The problem with books about Italy, as with books about Rome, is that there's so many of them, it can be hard choosing the one that's best for you. We cover a couple of the more popular ones below.
Rough Guide to Italy
The Rough Guides have built up an excellent and well-deserved reputation for writing clear, informative travel guides and the Rough Guide to Italy is no exception. This 1200-page book contains a wealth of detail about Italy, not just from a purely tourist viewpoint, but with intelligently written guides to Italian history, language and culture.
As a tool for helping you travel round the country, its transport and accommodation listings are reliable and comprehensive, but where Rough Guide stands out above its nearest rivals is in its ability to describe a city or town as more than a sum of its museums, art galleries and churches. These are mentioned in detail, of course, but so are attractions off the tourist trail which are often missed in other guides but which give as valuable as sense of Italy as the more visited places.
The Rough Guides are aimed at the young-spirited, independent traveller, but the many boxes of local information - ranging from where to buy the best gelato to local festivals - mean that travellers of all ages will find something to inspire them.
Eyewitness Guide to Italy
Publishers Dorling Kindersley are known for their slant towards high-quality illustrations, and the first thing you notice about the Eyewitness Travel guide is the eye candy. There's a huge range of drawings, maps, photographs, and reproductions of paintings. These illustrations make a real difference to the way you use this book.
For example, the cartoonish three-dimensional maps of key sights are much easier to follow than the standard plans offered by most guidebooks. They're supplemented with photographs which both capture the atmosphere of the place (perfect for armchair travellers) and also help you to orient yourself when you're actually there. It's much easier to work out which temple is which in the forum when you have captioned photographs to refer to.
In fact, the range of illustrations brings up constant surprises. The section on Italian history includes a photographic guide to Christian symbolism, and the timeline of "modern Italy" has photographs of everything from futurist sculptures to the Italian team that won the 1982 World Cup. The book finishes with a lengthy directory containing recommended places to eat, hotels, and other information.