Women in Italy, Buonconvento Tuscany
Any news? Buonconvento, Tuscany

The internet is a fantastic place. Information abounds, small Italian restaurants which you'd never have found 20 years ago have easy accessible websites and my favorite Tuscan wine estates can be quickly drawn up on a google winery mapAll over the world thousands of bloggers share their local knowledge and give you the inside out of their favorite locations.

And what a relief that Italians and travelers alike no longer have to despair over ripped out pages in phone books when looking for contact details of a museum in Siena or for the number of that perfect little beach restaurant in Southern Tuscany. But there is one drawback with all this accessibility. You need to have time. 

With spare time becoming an ever more unattainable luxury good than the next Prada bag, this is a problem. At least until you've found somebody like Susan Van Allen. The American writer with a passion for Italy has been travelling and researching anything Italian since the 70s. Countless trips to the land of the Dolce Vita have provided plenty of opportunity to sift the wheat from the chaff. Her "100 Places in Italy Every Woman Should Go" is in its second edition and dedicates a lot of space to the big players like Venice, Florence and Rome, but also makes room for lovely off-the-beaten-path locations like Buonconvento or Montefollonico. 

The book is written for women and therefore gives special attention to Italy's female side (from medieval Saints to goddesses in Renaissance art and great contemporary cooks). This makes for a refreshing read in a country, where Berlusconi's view on women has been dominating the media for the last decades.

Susan Van Allen's guide book is really more than a travel companion. It's the type of book you want to have lying near your bedside way before you even booked your flight. In fact the lay-out of the book is a little different from your typical guide book and once on the road you may still want a Frommer's or Lonely Planet for the nitty-gritty bits. Van Allen's book comes in earlier. It's not just filled with handy travel trips and local insight; it also makes sure you're getting a feel for the country and for the general lay-out of your Grand Tour. The suggested reading list at the end of every chapter is especially helpful in this regard.

Last but not least the book has a section with interviews with some of the most knowledgeable women when it comes to travel and life in Italy. Susan Van Allen talked to Frances Mayes and Erica Jong about their favorite places in the Bel Paese. And thanks to her interview with Marcella Hazan - the queen of Italian cook book authors - I finally know where to eat next time I'll be in Venice. 

You can get Susan Van Allen's book directly on Amazon: 100 Places in Italy Every Woman Should Go (also on kindle)

Your high-strung job or family life doesn't even leave time to read a good book? Forget about preparation and research and just follow the author to Italy during one of her Golden Weeks in Tuscany (for women only!). Susan will make sure you spend your precious time in Italy drinking Cappuccino and people-watching, admiring Renaissance art and buying shoes or sunglasses - instead of sitting perked over your smart phone, wondering where to go next.   

But back to the internet. You may not have had the time for research before going out, but you'll sure find a few hours for reminiscing! Italy Tutto has excellent resources and links to English language websites and blogs about Italy. They work heaven once the longing for the land of pizza and pasta sets in.

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