Top critical review
43 people found this helpful
on June 2, 1999
I have extremely mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand, during a recent trip to Tuscany I found it invaluable. The recommendations are spot on, the descriptions are accurate, and the advice is excellent. If Willinger describes a restaurant as a good, traditional trattoria, that's what it is; if it's a bakery with a particular specialty, that specialty is worth a taste. She steered us to one of the best restaurant meals I've ever eaten (at Viccolo del Contento, in Castelfranco di Sopra). We never would have known about it without her. (There was one recommendation we disagreed with: Cibreo, in Florence. But practically every guidebook recommends it highly, so either we had an atypical experience there or it's gone downhill.)
On the other hand, the book is so badly organized that trying to use it is extraordinarily frustrating. The section on Florence, for example, is a hodgepodge -- restaurants, bakeries, shops, etc. *seem* to be arranged by category (except when they aren't), and alphabetically within each category (except when they aren't). Since there's no map of the city, and only vague mentions of where things are, to find places you have to match the address to a map from some other source. (I finally got out my guidebook map and went through the entire Florence section, marking the entries of places that were near where we were staying.)
The book also contains frustrating lapses. There are generally no directions or only minimal information on where things are. The "Pitti Gola e Cantina" in Florence is wrongly named (as "Pitti Libri e Gola") and is listed simply as being in the Piazza Pitti -- no street address. We would have had a hard time finding it if we hadn't had another guidebook that gave the correct name and address. And in small towns, you generally have to ask for directions from the locals, otherwise you'll never find where you're going. (That's what we had to do for Viccolo del Contento.)
Note the subtitle: this book only covers Northern Italy.
My advice: if you're going to Northern Italy, buy this book, but make sure that you look through it carefully before you go so that you know more or less what to look for when you get there. Otherwise, you'll be constantly frustrated.