…and the Chicken & Egg of Travel Guides
Traditionally, free-spirited independent travellers never needed travel guides. Before the internet they would turn up in a new destination and find their way around. Not always successfully. Nowadays you can find out almost anything you need to know before leaving home. So where does the old-fashioned paperback travel guide fit in now?
With almost no corner of the globe undiscovered, it’s pretty amazing to think that the Bradt Travel Guide to Abruzzo is the first and so far only English language guide to our beloved region. So at what point does a publisher commission a brand new guide? Do they need to be sure there will be a market for it before committing? Or does the guide itself need to be the catalyst for travel innovators? Indeed is Abruzzo still at that stage or have we progressed to early adopters or even beyond? One of Bradt’s mottos is ‘Europe – beyond the familiar’. Perhaps we should copy that for ourselves: Italy – beyond the familiar.
It was with some interest that I started flicking though the new (2nd edition – Feb 2013) Bradt guide to Abruzzo as it has been a few years since I first picked up edition 1 (published January 2010) and not only have things changed here but I have changed too.
I’m not yet an expert on Abruzzo per se but I am certainly an expert on Sulmona and the Valle Peligna now and with 5 years of full-time residency under my belt I know my Casoli from my Carsoli and I even manage to put the emphasis on the right syllable of Pescasseroli! I was looking perhaps for something I had missed before or simply a fresh voice. I’m embarrassed to say that I now realise how many must-sees there are right on my doorstep; many of which I’ve never visited.
Shame on me. I could be busy here in Abruzzo for the rest of my natural life. I have learnt that the village of Rocca di Mezzo (AQ) holds a moonlit furrow-ploughing competition at the end of the summer with the prize going to the straightest furrow and that it takes 200,000 flowers to make a single kilo of saffron.
Being the only English language guide to anything is a huge responsibility and I should know. Our audience isn’t merely mother tongue anglophone but almost anyone who doesn’t speak Italian. That’s potentially a lot of people. Without wishing to blow our communal trumpet here, it also instantly makes you somewhat of an authority. So where do you start? Well this guide was written by someone with very definitely a foot in both camps. Born in Pescara, Luciano Gregorio grew up in Melbourne and can write with authority on his homeland with the unique perspective of an outsider.
For a supposedly forgotten and overlooked region of Italy, there is an awful lot to say and this guide does a pretty good job at making that info accessible and easy to digest. Initially divided in provinces and then principal towns, each section includes a map, suggested itinerary, how to get around, a few well-researched suggestions on where to stay and where to eat, some brief descriptions on the local highlights plus practical info and some quirky little factoids too. It’s all there. It does what it’s supposed to do frankly and the research is thorough. There is also a very comprehensive 50-page regional overview at the beginning of the book.
So what’s new in the second edition?
The first edition was completed before and published immediately after the devastating earthquake in L’Aquila of April 2009. As a minimum this book works as an update on the worst affected towns and villages and gives a more accurate report of what you can still see and do. The only addition to the few pages on Sulmona is that there is now a short mention of the Giostra Cavalleresca in July / August where there was none previously. As the author himself says in the introduction, Abruzzo is changing and will continue to evolve long after the publication of even this second edition. That’s not to say that edition 1 is now redundant, far from it, but it always helps to have the best information available if you can.
My only criticism would be that the type is a bit crammed and there aren’t many photos making it difficult to flick through casually and have something leap out of the page at you – you almost need to know what you are looking for first and if you do then you can just as easily looks something up online instead. I realise however that adding pages, especially in nice glossy colour, would bump up the price of the book and at £16.99 (at the time of writing this blog post) I think it’s already at the top end of most budgets.
Abruzzo as a groovy, alternative destination
Bradt is an interesting publisher. Amongst its titles are guides to West Sweden and Liberia which puts Abruzzo firmly in the cool and groovy alternative holiday destination category. Sometimes I think we’d like to be a bit more mainstream here – tourism is the lifeblood and the future of our region as we struggle to reinvent ourselves for these difficult modern times – but we can wait a little longer for the Dorling Kindersley Eye Witness guide we think.
A special discount plus a give-away To get your own copy of the new Bradt guide to Abruzzo (either paperback or ebook) at a special 40% discount, you can order one here using our special discount code SULMONA at checkout. The publisher ships all over the world with free delivery within the UK. The offer is valid until the end of August, 2014. We also have 5 copies to give away to our readers courtesy of the publisher! To be eligible you must have signed up to receive our newsletter right from the bottom of our footer before July 31st, 2014. We’ll randomly pick 5 winners and Bradt will ship the copies direct to any global destination from their warehouse.
EDIT! Thanks to the kind folks at Bradt Travel guide, the deadline for entries to our giveaway has been extended till August 31st, while our special discount code will be valid for one more month, until September 30.
Sign up now to our newsletter for your chance of grabbing a free copy, or if you can’t wait head to the Bradt Travel guides website to purchase one right away!