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Help me plan an Italy itinerary

I'm looking for some can't-miss chow for a week in Italy. I am perfectly willing to plan my trip around food! (Art, architecture, history take a back seat.)

I'm arriving in Milan on Dec. 15, and I have seven nights before I need to leave from either Turin or Milan. (Later that trip, my friend and I are doing Venice-->Florence-->Rome, so leave those cities out of the mix.) I was thinking of going to Bologna, Lucca, Pisa, Genoa, and Turin.

What should I seek out? I want to eat local favorites, not fine dining. I don't want stuffiness. It can be local outdoor markets (I have fond memories of outdoor markets in Dresden and Prague from my last trip), or anything.


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  1. The first thing you should do upon arriving in Italy is go to a good bookstore and pick up the Slow Food Guide to the Osterias of Italy. Even though it is written it Italian, you will find it very useful and informative. It is very much geared to where the locals eat.

    You should also take a look at Fred Plotkin's "Italy for the Gourmet Traveler." Even though it was written 10 years ago, it contains a ton of useful info regarding bakeries, cafes, markets, shops and the various regional cuisines of Italy.

    Otherwise, I would highly recommend spending 20-30 minutes scrolling thru all the prior posts on this board. You will find many, many helpful suggestions already here for you.

    2 Replies
    1. re: DavidT

      if you want to take a look ahead of time, the Slowfood website is up and running again. if you go to slowfood.it, you can view their recommendations without registering. Just pick your region and go.


      1. re: DavidT

        Absolutely get a Slow Food guide! Our last trip was our 4th to Italy, and first time using Slow Food Guide. Every meal was amazing and we wished we had it on previous trips. It is pretty easy to find your way through it too. You will need to leard things like hours of operation, days of the week, and specialties of the house, but other than that, very easy to use and SO worth it.

      2. I will raccomend to spend not a lot of time travelling in a week, because also if the distance are close, travelling in Italy sometime can be tiring and stressful. I personally raccomend to spend time in Torino's area, Piemonte, where you find some of the best italian cheese and one of the best italians grape: Nebbiolo. there is an italian site to find typical restaurant
        www.trattorieitalia.com/ If you really want to travel a bet than go to Bologna to appreciate the culinary capital of Italy.
        Travel less...experience and feel more.
        ciao ciao e buon viaggio

        1 Reply
        1. re: massimino

          Frank Bruni wrote a good article in the 10/25/06 issue of the New York Times (titled "Just How Good Can Italy Get") about food & wine in the Piemonte and Emilia-Romagna regions. It is well worth reading.

        2. I spent a week in Lucca recently and would definitely recommend Trattoria Gigi. A little spot right in the heart of the walled city. Super casual, indoor and outdoor seating and probably some of the best pasta of the entire trip. Rigatoni with speck and saffron cream, orrchietta with sausage and gorgonzola, macaroni (pasta ribbons) with porcini and even a zuchini custard to die for.

          1. "Turin or Milan... Venice-->Florence-->Rome ... Bologna, Lucca, Pisa, Genoa ..."

            My Boy: each of those cities well deserve an entire year, and that won't even be enough. By all means, please please please calm down, just stay in -at most- a couple of those cities. Sit al fresco, relax, have a nice vermouth (a "meditation moment", as my friends an I call it), enjoy doing just nothing. Only THEN can you really get to appreciate italian cooking and joie de vivre.

            1. I absolutely agree with RicRicos and will add .....Florence, Florence, Florence.

              1. RicRios is right, Italy from a car at 70mph looks a lot like anywhere else. Pick a central location, slow down and tune into the local pace of life. We spent a week in a villa in the lakes region. My father in law learned to flirt with the ladies who ran the local bakery, I plugged into the local markets, we ate like kings, drank like fish and would go back and do it again in a flash.

                Sitting in a piazza having a wonderful dinner with a great bottle of wine and strolling home is going to be more memorable than "if this is Tuesday we must be in Torino" travel.

                1. Oh Lordy...leave the secondary cities alone if you are gonna do the biggies later!! lolol
                  Go country. Do you sciare?? ( ski?) Head to the Valtellina valley just above Lago di Como. Usually lots of snow in winter, they often host European Ski Champs or World Cup legs. I lived there for 10 years and can unequivocably state that the food there is amazing. Try pizzoccheri, )buckwheat noodles with spinach or cabbage, fontina cheese, garlic/sage browned butter and potatos) or Polenta Taragna ( integrale with HEAPS of great mountain cheeses), Bresaola, the wonderful air dried beef of the region dressed with all manner of yummy things, Sciat, gorgeous light cheesy puffs, I could go on. And on.
                  If you do decide to go there, visit Bormio and the restaurant at the local Golf Course. Pierino is a Master Chef and will serve you a dinner to remember the rest of your life. He'd do it anyway but tell him Lyn in New Zealand sent you!!! And Im sure the grappa will flow!!!!

                  1. You're looking for a "can't miss chow week" in Italy. We landed in Milan last March and from my experience, you can't miss where ever you eat at your stated destinations. Just use your nose and eyes to discover the best meals. This trip we explored the more rural areas in the Piemonte, walked around, read menus, followed the scents to great food. We have never had a bad meal in Italy. Our noses led us to the sweet onion forcacia bread in Genoa, which is out of this world. Discovering those onions led me to order pasta amatriciana in a small hole-in-the-wall in the Medieval section of Genoa, which turned out to be one of the best pasta dishes I’ve ever had. The owner led us into the kitchen to observe his home grown and canned tomato sauce along with other secret touches. You’re chow trip will be a great adventure. We enjoy the slow food guides to see if the places we’ve found are included. We have lots of outstanding favorites, but I won’t bore you with them; you will find your own. We made a special side trip to Florence just to eat at two favorite restaurants that aren’t in the guide books. You will have a blast finding your own special meals and I don’t think you can find a bad meal. Please post your most exciting finds when you return.

                    1. Not that I disagree about slowing down but, if you do decide to drive around, we really like Parma. It's a nice smaller city that we just felt very comfortable in. It's also great as a base for visiting a small cheese production or a parma ham plant. Especially if you're starting in Milan, then hitting Venice, Florence and Rome later on, a small city might be just the thing for a couple of days (or 3).

                      1. If you really want a traditional dinning experience travel south to Calabria. Besides magnificent scenery there is excellent food. To start PIZZA. The best I've had is at a place called Miramare in Guardia Piemontese -CS- on the beach. Truly excellent.
                        Travel inland 26 miles to the bustling city of Cosenza. In the Piazza Valdesi is an excellent restaurant and wine bar aptly named Per... Bacco!
                        In Pizzo south of Cosenza is The Best ice cream in the world Tartuffa. (I reccomend The Chez Toi) for the very best Pizzo is about 20 kilometres north of Tropea. Where there is an excellent restaurant specializing in fish called Pimm's.
                        Staying North is fine but travelling to the South either by car or train will give you a true experience of Italy -Her food, her culture and her history.