I recently received review copies of three of the newest books in the Pauline Frommer guidebook series “Spend Less See More,” including her guide to Italy.

I’d like to give readers both an overview of the book and a chance to win it for themselves.

Although I’m generally an independent operator when I travel, I still use guidebooks extensively. My time is unfortunately limited, and I want a guidebook to show me how to spend that time wisely.

The various Frommer’s travel guides are all over my bookshelf because they are budget-friendly, full of helpful details and info-packed sidebars, and they make a big effort to show people how to find local experiences and atmosphere.

Pauline Frommer is the daughter of Arthur Frommer, who launched the original Europe on $5/Day back in 1957.  Each of her “Spend Less See More” guides is well-organized, and includes alternative accommodations to “US$300/night chain hotels,” interesting places to eat, sights and attractions (including “gems most visitors miss”) and “Insider’s” info, like learning how to fresco in Florence.

The books are written with a friendly, frank voice that has plenty of strong opinions; I prefer that to bland assessments, even if I ultimately disagree.

Other Italy guidebook highlights:

  • The best companies for in-depth tours of Rome, thereby avoiding bus tours that can be “slow, overpriced, deadly excursions in mass tourism.”
  • Spend a day training to be a gladiator with the men and women of Gruppo Storico Romano, sort of the Latin equivalent of the Society for Creative Anachronism.
  • Two standout gelato places in Florence.
  • Good info sidebars on tackling the Uffizi, visiting the birthplace of the Vespa scooter, Bologna’s thriving gay scene and whether a gondola ride is a ripoff or not.
  • How to find self-catering apartments (and a good coffee place!) in Venice.
  • A thorough review in sidebars of the various Italian museum pass options.
  • One- to seven-day itineraries for the major Italian cities.
  • Which chocolate shop in Venice has tobacco-flavored chocolates named for Sigmund Freud. (!!)
  • Skiing in the Dolomites.
  • How to book (way) ahead to see The Last Supper in Milan.
  • Why Lecce is a good place to visit in Puglia, why you need to see the Greco-Roman theater in Taormina, Sicily and how to find the Mafia Museum in Corleone, near Palermo.
  • Sections in the back on the major festivals, agritourismo and Italian cuisine and history.

If all this sounds like your kind of book, here’s what to do to win my copy:

  • Leave a brief comment below about why you’d like to read Pauline Frommer’s Italy.
  • Next Tuesday, December 16, 2008, I will randomly pick one of your comments using one of the cool tools on Random.org, then I’ll announce the winner in a separate post.
  • If you win, I’ll email you at the address you leave when you comment (to get your snail mail address,) then I’ll box up the book and send it to you. Yes, I’ll mail to places outside the US.

Thanks for participating, and thanks to Sarah Gorback at Wiley Publishing for sending me a review copy.

Good luck!