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City Maps

Should I purchase and pack city maps (for Venice/Florence/Rome) prior to my departure from the US, or get them once I arrive in each city?

Posted by
10344 posts

I buy them once I arrive, I get a better selection and sometimes lower prices, I also have a better idea of the type of map I want when I'm on the ground. For research and trip planning purposes at home before going, I rely on Google Map, Google Earth,, and Viamichelin on line maps. I print out some of these to bring on the trip. I also bring a GPS so that I know at all times my position on the ground in Europe, and relate that position to both the map in the GPS and my hard copy maps.

Posted by
23465 posts

We have always found the free maps given out by the hotels and tourist sites to be more than adequate. The best thing about them is that you can mark them up, cut, etc. for each day and then get a new one the next day.

Posted by
5687 posts

Lisa, I like the "Streetwise" city maps (and similar maps) and when I'm spending a number of days in a city, I usually try to buy one before I leave. I like them better than most of the free maps.

It is nice to have a map with directions from the train station to the hotel when you arrive but as others have mentioned, you don't necessarily need to buy one before you arrive. Google maps can often fulfill this need.

Of the cities that you mention, I would probably buy a Rome map.

Posted by
521 posts

I would encourage you to save the weight and just get them there. You can often grab one from the local tourist information centre at your point of arrival (airport or train station) but Venice is the exception. I had trouble finding a map once I arrived, and Venice is the kind of place where a good map is worth the investment. That may be one place that you may wish to purchase one in advance.

Posted by
49 posts

Because these cities were built before the automobile there are many small and narrow streets- Free maps do not always include all of these potential routes -and because they are not on the maps it can become very confusing, you may be thinking that your hotel is three streets away, but actually there are 7 intersections before that because of all the little left off ones. I also recommend Streetwise, they have ALL the streets and you can look up street names on the index and find them quickly on the map using the letters and numbers printed on the edge of the map if you are not sure where you are.

The first time I was in Rome I used a free map- I cried many tears because I was continually uncertain about my way, I actually, eventually, settled on the free McDonalds map- it was easier to use than the one we received at tourist information. And I always knew where I could get a drink with ice in it :)

Posted by
59 posts

I agree most of the time I can find free maps once I got to the city and there is little need to buy ahead. However I have had an exceptional case. I found a "pop-up" pocket size London city map in the book store last time before we took our London trip. It was an extremely handy and neat map that fits into my shirt pocket. I love that map very much and made good use of it for all 7 days in London following trails suggested by RS's London tour book.

Posted by
934 posts

I also find that the free maps meet my needs.I have never had a problem finding my hotel that Steves has in his book.He gives very easy to follow directions.

Posted by
75 posts

I love having my own maps, bought at home long before the trip. As I read Rick's books or other guides, I check it out on my map, where sites are in relation to my hotel, vaporetto stops, the metro and the train station, and familiarize myself with the area. By the time I actually leave, I have a map of the city in my brain, so not only am I familiar with my map, I'm familiar with the city. I can still picture the layout of London, Prague, Krakow, etc, and it's been nine years since I've been there. My usual requirements for a map are: as small as possible but detailed enough to have all street names, and plastic coated. There are some great ones out there. My original Venice map was made of paper and, sadly, we had to retire it this year. It has been replaced with a neat plastic coated one. Have a great trip!

Posted by
255 posts

We have used the Streetwise maps for trips to England and Italy and love them. They don't weigh very much and the nice thing is that they are laminated and don't fall apart. We like having them before we leave home for the same reason as one of the other posters...they help us to plan our itinerary in an orderly fashion instead of backtracking ourselves numerous times and wasting valuable sightseeing time.

Posted by
23465 posts

One advantage to the throw away paper maps is that we plot our daily route with a magic marker for each day. And then at home we can photograph the map for each day and build it into our powerpoint shows.

Posted by
7737 posts

We like to use Google Earth to map out where we're staying and where we want to visit. Type in the address and boom, there it is. It makes it really easy to find restaurants, museums, hotels, parks. It's also great because you can use the ruler to calculate distances (e.g. How far from our apartment to the Forum?). Print it out and you've got your map.

Posted by
1003 posts

We like to bring our own city maps from home. That way you aren't wasting time looking for maps when you get there and they don't take up much space in your luggage. Personally I like the "Insight Fexi Maps" which are laminated. They sell at Borders for $8.95 but sign up for a free Borders Reward Card in the store and you'll get their e-mail coupons and you can get the maps or books for 25-40% off depending on the coupon!

Posted by
1158 posts

You can find free maps at the Info Centers.
I didn't see an Info center in Venice, but I printed out a map from the internet before I left US.

Posted by
12172 posts

Maps in Italy is an interesting question. It's good to have something to guide you but very few streets in Italy have street signs.

If you're walking, you will notice about every 5th home or shop will have a tile over the door with the street name and building number. Sometimes the tiles are more common, sometimes less.

If you're driving, forget it. The tiles are too small to see as you are driving past. A GPS is a good choice for Italy and might be helpful to walkers too.

If you go with a GPS, get it here so you know how to use it before you get on the road. If you're using maps, get them there - maps are cheaper, widely available and better than what you could find here.

Posted by
37 posts

Hi Lisa,
We took our RS Italy guidebook with us and found that to be the most helpful....and we are so thankful that we had it. Yes, there are free maps available in most places but we had the worst luck with the TI's everywhere.....they always seemed to be closed or out of maps! You can easily buy more detailed maps in all of the cities if you feel you need them.
We also found the RS guidebook to be extremely helpful at many of the sights throughout Italy, as everywhere seemed to be out of the English
sight maps/guide pamphlets. It was very frustrating and we would have felt lost without our RS book!

Posted by
32265 posts


I normally use the free Maps provided by the Hotel / Hostel, as they often get quite "well used" during a trip. However, I like to have a "backup" as well and Rick's Italy Planning Map also features city Maps for the three cities you listed.