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Apr 11, 2007 06:43 AM

Food tour outside Milan

My wife and I are planning a series of day trips out of Milan in August and are looking for some good food destinations. Should we drive to Verona? Should we spend time in Piedmont? Should we drive southeast to Parma and Modena? What are your favorite foodie destinations in the areas surrounding Milan?

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  1. Verona is nice but it is a tourist trap since the whole Romeo and Juliet thing infiltrates a lot of the centre. But it is still a beautiful place to visit. You could visit other towns such as Piacenza- south of Milan or Lago di Garda- west of Milan and East of Verona. There are many beautiful places to see. Just stay away from the menu turistico (turist menus) and ask someone where the locals eat. This usually means quality and flavour.
    The gastromonic heart of Italy is actually in the Region of Emiglia-Romagna...places like Modena, Bologna, Parma offer great cusine.
    As for Milan itself, there are many great places to go as well. The locals tend to go for appertivo at some of these locations...Le Biciclette (Navigli area off of Via Torino), Trattoria Toscana- looks like a hole in the wall in the front but is a gem in the back garden (near Pza Cinque Giornate in via Porta Ticinese), and Vittoria (close to the Duomo). i used to live in milan but haven't been back for awhile so I am sure there are plenty of new places to get good eats

    2 Replies
    1. re: fuschia

      I don't want to rain on your parade, glutton, but Milan in August is dead. The same goes for many of the other sizable towns around the north of Italy. I wouldn't count on Parma or Modena. Verona might actually be a good bet because of the opera festival and I think trips around the lakes region would be a positive experience. You'll have to do some careful research before you go to figure out what's open.

      1. re: badwaiter

        I don't know if they actually offer tours, tastings, etc, but do you think the cheese producers in the areas around the Alps will be open for business? I'm thinking of the producers of gorgonzola, alben, taleggio, etc.

    2. I would HIGHLY recommend spending time in the Piemonte (Piedmont), especially the Langhe area (Alba, Barolo, Bra, La Morra, etc.). Plenty of wineries and some of the best food in Europe.

      For starters, check out Fred Plotkin's "Italy for the Gourmet Traveler" and Faith Heller Willinger's book on dining in northern Italy. Also do a search for Peimonte, Piedmont, Alba, Asti, Turin. etc. on this board.

      I have been to that part of Italy twice, but not in over 5 years, so I cannot give you any current recommendations - other than to go there!

      1 Reply
      1. re: DavidT

        I agree with DavidT about the Piemonte having the best food and wine. My wife and I landed in Milan about the first of March and found it to be springtime this year in northern Italy. We traveled down the Via Emilia (SS9) to Parma, Modena and Bologna all the way to Rimini on the Adriatic. Bologna is wonderful. On a warm Sunday in Rimini, we couldn’t find a place to park along the coast because of the crowds. We eased south to Riccione and found an outstanding sea food restaurant on the water at the yacht harbor. Onward to the Marche to search for the Furlo Gorge State Nature Reserve where the partisans blew the nose off of Mussolini’s mountain side profile. This is the land of wolf packs, wild boar and the first-ever highway tunnel built by the Romans. Onward to Tuscany at Montepulciano for great vino nobile. Next was Montalcino for the best brunellos and a memorable dinner at Osteria Al Giardino. Chef Gianluca Di Pirro hovered over our table, bestowing free courses, unbelievably good food and pouring some fine open Brunellos that had been allowed to breathe. We pushed on to the Ligurian Sea and the Metropole Hotel in Santa Margherita Ligure, an old favorite. Then we drove over the coast range to our ultimat target, the Piemonte. Incredible wines were consumed in Barbaresco where we dined at both Antine (Michelin star) and at the more rustic Antica Torre, another favorite. More wines in Monforte d’Alba at Conterno Fantino, where I drank 2004 “Monpa” and 2004 plus 2001 “Sori Ginestra” with Guido and Alda Fantino. We traveled up the Po River to its headwaters by the French border where I discovered 3 restaurants in the tiny, rock village. Back down to Asti to get warm again, we had dinner at Bandini outside of town. Antonella Bera provided outstanding service, free courses and suggested the 2004 La Spinetta “Bionzo” Barbera d’Asti. This is undoubtedly the best barbera I ever had or may ever have. The food was spectacular. Next we hit Stessa on Lake Maggorie, another old favorite. We enjoyed a 2004 Giacomo Montresor “Capitel della Crosara” Valpolicella at the delicious pizza (and everything else) restaurant. We rode the ferry across the lake on a fine warm day to Laveno for a sunny outside lunch. Then it was back to the Milan airport and home. I still can’t quite figure out why we left. The only real challenge would be to find bad food in the Piemonte. I highly recommend the new English version Slow Food Guide.

      2. I forgot about the holiday season. Everyone takes their vacations in August and heads to the coast or to the mountains. August 15th (Fer Agosto) is a major holiday. . If you can read italian a great website to go to is it has a list of what festivals/sagra's (including food festivals) are occuring and where...maybe that will help you decide where to go. This is a great way to experience the culture and food of the locals first hand. These festivals are very welcoming, colourful, and highlight that area's specialties. Either way Italy is bigger than it seems since each region offers different things (I lived there for three years and still haven't visited every place I've wanted to.... it just depends what you like and what you want to see and what you want to eat! matter what it's going to be busy everywhere... outside of Milan of course....also beware of train, plane, and bus strikes called sciopero (singular pronounced show-per-o) they happen quite frequently and sometimes with little notice. If travelling by train and you can afford it, upgrade to a faster train since... they stop less and for Eurostar or CisAlpino trains you usually mandatory to book a seat( and is included in the upgrade). This helps since the regional trains most people don't book and you could end up in the hall way with a bunch of stinky people sitting on your luggage...not nice in 35-40 degree Celusis humid weather!

        1 Reply
        1. re: fuschia

          I highly recommend a trip just north of Milan to the Lago Maggiore (Stresa, Baveno). Take the boat from Baveno to the Borromeo islands - don't miss visiting Isola Bella with its beautiful villa and extraordinary gardens. Plenty of restaurants to select from all along the coast there. Sorry I can't give a specific restaurant recommendaton, as it is more than 10 years since we were there, but it was a memorable visit.

        2. you could easily get to Parma from Milan. In fact it will only take you just over one hour on the autostrada. I know of a really good foody day out that I did with some friends of mine recently and we thouroughly enjoyed sampling the real Parmesan cheese, Parma ham and the balsamic vinegar. Try contacting for details. You can write to them in English and they're very good at replying promptly.