I don’t usually gripe about a books title, but the inclusion of Every Woman effectively cuts out 50% of the potential audience, it would be much better is Susan Van Allen had used the more generic term Everyone. Over 90% of the places and activities recommended have appeal to both male and female.  OK us males likely would skip over the Hair Salon, Spa, and best places to buy Lingerie sections, but other than those, everything else is of great interest.

In many ways 100 Places In Italy is a melange of Matthew Fort’s gastronomic travels in Eating Up Italy, and Brian Sewell’s fabulously amusing Grand Tour documentary series.

Susan Van Allen is not a resident of Italy but has clearly spent a considerable amount of time in the country. 100 Places In Italy is one of the most comprehensive travel guides I have ever come across. According to her profile she has been visiting Italy regularly for over 30 years. This is evident in the wonderful detail she has included in the book.

Most travel guides are dry and devoid of interest or humor, this one is not, it is rich in history, rich in detail, and rich in the best places to eat and drink while visiting the various locations. In fact most of the entries have a section at the end which you can use as a guide for your days activities:

Golden Day: Go to the Acropoli di Cuma by car or take the Cumans train from Naples to the Pfusaro stop and then a Miswno-Cuma SEPSA bus. Back in Naples, eat at Da Dora (Via Ferdinando Palasciano 30, 081 680519), where the house seafood pasta is divine, and your waitress who bursts into song is so soulful you may find yourself teary-eyed.

What I enjoyed a great deal about this book is that Van Allen does not limit herself to the regular tourist fare, she branches out into some less well known, but certainly well worth explorations. The Park Of The Monsters (Bomarzo, Lazio) is a great example. A little off the beaten track. I think the best way to describe it would be the Italian version of a British ‘Folly’, something pointless, kitsch, and endearing.

One of the wonderful things about being a reader is that you learn some nugget of gold in every book. Italy is well known for its love of coffee, but coffee is an import, it first arrived in the sixteenth century, and many wanted it banned, calling it ‘The Devils Drink’! It was only after Pope Clement VIII tried it, and blessed it, that it was accepted.

OK, a challenge for you, did you know that Italians refer to the smell of the wonderful cheese Parmigano-Reggiano as Pedi dei Dio? Roughly translated it comes out as God’s feet, what a great description!

Traveling with children can be a traumatic experience, I know that from personal experience. There is a section toward the end of the book about the subject. And one part certainly made me smile:

You may even have the shock of seeing Roman waiters. Notorious for their rudeness, drop their “I’m-a-very-important-person-too-busy-to-deal-with-you-attitude” and bring treats.

Yup, when I think about it, Italian wait staff are a little strange.

You can order your copy of 100 Places In Italy Every Woman Should Go from Amazon.

Simon Barrett

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