My experience is a little different from yours, Manda. I bought a set of 3 books and frame with six picture tiles (not from Bambino but it has a similar concept) for Ella's 2nd birthday. I showed her how to use it twice, supervised her for maybe the next 15 minutes, then she played with it pretty much independently from then on. However, she was also a toddler with quite advanced fine motor skills and longer-than-usual attention span. She could turn the individual pages of regular books (not board books) by herself and do 36-piece puzzles by herself at that age (24-26 months). The toy was such a success that she started asking for more books when she had finished the 3 that came with the set. So for Christmas that year, I got her a more advanced set from Grolier with 16 tiles and 10 books called FunThinkers (English levels 1-3, Math levels 1-3, and Thinking Skills levels 1-4. The Thinking Skills books are really right brain exercises). http://www.grolier-asia.com/products/funthinkers/
The tiles on this set were numbered instead of having pictures on them, and since this was also around the time she was doing Jones Geniuses numbers 1-20, she was able to easily learn to use this set as well. She has been playing with the FunThinkers books since then.
Last year, I got her two more sets from Grolier called Logico Piccolo and Logico Maximo. The Piccolo toy is for ages 5-9 years old and the Maximo one is for ages 9 and above. After playing with Piccolo for almost a year, she is able to do most of the cards now and has now started to tackle Maximo. Most of the cards in Maximo are still quite advanced for her so I expect the set to be able to grow with her for another couple of years at least. I agree that you could easily teach the concepts in the books yourself, but I don't use it for that. I teach her the concepts and use the toys as a sort of workbook for her to review and practice and check her skills. This breaks up the monotony of lots of handwriting required for regular workbooks, and you don't get stared at as much when you bring one out in a restaurant while waiting for your meal as opposed to bringing out a workbook (which my daughter has been known to do!)
All that being said, the toys are not a necessity in early learning. If you have extra funds, then sure go for it. But if funds are budgeted, then I would choose to buy books and curricula over these any day! Plus, the Bambino ones are terribly overpriced at $900?!?!
I would never even consider them at that price.