A Venice insider’s view on the best hotels, restaurants, shopping and places to see
We’re off to Italy in August, with a couple of stops in Venice, so I was especially interested in reviewing Bianca Reyes’ “Venice for rookies” eBook. Let’s hope you think my words are worth your time reading them!
A Ten Year Love Affair
Bianca Reyes finally moved to Venice from the USA in 2008, after a ten year long love affair with Italy. She learnt Venetian and Italian, and how to live like a local.
Now she has written this practical guide to give her readers a way to explore and get a taste of the Venice she fell in love with – a city of random legends, cool historical tidbits and amazing postcard-like scenery.
As she says: "Once you set foot in Venice, you’ll understand why people call it romantic, enchanting, mesmerizing, and La Serenissima (the Serene One)".
An Insider’s Guide to Venice
Bianca’s sales page promises that you will "Learn the nooks and crannies of what Venice has to offer from an insider’s point of view" and "she will show you how to get around, important details about Venetian delicacies, how to scope out the authentic mask & glass-makers, toast with local fine wines for under $3, and point you to where the locals chow down".
What’s more, if you follow her tips, she claims you’ll save over $200!
Well, will you, does she and should you buy it? Read on to find out what I think.
(By the way, the ebook actually isn’t in the 3D format represented in the image above, see below)
If you want to check out the sales page, it’s here: Venice for rookies (yep, that’s an affiliate link, I get about US$4 if you buy the book, but I suggest you read my review first to find out whether you should).
What you can get:
- Venice for rookies eBook: 171 pages in all, choose from a range of formats: PDF, EPUB with photos, EPUB without photos, MOBI with photos, MOBI without photos, Palm with photos, Palm without photos, all at $9.99 each. Cheap enough, eh?
- A Free Venice Guide PDF: download this for free by entering your name and email.
Note: I got a PDF copy to read on my computer, so this review is based on that.
So should YOU consider buying "Venice for rookies"?
Well, it would help if you’re going to Venice! Mind you, just reading through it, with all the background info, interesting legends and Venetian recipes (my mouth was watering as I lingered over some of the restaurant descriptions) makes it worthwhile even if you’re staying home…and you’ll certainly be thinking about visiting the city after you’ve finished it!
But the the real question is whether it’s right for you – are you going to get anything out of it, is it worth you spending both your time and money on it?
Well, my answer to that is, assolutamente!
If you’re a dead tree person (admission: I often am) and want to print the eBook out, that won’t be a problem as it will easily fit both A4 or letter size paper. Looks fine on screen too. Quite a few images, but not too many to drain your ink cartridges excessively. Here’s a shot of the cover:
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Funky logo, hasn’t she! The title looks like letters floating on the surface of the Venetian lagoon to me, but maybe I’ve just got an over-active imagination.
Does it fulfil its aims?
Short answer: if you’re going to Venice, it does a pretty good job and really provides you with the information you need to get beyond the over-touristed (although still stunning) surface to the real, living city beneath.
Is it value for money?
If it’s right for you, I’ll give this a definite "yes" at its current (ridiculously low) price.
Is this book suitable for you?
Firstly, who is the target market and are you in it? Obviously, most people who buy this book will be going to Venice. Bianca claims:
"This guide is meant to save you time and money – not by taking the less-is-more cheap route, but by teaching you how to make informed decisions based on all the research and experience I have gained over the years by showing my friends and family the city".
Well, talk is cheap, how does the book measure up?
What’s in it?
Here’s a shot of the contents page. As you can see, Bianca pretty much covers the field as far as useful tourist topics go – getting around, sleeping, eating, drinking, shopping, sightseeing – she even throws in day trips to the surrounding area. Of course, this is not a Michelin blue guide, so as she says, it "will not be providing detailed history lessons". Nevertheless, she packs quite a bit of historical and cultural background information in as well as the practical information she’s gleaned as a local.
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It’s 171 good-sized pages including the introduction, and there’s plenty of type which is set in one wide column, fortunately broken up with plenty of headings and images, so it’s quite easy to read.
Lots of text, but solid information
There may be lots of text, but it’s easy reading thanks to Bianca’s conversational, relaxed style. Make no mistake about it, there’s a LOT of factual material in this book. There’s little if any "filler" as I’ve found in some other similar guides. I personally like the idiosyncratic items, such as the Rookie Tours and Legends, which add spice to what can in less able hands turn into simple recitations of "go here, now turn left and go there" walking route suggestions.
Bianca has adopted some icons which are spread through the text, indicating sidebar items and special tips; I found them quite useful:
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How about the Reviews?
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Well, I haven’t stayed at the various hotels and other places that Bianca recommends, so I can’t vouch for them myself. On the other hand – and this goes for the restaurant and bar recommendations too – I’ve read plenty of reviews over the years, and hers have that ring of authenticity about them that only people who have real experience of the places in question can bring. They’re fun, too!
"Venice for rookies" is especially strong on dining and drinking recommendations. Trust me, this is important in Venice. I’ve had my share of disastrous (and expensive) Venetian meals, and a bit of local knowledge and experience is worth killing for! What’s more, Bianca covers a wide range of places, so there’s something for most, if not every, taste. Sure, you can be lucky, but it’s nice to have at least an inkling of where to go to start things off.
Oh, and as far as shopping goes (Helen was especially keen on this section), Bianca has eight pages of recommendations covering different areas of Venice – including masks and some special tips on places to buy real (as opposed to Chinese) Murano glassware and jewellery – prices, too.
Should you buy this book?
If you’ve read my comments above, you should already have a good idea whether this eBook is for you. Basically, if you’re going to Venice, I reckon this is an essential buy. And I’m not just saying that to try to get Bianca to write some special articles for us on Travelsignposts (although I’m sure posts by someone with such great local knowledge who lives on the spot would be very popular, Bianca, if you’re listening…).
To quote her sales page:
“Venice for Rookies is different from any other Venice guidebook because it prepares you with handy “know-how” videos, quick links to free audible tours of the city, does not direct you to tourist trap restaurants, takes you off-the-beaten track, and is written with the same enthusiasm and secrets you would get if you were visiting your best friend in Venice!”
That seems to me to be a pretty fair summary. It certainly makes a change to get away from the usual hype online! At US$9.99 it has to be good value considering the topics covered and the local knowledge. It’s probably worth it just for the section on restaurants and the suggested walking itineraries, let alone the money-saving tips.
And as Bianca says in her conclusion: "No sponsors or paid advertisements in this guide, just authentic reviews and tips by the author herself".