“Italy: Instructions for Use” – Italy Book Review – Win a Free Book

Want to have a chance to win your very own copy of this book? Be sure to leave a comment on this post by 11:59pm Pacific Time on Monday, May 18, 2009 to be eligible to win a copy of Italy: Instructions for Use by Nan McElroy!

italyinstructionsYou know that section of any decent travel guidebook that tells you general stuff about visiting a place? The part that most people skip over to get to the write-ups on attractions, restaurant recommendations, and lists of hotels? It’s this general – and often-ignored – stuff that can make or break a vacation.

No, that part of the book isn’t going to help you decide how much time you should devote to Vatican City or choose whether between day-trips to Siena or Lucca, but that part of the book will give you an incredibly important foundation for traveling in the country. It’ll give you valuable lessons about basics like what the local customs are about tipping, how to use the trains, what’s acceptable attire for religious sites, etc. In other words, it’s all the basic instructions for a place that’ll help you fit in from the point when your plane lands.

So it’s only fitting that a book which contains only these basics calls them exactly what they are – Italy: Instructions for Use.

When I found the book Italy: Instructions for Use on the shelf at my favorite local bookstore a couple years ago, I was immediately struck by its genius. It’s a tiny thing, so it’s perfectly easy to bring along on any trip to Italy so you can refer to it along the way. And unlike the section of your big guidebook that’s devoted to these basics, this book’s sole purpose is to lay the appropriate foundation for a successful and enjoyable trip to Italy.


Italy: Instructions for Use is written primarily for an American audience, and it was originally billed as a guide for people who haven’t been to Italy before or traveled much – the “enthusiastic but inexperienced traveler,” as it used to say on the book’s cover. And it totally works on that level. I’d recommend this book to anyone who’s never been to Italy, and I’d recommend it even more highly to people who don’t have much travel experience in general. But what’s so fabulous about this little gem of a guide is that it also works for people who are more familiar with Italy and who do have travel experience under their belt. I think the publishers must have realized this, because the 2nd printing says “enthusiastic (even experienced) traveler” on the cover instead.

The author of Italy: Instructions for Use, Nan McElroy, is a travel consultant who makes her home in Venice, so the book also has the added benefit of being written from the point of view of someone who knows and loves Italy. It’s readable and interesting, and although it’s small it’s packed with information.

Win a Copy of “Italy: Instructions for Use”

The book was originally published in 2004 and has been completely updated for 2007 in its newest edition. And it’s that fully-revised edition that I’m giving away to one lucky reader! To be entered into the drawing for the latest publication of Italy: Instructions for Use, leave a comment on this post with your best overall Italy travel tip – not the #1 sight to see or meal to eat, but your best basic tip that will make traveling in Italy easier and better for anyone. And if you haven’t been to Italy yet, please leave a comment anyway to be in the running for the book – its information will be even more valuable to you!

The deadline for leaving a comment and entering the drawing is 11:59pm Pacific Time on Monday, May 18, 2009. I’ll use a random number generator to choose the winner. Be sure to include your email address in the appropriate field in the comment form so I can reach you if you win!

And in bocca al lupo!

>> If you want to just go ahead and buy a copy of the book, you can buy “Italy: Instructions for Use” on Amazon.

Full Disclosure & Whatnot: Just so y’know, the author sent me a copy of this book to give away for this contest, but I bought my own copy of this book years ago with my own hard-earned money.

33 thoughts on ““Italy: Instructions for Use” – Italy Book Review – Win a Free Book

  • Gudrun

    would love this book for our next trip to Italy! Does it include information on traveling with kids? We are also interested in taking trains as our primary mode of transportation, it would be great to get insight into the Italian train system.

  • Betsy

    I spent such a brief time in Italy that I didn’t do it justice. I am looking to go back soon. This book would be a great addition to my backpack!

  • Robyn Porter

    My tip: Get off the Autostrada. Some of the best scenery AND meals have been found while getting “lost” through the back roads from Florence down to southern Tuscany. Tip #2. When you do find a roadside, family run trattoria, don’t order off the menu. Ask for recommendations…and order them.

  • Kathy, DreamofItaly

    Don’t have to enter me as I have a copy from when we reviewed the book. But want to agree that this is a must for a first-time traveler. The pocket size is perfect to carry with you. Even repeat traveler will find helpful info. Inside!!

  • jkiel

    My tip: Get away from the tourist areas in the big cities. Don’t be afraid to try out your Italian, and don’t eat at chain restaurants!

  • A Travel Addict

    Well, I can’t really leave a tip, as I haven’t gone there yet. But this book sounds fab. I’ll have to poke around a couple bookstores here in Calgary and see if I can find it. Knowing those little tips can truly make any vacation more memorable.

    Thanks for posting about this!!


  • Debbie

    Oh! I’d love a copy of the book! I’m going to Italy for the first time in September and it would be so helpful!

  • Chrissy

    My tip is to take time to enjoy your trip and wander the streets of Italy. Don’t get hung up on racing from one attraction to another- enjoy it!

  • Melissa

    How wonderful! My last trip to Venice I just wandered which was quiet enjoyable but this would be a very helpful addition. We did manage to find an off the beaten path restaurant where the food was really really good.

  • Robyn Porter

    I wrote earlier today but have thought of more tips:

    1. You don’t need a rental car in a large city. If you’re going into the countryside wait to pick up the car on the day you depart the city.

    2. Buy museum passes before you leave for your trip. Most cities have a single pass that will allow you to enter numerous sites through out the city for a cost that is less expensive than for paying each attraction/museum separately.

    3. Forget the hotel and rent a house.

    4. No need to carry tons of cash. In many circumstances your ATM will work overseas.

  • Cecelia

    Engage in conversation with the locals! Many Italians know at least a little English. Some of our fondest memories of our visits to Italy are of the wonderful Italians we met.

  • Nicola Lischi

    A friend of mine got this book and found it very useful. Yes, if you stay at least one week, renting an apartment is a much more affordable solution than staying in a hotel.

  • Melissa

    Best overall Italy tip – relax, have fun, go with the flow – dont over plan and enjoy the ride!

  • Mary Jo

    I leave for three weeks in Italy in just a little over a month. I can barely stand the wait!

    Trying out a few new spots this trip, and am sure I’ll come up with more while there. Would love this book to help me out!

  • Robyn Porter

    More tips:

    1. Go to a festival and immerse yourself in the local culture.

    2. Try food you’ve never tasted before. For instance, cinghale stew.

    3. Purchase cheese, olive oil, and meat directly from the farms and groves that make them.

  • Reagan

    Sounds like this book is for all audiences! I am a big believer in going to the grocery store, delis, bakeries, and wine shops for the best shopping, presents, and tastes of Italy.

  • Paula

    Relax. Time moves at a completely different pace in Italy. This way you’ll be able to enjoy all that Italy has to offer & take very very comfortable yet stylish walking shoes. You’ll need them! Buon viaggio!


    In rome try to stay near piazza navonna or campo di fiori and spend your time visiting the churches. they are free and you will see the most fantastic art in their original setting. they are usually closed in the afternoon for lunch and some have very weird hours. take coins for the light machines to help support the church and get a better look at the art.

  • julie

    I could have used this on my trip to Italy in March…and would love to have it to use on my return trip!

  • linda

    My tip is to relax, take it slow and not plan too much. Vacation means you go with the flow and just enjoy yourself! 😛

  • Jessica Post author

    I’m about to head out to the airport to fly to Milan, but before I did I chose a winner for this drawing! I sorted through the comments for people who said they didn’t want to be entered & people who commented more than once, & then using a random number generator at random.org I’m happy to announce that the winner is Britt-Arnhild! I’ll be contacting you shortly via email to get your mailing address so we can get the book to you – hopefully before you leave!

    Congrats to Britt-Arnhild, and thanks to everyone else who entered! If you didn’t win and you’d still like a copy of the book – and if Amazon doesn’t restock soon – you can try the book’s website, too:

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