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This guide was a book purchased by me when my Wanderlust magazine ran an offer for its subscribers to purchase books free and just pay for postage. Being a lover of the Italian places I have been to visit so far and completely loving the way of life, I felt this guide might be of some use to myself and hubby to read through and pick up any other bits of useful information as well as being useful to have for work purposes working within the travel industry.
The publishers: The Culture smart books are published by Kuperard. They also publish a lot of other travel guides of which I have used or come across in my job.
The range: The culture smart books are designed to help visitors understand cultures and customs as well as giving advice on how to get the most out of your time there including the best way to see sights, get around or connect with the locals. They are not to be bought as a guide book with a list of sights to see and opening times etc and if you bought one for this reason you would be sorely disappointed!
Culture Smart Italy: The Italy guide is really quite eye catching with a bright green cover and a picture of the Grand Canal in Venice. I am a great lover of the small amount of Italy that I have managed to visit so far and I love the way the Italians are so for me, I wanted to gain as much knowledge as possible of the place. Italy is a country I have sold for years but, it wasn’t really until I visited myself that I realised how diverse a country it is and also how beautiful. I was hoping when I purchased this guide that it would enlighten me in areas I may know have much knowledge of. The book, as with all culture smart guides, is broken down into chapters and this particular one has nine, each with their own sub areas. There are the expected chapters such as ‘Getting around’ and ‘communicating’ as well as such ones as ‘Values and attitudes’ and ‘daily life’. In particular for me, I am desperate to try and eventually speak the language fully and although admittedly, it isn’t go rather well just yet, I found the chapters on communicating very interesting especially in regards to body language. A part of what I love about Italy is the expressive way the Italians talk with their hands as I do the same so I feel very at home when there! I liked how they gave some small examples of hand language you might see and the differences between the North and South. The guide covers basics too such as nice little map before the introduction and a key fact page after it with capital city, currency, populations etc. There is even also a regional guide on what place is the capital of each region too which is quite interesting. There is also recommended further reading material listed at the very back just before the index.
Other things: Many important top tips or need to know type information is presented in a green bubble box. In keeping with the rest of the colour scheme of the book, the text is then a darker shade of green. I like this as it gives the book a bit more oomph than just being very plain and boring. It is worth noting that these guides do not contain opening times to attractions and a literally more of a culture guide than one you would use to plan your attraction seeing.
The author: This particular guide was written by Charles Abbot who has travelled extensively around Italy and has worked over the past 10 years as a consultant with many Italian firms in places such as Rome, Milan, Genoa and Naples. He is also a director for the international communications training institute at international house in London, a language school with affiliates in four Italian cities so it seems he is more than qualified to give information on this wonderful country.
Prices: As I mentioned I received an offer through my Wanderlust subscription to receive these guides free although of course I did have to pay for postage. However the offer I had meant I still only paid around £5 for 7 books at the time which of course works out to a measly 71p per book - Not bad at all in my opinion! I then bought some more the next time the offer ran so I do own a large range of these books. Usually they are priced at £6.95 each and this is pretty much average for a travel guide. I would say keep your eyes peeled for offers though as they frequently run these on the Kuperard website which is where I purchased all of my culture smart guides from.
Overall opinion: I personally think this is another great guide from the Culture Smart range. I do feel there are some things I already know but, this is probably due to my job and having travelled to Italy on numerous occasions. However, if you had never been or only visited once, you may find this book a useful tool in helping you enjoy your future visits. I certainly recommend it and have found lots of useful bits from it to which I am grateful for. It is only a small book and at just 168 pages long it will never give you everything you need to know but, it can certainly cover a lot. A definite recommendation from me.