Italy Planning: Choosing a guide book

I'm at the very early stages of planning a trip to Italy for fall 2023. 

This could be one of our first trips post-retirement, which would allow us to take a longer trip. It will include a lot of time in cities and towns exploring cultural sights and it would be nice to include some time outdoors in nature, hiking or walking.

Here’s the list of must-visit places so far:

  • Venice — because it’s unique and you should visit once if you can. I’ve been; Steve hasn’t. But we won’t stay long. I recall it didn’t smell very good.
  • Florence — for the art, the architecture, and Tuscany. Another place I’ve been and Steve hasn’t. We’ll need a few days here.
  • Rome — I only saw the train station after making a quick decision to carry on to Bari and Greece. I planned to visit after Greece but never made it back. 
  • Cinque Terre — I didn’t even know this area existed until recently and it sounds like we would love it.

Beyond that are places that were on my short list the first time I went to Europe (40 years ago?!) that I couldn’t fit in — like Milan and Bologna. Other places I’ve heard of since then that intrigue me — the lake district (thank you Star Wars prequels), and Lecce. And places that I need to know more about, like smaller towns so we don’t spend all of our time in cities, and places we may enjoy hiking. 

I’m shopping for a guide book right now. I’m looking at Lonely Planet (my go-to) and Rough Guides, Frommer’s, and for the first time, Rick Steves. I’ve never used one of his before and there are features that I appreciate, like categorizing places into must see, try hard to see, and worth it.