Cadogan Guides' Tuscany, Umbria and the Marches is a good example of these always-reliable guides' friendly format. The book acknowledges that the travellers have moved beyond the golden hills of Tuscany west to the Bolgheri and Maremma seasides and east into the regions of equally stunning Umbria and the Marches. Its insider focus on food and wine based on a healthy appreciation of the culture gives it a mix that other guidebooks can miss.
The drawback to this approach, when coupled with detailed tours, is its weight. At two lbs it rivals a slim laptop. Of course, when a guide tackles the rich and complicated history of Tuscany--there's even an ancestral chart called "Know Your Medicis"--it is bound to take more than a few words. The briefs on "Getting Around, Where to Eat, Stay and Shop" are handy and many of the restaurants sound to be worth noting.
Most of the book is dedicated to Tuscany so a solo visit to either of the other regions might be better served by ripping out the chapters needed (never a bad idea) or opting for another guide, though admittedly neither region is well-represented here.
This is the 7th edition by authors Facaros and Pauls and includes current information on post-earthquake restoration at Assisi. Their snapshot insight about central Italy is dead on: "Things have stayed the same not by accident, or economic reason, or by decree of some Tuscan National Trust but because that's the way people like them." That alone keeps travellers coming back for more. --Kathleen Buckley