We've booked the Ven/Flo/Rome tour in Oct. and want to start reading more specifics about each city. Can anyone tell us which tour books are the freebies? Is it the large Italy book or the smaller individual city books? We don't mind buying books to read, we just don't want to buy something we'll get for free!
smithfly5, check what's available at your public library. We use a variety of books for our research, and you can often find a good selection of those there.
The tour page says that you get the "Italy" guidebook - which is probably the full size guide book. Email or call the tour department to confirm. I'd suggest paring it down to just the parts you'll need (that guide book is particularly large). There have been recent posts on this site about how to cut down your guide books into smaller pieces. I second the suggestion to check out guides from your local library (or look for outdated versions at Goodwill or other thrift shops). If I recall correctly, there's only one guide book provided per couple - if you plan to split up you'll want to keep that in mind.
According to the website, it is the Italy guidebook. It includes information on all the cities this tour travels to. You might want to call the RS office to insure this is correct. Then you can purchase other travel guides, if you want more information.
If you are looking for general information about a region, look at the book section of the Goodwill. I have found a treasure trove of guidebooks and phrase books for all less than $2 each, including most of Rick's guidebooks. The disclaimer here is that an older guidebook won't have the up to date prices or information on specifics. Use it to find out about the history and geography of the region you are going to and pick out places that seem interesting to you. Then, use the internet to find out the current prices and information. Any published guidebook, even the most recent updated version, will not always have current information.
A plus of the low cost is that if I want to tear out a few pages to bring along, I feel no guilt. It is harder to do that if you've paid $20 for a book.
The disclaimer here is that an older guidebook won't have the up to date prices or information on specifics.
Carol makes a good point here: the small disadvantage to books is that they're impossible to keep up to date: changes to hours and prices, closings for renovations, etc. can happen at any time so your absolute best sources for up-to-date info on that sort of thing are (usually) the websites for the attractions themselves. I'll say "usually" because I've noticed that some Italian museum's websites have not yet been updated to reflect latest changes in photography rules, senior prices and some other details. Still, outdated travel guides are just fine for gathering historical and other background information.
Since you're on the tour, having up-to-date prices and recommendations are less valuable than the info on attractions and sights, which doesn't change much from year to year. Your tour leader will be able to make any recommendations you need. I did not find the city guides to have much more useful info than the big Italy guide.
The main things that the individual books (Rome, Florence, Venice) have that the Italy book doesn't are individual chapters on the main museums and the recommended walks (so, much more detail on these than in the general Italy book), and specific chapters on things like shopping, travel with children, evening entertainment, etc. Since you're on a tour, these things are less important for you than for those traveling on their own. You'll have a guide for the museums and walks on the tour, and the guide can also give you tips for museums you see on your own as well as shopping and evening activities.
All of this doesn't mean you shouldn't have a look at the specific city guidebooks, as well as other guidebooks, just to see if they have anything you find useful. This is particularly true for any time you spend in Venice before the tour and/or in Rome after it.
What Harold said. Plus....
My wife & I recently returned from the V/F/R tour. RS provided the ITALY guidebook. I also had a copy of the Venice guidebook.
Prior to leaving I cut up the Italy guidebook with the following sections: Venice, Florence, Rome. Stapled the sections together and carried them with me each day while touring. I also cut out the section on Assisi since we were ending our vacation with a few days in Assisi.
Having just those sections was sufficient for this tour due to the fact that we had our own tour guide who was supplemented by local guides in all three cities. And, your basically on the go from 8 in the morning until 8(or later) most nights. Even with free time, on this tour you really don't have the time to visit all of the attractions that you would read about in the large city only guidebooks. I ended up lugging the Venice book around for two weeks and didn't open it.
Enjoy the tour. Hope you have an extra few days before or after the tour on your own.