There are so many different Rome guidebooks available that it can be hard to work out which one is the most useful. Below is a selection of some of what's available.
The Rough Guide to Rome
Thanks to the ubiquity of this series (which has expanded over the years to cover everything from horror movies to ethical shopping), The Rough Guides are often the first guidebooks that people think of. The Rough Guide to Rome does have a lot going for it; it gives a broad range of information on the city, as well as tips for a few day trips out of Rome to places like Tivoli and Ostia Antica.This is the kind of guidebook that makes a good all-rounder; perhaps it isn't the only one that you'll need, but it's probably the best one to keep with you in your bag while you're on the move in Rome.
A particularly nice feature is the appendix, which contains extracts from writing on Rome by people like William Weaver and Elizabeth Bowen. There are also some handy maps, including a train and metro map, and a couple of pages of useful phrases.
Rome for Dummies
With so many Rome guidebooks available, it's interesting to see how the "Dummies" series tackles the subject. The first thing you notice is the absence of glossy photographs; this is a book that sets out to give you information, rather than showing you pretty photographs of sights that you'll be seeing for yourself anyway.
In fact, the Dummies format provides something refreshingly different to the legions of near-identical guidebooks.Rather than divide the book according to the regions of Rome, Rome for Dummies tackles different aspects such as dining, exploring, nightlife and shopping. This almost gives it the feel of a user's guide to the city. As well as the usual appendices with popular phrases, etc, there is an easy-to-find section called "Quick Concierge" which contains advice on a range of subjects including getting babysitters and finding cashpoints. There's also a list of useful telephone numbers. Rome for Dummies is obviously written primarily for an American audience; there's information on the perils of long-haul flights, and a page on getting a US passport compared to short paragraphs for Brits, Australians, etc., but the authors have made an effort to include information for people coming from other countries.
Frommer's Memorable Walks in Rome
From the authors of Rome for Dummies, this inexpensive little book contains twelve recommended walks around the city. Each walk focusses on a particular area of Rome, with Trastevere being divided in two. the layout is simple and clear; each walk begins with a map and the route is clearly described, with each of the sights given its own heading. They've also taken the trouble to describe how one spot on the walk connects to the next, which should minimise the risk of getting lost (unless you choose to get lost, of course). They also give approximate durations for each walk, and suggested stop-off points for refreshments.
Memorable Walks in Rome is a narrow book which should fit neatly into a jacket pocket or a handbag. The walks are varied enough to be of interest whether you're a tourist on your first visit to Rome, or you've been here a while and want to get to know the city a little better.
Rome the Second Time
This book isn't for you—if you're going to Rome for the first time. Not for you if you want to see the Coliseum, the Roman Forum, the baths of Caracalla, the Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon and Piazza Navona, the Spanish Steps, Trajan's Column, and St Peter's and the Vatican Museum. This book is not for you if you're thinking of evenings in Trastevere with a bottle of beer in hand or perhaps a midnight frolic with the rowdies in Campo dei Fiori. This book is NOT Rome for Dummies.
—from the introduction to Rome The Second Time.
You can't really blame authors Dianne Bennett and William Graebner for setting out quite so firmly what Rome The Second Time isn't intended to be. They cite Rome for Dummies as the antithesis of their book, but it might just as well have been one of a hundred other titles, from the Lonely Planets to the Thomas Cooks, that pump out the same information, often without a great deal to choose between them.
If you only buy one guidebook to Rome, if you only ever make one trip, then it's actually one of those books that you'll most likely need: as the title of this book implies, all of those sites mentioned above will take up your first trip(s) to Rome, and quite rightly so. But if you're planning on staying in Rome for a while, or if you're coming back, there's a good argument that Rome The Second Time is the second guidebook you should buy.
The book is divided roughly into two sections. The first consists of fourteen itineraries that deal with issues like the Nazi occupation of Rome, the magic of the water supply, and social aspects of the city. These itineraries are imaginative and well presented, and might inspire even the most worn-out pair of boots out for one more trek across the city.
The second section of the book—which also incorporates a fifteenth itinerary—is a kind of cultural gazetteer, suggesting places to go to explore the city's arts, music, films, and food and drink. (Don't expect a 'twenty best restaurants', though; the suggestions here are more along the lines of experiences, like tastings at the International Wine Academy of Roma.)
If you're going to be in Rome for long enough, or regularly enough, to get past those first fevered days between the Colosseum and the Vatican, you may well want to dip into Rome The Second Time, and see what it has to offer. It's also supported by their Website, called, well, Rome The Second Time...