocabulary that you'd need to start navigating your way through this fascinating country! Let me tell you, Italy: Instructions for Use is no small accomplishment!!
To explain why, I think Nan herself put it best,
"There's more than one reason we've used lots of color throughout our guide. It's not only to help you locate information easily... But more importantly, we also hope to convey the fact that in Italy, nothing, but nothing, is black-and-white. You may notice extensive use of the words usually, often, likely, frequently, sometimes, normally, may and perhaps, while a world like always will appear far less frequently. Although we've written detailed guidelines based on personal experience and extensive research, to truly enjoy your time there, understand that in Italy, perhaps more than anywhere else, the exceptions are the rule."
Precisely because Italy is so hard to nail down, it is really tough to try to provide explanations to cover every possible contingency here. And yet, every single time I was reading Nan's book and thinking to myself, "Yes, but what if this or that happens (or doesn't)?" Nan was there, explaining exactly those common pitfalls and giving you valuable understanding to help you roll with the punches while travelling in the bel paese. That takes not only experienced knowledge of the country, but also great organization, imagination, and sympathy for the first-time visitor to Italy!
I wholeheartily recommend Italy: Instructions for Use! In fact, I envy those people coming to Italy for the very first time who can now enjoy this great little book!
(And for more "instructions" and installments in her ongoing adventures in Italy, be sure to check out Nan McElroy's blog,
"Living Venice... and Beyond"!)