Fall Italy Trip Planning Questions
My husband and I are planning our first trip to Italy - a bit of a dream trip! - and I'm feeling overwhelmed. I've been researching online for months and taking notes and reading books and asking friends for advice now it's time to get some flights and hotels booked and I want to make sure I'm on the right page. A bit about us - definitely not an unlimited budget but willing to pay to do it right where it matters (figure we won't spend much time in our hotels so location matters most but also want ideally comfortable beds and air conditioning!), foodies, don't want to cram too much in to ruin a trip...our favorite parts of a recent Paris trip were sitting outside on hidden alleyways with Parisians enjoying wine or coffee and just experiencing the city. Hope that helps! Oh - also - we'd rather eat authentic Italian cuisine at hole-in-the-wall Mom and Pop joints than Michelin star type places - we've learned this the hard way living in SF - but we don't mind if tourists like a place if it's worth visiting. :-)
SO - we've got about 2 weeks. We're more interested in spending time in small towns than big cities to really experience local culture, but obviously have to fly in and out of major cities so might as well see them. Here's what I'm thinking:
Fly into Florence
1-2 nights in Florence
Pick up rental car when leaving Florence
Head to Tuscany – Chianti region – stay in hilltop town – spend ½ our days here
Head to Amalfi Coast – 2-3 days?
One day take boat over to Capri for lunch
Drive to Rome
Drop off rental car
1-2 nights in Rome
Fly out of Rome
Florence - Hotel Perseo - figure we want to be quite local, this is just off Piazza Duomo
Rome - Hotel Navona - a few steps from the Piazza Navona
Tuscany - torn between Villa Cicolina in Montepulciano and Vecchia Oliviera in Montalcino, not sure which is a better place for exploring the Chianti region but also having a pretty local area to enjoy?
Positano - Hotel Marincanto
Rome - based on where we're thinking of staying I'm thinking the best options are Il bacaro, Santa Lucia, Ristorante Fiammetta and Trattoria Monti. I am also interested in Ditirambo and Colline Emiliane but not sure if they are too far from where we're staying? Also obviously need to narrow this list down - what would be the best choice if I can only pick 1-3?
Florence - based on location thinking Il Latini, Osteria Delle belle, Cibreino, and Buca Lapi. Other options I like but not sure if they're hard location based on hotel - Coco Lezzone, Trattoria Sostanza, Da Sergio, Trattoria Mario, and Da Ruggero, and again, obviously need to narrow down to 1-3.
Tuscany - thinking at night we'd eat near our hotel, but try to have lunch in a different town each day? So I've narrowed down based on location. Are these the best in each area? Any towns we should skip over others, as we obviously won't be able to get to them all?
Montepulciano - Osteria dell' Acquacheta - also any other recommendations here in case we stay here?
Greve in Chianti - torn between Taverna del Guerrino and La Cantinetta di Rignana
Pienza - Latte de Luna
Panzano in Chianti - Solociccia (is this worth doing or better to just check out Dario's butcher shop?), also Ristorante Oltre Il Giardino would be an option
Castellina - Osteria alla Piazza
Radda - Le Vigne or Chiasso dei Portici
Monticchiello - Osteria la Porta
Strada - Ristorante da Padellina
Siena - Ristorante Conte Matto in Trequanda
Any great recommendations for restaurants in Montalcino, in case we stay there?
Also in Tuscany interested in hitting some wineries that we don't need to reserve tastings at. So far have only figured out Caparzo in Montalcino.
Other must dos in Tuscany outside of restaurants? Read that it's great to listen to the singing of the monks at the Abbey of Sant'Antimo outside Montalcino.
Positano - Lo Guarracino, Da Adolfo (lunch), Ristorante al Palazzo, La Tagliata, Da Costantino
Capri - La Fontelina (is this an easy one to do if we boat over from Positano?)
I know it's a lot to read through and give recommendations on and I know there have been an unheard of number of posts on this sort of topic. I can assure you I've read them! Just trying to get some input on my agenda as I get it finalized - any advice is greatly appreciated!!! Thanks in advance for your help!
I know you want to do it right. My husband and I are going to Italy for our anniversary in the fall. We thought about renting a car, but then realized gas was two and a half times as much as the states. Just something to think about. Also, I've recently learned that picking your car up in one location and dropping it off in another , the drop off charge is usually substantial.
This thread was from last year, but to help your decision, I have been renting a car in Italy for several years now. All but one have been diesels and they got fantastic milage (perhaps 50 mpg). I had an Alfa Romeo last December, which used slightly more fuel because it was more powerful. All these cars were fast, as often I was required to go 80 mph or more in the fast lane to keep up with traffic. We were in a taxi in Rome going 100 mph once. My buddy was in the backseat with a calculator calling out readings; we expected liftoff at any monent. A couple of years ago, I drove for ten days all over Northern Italy and only spent a little over $50 for diesel. I have never found the rental charges excessive. The 2007 rental bill I have is $840 for 12 days. My wife and I have had priceless dining experiences at little trattorias all over rural Italy.
If you get to Castellina, don't miss Al Gallopapa for dinner...you will need a reservation. The food is amazing. It's built into one of the commune's old stone wine storage caves under the town. The website is http://www.gallopapa.com/
The famous butcher in Panzano is worth a stop, if just for a glass of wine and some whipped, herbed lardo on a crusty piece of bread. I asked his assistant (in my weak Italian) if I might be permitted to take a photo....I think I must have said portrait. See attached photo.
When my wife and I spent three weeks (on our honeymoon) in Italy, we were fortunate enough to stay with some in-laws (my sister's husband's aunt and her family!). So we were spoiled. I can say, that when we did eat out, is was from the walk up pizza stands and markets that we had our best meals. In Italy, eating out isn't necessarily a method of getting better food, or food you cannot make at home, it is to relieve the cook of the duty of cooking. That said, we did have a couple of memorable meals. The first at Trattoria Ponte Vecchio (at the east end of the Ponte Vecchio in Florence). Excellent food, service, and the outside seating lets you experience the life.
The other was memorable because of the impromtu nature; we were in Venice, got lucky and found a room overlooking the Grand Canal, then decided to go the the market next door and get some cheese, wine and deli meat and bread. We went back to our room and listened to the gondoliers sing, and watched the people walk by on the streets below. Then we wandered around for two hours.
just back from rome: ditirambo is still good, try the cacio e pepe (untraditional) and something from the specials board. armando al pantheon is mentioned frequently on this board and deservedly so. again, try the cacio e pepe (traditional) and perhaps the osso buco. ask the waiter what the kitchen baked for dessert. neither ditirambo nor armando al pantheon are great restaurants. choose either if you want decent food in decent settings.
I don't know who the question is for but I like Taverna del Guerrino for a number of reason: the village, Montefioralle ( actually its old name was Monteficalle but that was changed because it was somehow evocative of body parts that anybody who knows spoken Italian will understand) is tiny but very nice. It has been classified as one of the most beautiful little villages in Italy.It is supposed to be the birth place of Amerigo Vespucci after whom the New Continent was named. I first went there in 1983 and it was, and still is, a very simple place reminiscent of time past...The nearby church has some nice old painting.
So generally speaking is the whole experience rather then the food...
I don't know La Castellana while ristoro di Lamole is interesting mostly for the beautiful view, if you get to seat outside.
Pietro and others: I'm having some of the same difficulties as Mrsricho in planning a trip to unfamiliar territory from afar. In Chianti, we plan to stay in an agriturismo in Greve for 2 nights and at a B&B in Panzano for 2 nights (split due to lodging availability). Here's the question: I wanted this part of our trip to be slower, less urban, less seeing-of-sights, and thus plan to travel only via bicycle, scooter, or bus during this time. We will go to Montefioralle of course, and I've read everyone's recs for Greve and Panzano. What other restaurants in this area, given our limited transportation radius, would you recommend? We hope to get to Radda and Castellina. (Recs for bakeries, enotecas, or other food-related establishments would also be welcome!) Michelin-starred is probably out of our price range. Thanks for all the recommendations for Italy, they have been invaluable in planning our trip.
You'll have no problem with public transportation as there are busses in the morning and late afternoon to take you just about everywhere ( florence, siena, castellina, radda etc). You could also hitchhike as it is quite safe. Walking is an option,too but quite exhausting ( this is hill country, after all but not of the gentle sloping kind).Nothing in the evening ( except Greve to/from Florence) so you will need to stay close to your B&B for suppers. Be careful if using a scooter as they can be unsafe and difficult to manouvre on dirt roads, of which there are many. There is one restaurant in Lucarelli ( halfway between Radda and Panzano) le Panzanelle which would make for a nice down-hill walk if you start from Panzano, with beautiful views along the way. There is a bus stop right in front of it and you could take a ride back if the schedule allows it. Unfortunately I'm not familiar with the bus schedule.
All things considered I would really recommend that you rent a car, however. That will allow you to experience much more of the area at your own pace withou having to worry about bus schedules, bad weather, etc.
Let me give you a ressuring word about your trip: Italy, and Chianti in particular, is expensive but quite easy to navigate as a tourist. So do not try and schedule every moment of your visit. Go for the impromptu. You will have no problem in finding good places where to eat, unless you're a food snob who needs to go the restaurant-du-jour or Solociccia tourist trap . In fact a very inexpensive and fun option which I would recommend for EVERY lunch is to just enter one of the local food shops where you'll find a large selection of cheeses, salamis, hams,bread, fruit, etc. You can buy the bread ( always freshly baked) or focaccia and they will be happy to fill it with the fillings of your choice.And you can buy beer, wine and bottled water and enjoy Even if spending $ you can save a lot of money and enjoy some tasty, simple, healthy food and experiment with various mixings. A favourite of mine ( and a classic) is focaccia filled with mozzarella and the local cured ham which is quite salty but complements well with the mozzarella and the unsalted bread used here.
If you need more info or help you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org as I don't check this site very often.
You have mentioned SoloCiccia as a tourist trap two or three times in this thread. I'm just wondering why you see it that way. We ate there in November and we were the only "tourists" at our table of 15. Everyone else were locals. Also, at 30 euro, it was a very good value, in my opinion at least.
Pretty sure, as after dinner Dario spent a long time speaking with them, and while my Italian is not yet very good, it seemed they knew each other rather well. Also, Dario's fiancee Kim told us after dinner that we were in very good company at our table. So yes, it is an assumption on my part, but I think I'm correct. But more than that, it seemed Pietro was pointed in his comments about SoloCiccia and I was just curious to know why he thought that way. I could see if it was high priced with bad food and kitschy(sp?) atmosphere, but I found it to be anything but that.
tourism in this area developped quite fast in the past 15 years. Solociccia and a number of others were born in the last part of the wave. In the 80's there were only 3 restaurants ( well, places you could eat...) in Radda. I doubt Panzano had any. Greve was always more developped ( it's like a Florence suburb as many people commute by bus and it's not really Chianti, anyway. Very few people know that Greve had been trying to acquire the "in Chianti" suffix since the beginning of last century and was only able to get it soon after WWII. But that's another story...)
So in a sense all the new restaurants are " tourist traps" but some more than others. Solociccia seems to be a bit more so . It was borne out of the publicity surrounding the mad cow disease ban on T-bone steaks and the way the man exploited it. It provided a good story for journalists to write about and gullible tourists followed.
Its meat is no better than the meat you can buy at other butchers ( or supermarkets, if you choose well) but the price is much higher. In each town there is at least one butcher providing excellent meat but they are not publicity-driven and their prices are more raesonable.
If you look at the picture attached by Invinoveritas you get an idea...
As for locals, not all Italians are locals...
For my money? I buy meat at the supermarkets and eat in other restaurants.
I don’t know if it’s a must but we enjoyed a great meal there. It is exactly as reported in the Slow Food: Osterie & Locande d’Italia (English version). We met the chef/owner at the door as he was just returning with a few fresh eggs. He hovered over our table, added extra courses, poured tasty Brunellos that were already open to breathe and prepared a spectacular dessert. Desserts are his specialty.
We also enjoyed a fine dinner at Hotel Il Giglio. They have an outstanding, reasonably-priced wine list and we enjoyed a 2001 La Fortuna Brunello (Tre Bicchieri award winner) for only €35 with our meal. Our host’s bottle opening ceremony was quite a show. First he carefully examined the cork, then he primed the glasses, next he primed the decanter , then he inspected the wine in the candlelight, I got to taste, next the bottle was poured into the decanter leaving the last bit in the bottle to avoid any sediment. Hey, I’m Scotch and at the end of the meal I figured there was a little too much left in the bottle and some of it landed in my glass. If they noticed, they already knew we were from Kalifornia and ignored it.
I’m sure you’ll eat well wherever you choose.
And don't forget to go to La Fiammetta in Rome for that incredible Eggplant Parmigiano, near the Piazza Navona!! (Teasing RomeAddict because she always gives such enticing recommendations!!) I was so impressed, I am leaving for Rome in two days (soooooo exciting!), and have a different restaurant reserved each day for a great place found on this board. Going to La Fiammetta for lunch on Monday, and had to reserve for LUNCH ... they are so popular now due to RomeAddict. I'll write in after April 1 and give you the whole low down!!
Thanks for all the input!
We've decided to drop Positano and spend our time in mainly in Tuscany, flying into Florence and out of Rome.
We're going in September so I have plenty of time to finalize everything but here's our new itinerary.
I REALLY appreciate everyone's help! Thanks so much!!!
Go to Florence
Morning check out the Duomo
Lunch outside in Piazza della Signoria
Afternoon: Accademia (David); reserve in advance.
Dinner in Santa Croce at La Giostra
Lunch in Oltrarno at La Giostra
Afternoon: Uffizi Gallery (best paintings); reserve a month in advance (through your hotel, by phone, or online)
Dinner in Santa Croce at Trattoria Cibreo
Pick up car on way out of town
From Florence drive through Greve, check it out and have lunch there at Taverna del Guerrino
Then go to Chianti – 3 nights – stay in Radda at Hotel San Niccolo
Night 1: Dinner in Radda at Le Vigne or Chiasso dei Portici (La Vigne is closed Tuesdays)
Day 2: Day trip to Castellina, check it out, then lunch there at Osteria alla Piazza, then check out Panzano, then dinner there at Solociccia (Thursday, Friday or Saturday evenings only)
Day 3: Day trip to San Gimignano, then dinner back in Radda at Le Vigne or Chiasso dei Portici
Do Siena on the way to Central Tuscany from Chianti – 3 nights
Night 1: Dinner in Radda at Le Vigne or Chiasso dei Portici (La Vigne is closed Tuesdays)
Day 2: Day trip to Castellina, check it out, then lunch there at Osteria alla Piazza, then check out Panzano, then dinner there at Solociccia (Thursday, Friday or Saturday evenings only)
Day 3: Day trip to San Gimignano, then dinner back in Radda at Le Vigne or Chiasso dei Portici
While in this area – visit wineries Montevertine in Radda and Teruzzi & Puthod in San Gimignano. Also get gelato at Gelateria di Piazza in San Gimignano.
Do Siena on the way to Central Tuscany from Chianti. Have lunch at Ristorante Conte Matto in Trequanda.
Stay at Vecchia Oliviera at Montalcino for 3 nights (Avoid Rooms 1, 2 & 3).
Walk to dinner in town in Montalcino every night – Osteria Le Potazzine, Il Pozzo, Taverna del Grappolo Blu.
Day trips in the morning and for lunch to Pienza and Monticchiello with wine tasting and whatnot in Montalcino in the afternoons.
Montalcino activities: Wine tasting at: Caparzo in Montalcino, Listen to the singing of the monks at the Abbey of Sant'Antimo outside Montalcino, Taste wine at Castello Banfi in Montalcino.
Pienza lunch: Latte de Luna
Monticchiello lunch: Taverna di Moranda
Go to Montepulciano on the way to Rome
Montepulciano lunch: Osteria Acquacheta
Go to Rome – 2 full days
*Drop off car on way into town
Caffé Sant'Eustachio for a coffee
Drinks and People Watching at the Spanish Steps at Hotel Hassler
Followed by Dinner in Via Veneto nearby at Vladimiro Ristorante
Check out Trevi Fountain on the way back
Dinner in Travestere at Paris
mrsricho, glad to see this baby was finally born! But we don't want you to relax :-)...just yet.
Why go twice to La Giostra when you have never been there! You don't even know if you'll like it. Let me copy you on another posting I recently did on another thread about my favourite place in Florence
I live in Chianti so we don't really go often for supper in Florence but my absolute favourite is Fuor d'Acqua in via Pisana, 37 tel 055 222299 . It is absolutely the best fish restaurant in the city. One of the owners ( he's not a fisherman but owns a couple of fishboats) comes every evening from Viareggio with fresh fish in his SUV. Therefore it is open only in the evening and serves only fish. Being "oltrarno" in the San Frediano area it is probably outside the main "tourist" area and not included in the "recommendations" of the hotel concierges ( how many people know that the pleasant guy who steers you to that special restaurant and happily offers to make a reservation for you, gets a 10% cut?) .
It is not cheap but if you like fish that's the place to go.
Oh, and nearby, just in the square in front of the huge , ancient city door ( Porta San Frediano) there is a small mini-brewery ( I can't remember the name) where one can enjoy a nice freshly brewed beer as an aperitif.
As I said it is not cheap but it seems to me that you're planning on spending a lot of dough on this trip so you can surely afford it!
In my opinion your Rome time allocation is too small. It is a fascinating, frustrating city which cannot be compressed in 2 days. I'm afraid you'll regret it. But then again if you are time-constrained ...
I agree with your choice of Radda as base for 3 nights ( I live there myself 4 km from the town) but S.Niccolo seems rather expensive. You could do better and cheaper.
Restaurants: Osteria della piazza is fine but solociccia it's just a tourist trap.
Chiasso dei portici used to be very good and reasonable but that was 10 years ago! We used to go very often but then the "girls" who run it decided to go upscale but only with the prices. They though that by simply reducing the size of the portions ( you got out hungry after a regular Italian meal!) and increasing their prices they would get a Michelin star...
Well, apparently they didn't get a star but enough tourist appreciated the gimmick. There are cheaper and tastier options.
Le Vigne is OK but nothing to write home about.
Do not miss S. Antimo.
And if you let me know when you will be in the area you could come over for a bottle of wine and a chat.
Finally: in the fall it will be cold here. No need to spend more for air conditioning...
Thanks - that was a typo on La Giostra - should have read:
Lunch in Oltrarno at Alla Vecchia Bettola
Fuor d'Acqua sounds fabulous!
Good to know re: S.Niccolo...and Solociccia...and Chiasso dei portici...and Le Vigne.
Any recommendations in their place?
Back to the drawing board for sure! Thank goodness I started planning early! :-)
And would love to meet up for some vino!
I can vouch for Fuor D'acqua so much that if we're free when you're planning to go, we, my wife and I, would be willing to join you guys, of course each paying for their own meal. In fact we haven't been there for a while now so that will be nice.
My 3 best/favourite reastaurants in the area are: Fuor D'acqua in Florence( as l Iike fish), Arnolfo in Colle Val d'Elsa and La Tenda Rossa in Cerbaia ( near S. Casciano val di Pesa) in that order.
We don't go often as they are expensive.
The last one can be extremely expensive, at least for us. The last time we were set back 400 Euros for 2 people !
S. Niccolo is new and expensive hotel but not worth it IMO. It is in the closed part of town( no parking) and there even is no one who speaks English.
Alternatives: on the expensive side ( €250/300 I guess) Vignale which is well established and the manageress is a close friend of my assistant and we could probably get you a good price. Or Villa Rosa near Lucarelli or you could rent a small apartment. There is one where we sent some Aussie friends last fall right near town and they liked it. It is convenient and easily accessible. This is also the cheapest option, I believe. But I can be more precise if you want or look for something that would suit you as there are plenty of alternatives.
Restaurants: the point for us is to get a good meal which is possibly a good expression of the "terroir" without getting unduly fleeced.
We have been going recently to : Le Braci at san Donato in Perano and Casa Mia on the outskirts of Siena. The Casa Mia owner is a fellow sommelier and has an extensive wine list if you want to splurge.
At Le Braci . as a special, they have " Arrosto Girato" on Friday and " Maialino Arrosto" on Saturday. This is nothing of the sort that gets food snobs salivating ( little shards of something on a bed of I-don't-know-what dressed in a fancy balsamico sauce made to our own specification by god-knows-who...etc) but simple, traditional, good food that you don't easily get elsewhere.
We would be willing to join you to both any time.
Another interesting off the beaten path ( and it really is as it is in a small village in the higher part of the Chianti Mountains...) is in Starda. The young cook and his mama and papa provide a reasonable yet perfectly enjoyable dining experience. The village is nice and small and one feels like going back in time.We had a party for about 40 people there recently to introduce our new ( and only) grandson visiting with his parents from Florida. This is not Solociccia marketing...
And ..finally... just to get you interested and depending on when you'll be in the area, we could all go to one of local hunting party meals.
We 're really talking basics here: no service, bad wine ( but we bring our own...) and primitive seating but you can have all the wild boar grilled meat and steaks you want and some very tasty, reachly dressed pasta.
Sorry for rambling.
But then again this might not be your cup of tea...
Greve- I would also suggest Ristorante la Castellana in Monefiralle. It is on your left just before you get to the top. I have eaten at all 3 and this is my favorite.
Panznao-Il Vescovino is very good also. I would suggest that over Oltre Giardano.
Osteria Piazza is one of my favorited. We eat there everytime we go to Italy. My husband love the pumpkin ravioli w/ cingiale, i had the best carpaccio and filleto of beef with cippoline onions. It is very lovely inside and has wonderful views. Another Favorite is Ristoro di Lamole in Lamole. You drive past Vinamaggio made famous for the Mona Lisa.
Radda- There are better restaurants. Try going to Volpaia. We like the more casual typical Tuscan La Bottega. They have a lovely garden area. We have never been disappointed. reasonable prices compared to some.
Siena- my whoel hearted reccommendation is Ristorante Mugolene. We always go have a leisurely lunch. Their filled pastas are so light! The steak is wonderful. You will see Siena business men if you go for lunch.
We also like il Piccolo Castello in Monteriggione. My husband syas they have the best pasta a tartufo. The lamb chops are some of the most tender and delicious chops I have had anywhere.
From the sounds of it you are going to have a great trip! I think your itineray is a bit too ambitious for the amount of time you hav. i know everyone always wants to fit in as much as possable but you end up missing the true experience rushing from once place to the next. There are so many wonderful litttle palce to visit. Things not always in the guide books. Pleaswe also understand that a map mya tell you it is only 20km to the town you ae heading to but it oculd take in excess of an hour. The roas thru Tuscany, Chianti area ar full of Hills. you drive up and you drive down there is no wasy way. The roads are very narrow in many cases.
Iin Montepulciano you can go to the Avignonesi store. They are well know for thei Vin Nobile.
if you end up staying outside of Florence I suggest ou take the bus in. Driving and parking is a bear! The bus leaves from. Alot of time we will drive to Greve park in the lot walk to the bus stop and take the bus in. It takes about an hour. Than it is a 10minute alk to the Duomo. Very easy! You buy tickets at the coffeebar in town. I can not recall the name but if you walk into the Piazza it is straigh back the same side as the salumiere. You can also buy ticket in Panzano at the coffe bar and take the bus from there.
hope some of this helps!
I just noticed your mention of Sant'Antimo. By all means go! It's a lovely place and the monks' singing makes it even more special.
I went there the first time in the '70 when the church was abandoned and we had to go to the next town to find the guy who had the keys... Afterwards we had a picnic right in front of the main entrance, under an olive tree with cows grazing near us. It's a picture perfect spot.
The monks belong to a French denomination called " Premostratensi" ( from Premontè, a French locality where the first abbey was founded) and they are kind of conservative in their religion emphasizing traditional rites and singing.
Another time I accompanied an Orthodox bishop to visit the church and the " abbè" invited him to share in the evening prayers. Afterwards the 4 of us, including my wife, were invited to have supper with them and she couldn't believe it. she still claims that she is the only American female to have had supper inside a monastery :-)
Here is some recent information on the times.
I found some notes on St Antimo (my translation may be a bit faulty not being a Catholic). . Tierce and Communion are also a bit early. I am not quite sure if one can enter/leave between the two without being rude (although the monks seemed rather oblivious to us when last I visited) or how long Communion lasts. (I am almost positive that this is not Communion for the observers but rather for the monks themselves). You can try calling : 0577 835659).
Lodi (lauds)– 0700
Terza (tierce) – 0900
Eucarista (Holy Communion) – 0915
Sesta (sext) – 1245
Nona (nones) – 1445
Vespro (vespers) – 1900
Compieta (compline) – 2030 (July and August at 2100)
Hope this helps!
Having seen this post before, i truly believe that what you are trying to achieve is an itenarery of what other travelers have enjoyed and seen, like an orgarnized tour, instead of venturing and live it through for yourself. Italy for that matter, is a country that pleases all pockets and tastebuds. I am looking forward to your trip ( this is if you are going ! are you ? ) and read YOUR POST and experience what you have experienced and salivate througout. Bonne Chance
I live in Italy and can only agree that your program is overly ambitious. An Australian friend ( who had been in Italy before though she doesn't speak Italian) did what you're are planning to do but she was here for almost 2 months! Admittedly she went twice to the south and twice in Tuscany when her boy-friend joined her.
I can certainly help you with Chianti and Tuscany in general if you have any specific question as I live in Radda in Chianti.
But let me tell you that some of your choice ( but also some of the suggestions, I see) are a bit too obvious and to the tourist side. You don't need to fall for the Cibreo-Solociccia-etc trap.
My husband and I thoroughly enjoyed our first trip to Italy last fall. The stayed in an apartment in Rome the entire 10 days with one day trip to Ostia Antica. We didn't even begin to see everything there is to enjoy in Rome despite how long we were there. I agree with the fact that the touristy places are not the best to eat. We enjoyed Ditirambo quite a lot. Be sure to order a lot of courses so you don't miss something incredible. Sharing courses is perfectly acceptable. We drank and enjoyed the house wine almost every where we went because we are pretty much novices when it comes to wine. I'm so jealous of your trip plans.
Yes, I think it's reasonable to swap the Cinque Terre for the Amalfi Coast, especially if you decide you're going to be based in Florence. From Florence you can drive up to Lunigiana (here you'll find lots of nice wineries) and reach the Cinque Terre, which are certainly packed with tourists but I think they should not be missed since you are so close... Some people might not agree but I believe the most beautiful village of the five is Vernazza, so make sure you start from there. Foodwise, if you stop in Vernazza for either lunch or dinner, 'Gianni', which is located just on the main square by the small port and is probably the best choice. You'll find tourists there, but it's also the place where most locals go when they feel like having unfussy, genuine, typical food. For your breakfast or easy lunch, choose the focacceria Il Frantoio, in Monterosso, where you'll find the best farinata (chickpea flour sort of pie) and focaccia al formaggio (trust me, I lived there for a while and know that lots of locals who go there!).
The Amalfi Coast is a must see but of course is not that convenient, it would be a shame not to have enough time to enjoy it... Anyway, I would suggest staying in Sorrento and move around from there.
When you first arrive in Florence, I'd highly recommend more than 1 night there. If your flight arrives mid-day or later, you'll have less than 24 hours in the city! Plus considering jet lag, you may not be able to do as much as you'd like. I'd recommend at least 2 nights after landing to be able to get your feet under you at a leisurely pace.
Please don’t get stressed with all this planning. Even if you never get to any of the restaurants you’ve found or mentioned here, you’re going to eat and drink well. You’re really going to have fun. My wife and I just fly to some city (Venice in two weeks), rest and poke around, then rent a car and wander across the country. Armed with the Slow Food Guide, “Osterie & Locande D’Italia”, following our noses and reading posted menus, we search out the mom & pop establishments. I spent hours hunting a place down outside Asti, only to require directions finally from an older gentleman who only had high school English. It was worth it.
My thing with the Cinque Terre is that it is covered with hiking trails in addition to the main coastal trail if you like to walk. I purchased a great trail map. We prefer to stay at Hotel Metropole pictured below in March 2007, which meets your criteria, in Santa Margherita Ligure and hike or take the local train to the Cinque Terre towns.
Anywhere you go will be fun. My tip is to take good walking shoes. I ate and drank like a horse last year and still lost 10 lbs.
Well it's your dream trip but you don't really say when in the fall you are going. Italy is pretty nice in the South into late Oct and if you get lucky you can have great weather well into Nov. However, my suggestion is to skip the Amalfi Coast entirely and fly into Venice. See Venice but indulge the foodie goals by visiting some of the great towns in the Veneto like Padova or Treviso. Both are a short train ride from Venice but in either town you can really explore the diversity of plates in the region. Neither will have a ton of tourists but both have some interesting sites that are close to "must see" status (especially Padova).
The market in Padova is pretty amazing and the street food can't be beat. There's a seafood stand right by the market that does fritto misto and fresh boiled octopus. Treviso has great cicchetti bars and must have the highest sweet shop/ citizen ratio in all of Italy. Don't forget that in the fall there are truffle festivals in Piedmont and Umbria. I can't speak for the festivals in Umbria but the Alba truffle festival is amazing. I think others on this list have got Tuscany locked down but you should really consider the time of your visit and think about the food of the North. Happy planning.
My husband and I just came back from Italy. We went to Rome and Florence. I don't remember the names of the restaurants we ate in at Rome. We did try to stay away from the tourist areas and looked for the restaurants that had the most people in them those were the best ones. We stayed by Piazza Navona. At Piazza Navona there is a panini stand there that will serve you just a simple sandwich with salami, cheese and arugula. really good and very cheap.
In Florence we had some of the best food we've ever eaten. We had dinner at Trattoria Marione. We were on our way to Trattoria Sostanza and we saw a crowd around Trattoria Marione. We stuck around and were eventually able to push our way into the crowd. They don't take names down. They just come out and tell you they have a table and just pick someone. So be ready to push your way in there. It was really worth it. the prices are good and the food is delicious. Another restaurant in Florence I definitely recommend is La Giostra. It was amazing. Make sure you make reservations ahead of time. http://www.ristorantelagiostra.com/ Have fun! We had such a good time.
fall in italy is special. if you have two weeks, consider one place to hang your hat and get to know the area/neighborhood. build relationships and see what happens. day trips are fun and the italian train/bus systems will encourage you to explore. at the end of the tourist day, it's cool to go back to "your" neighborhood.
What is it with the Cinque Terre! They are very pretty, but absolutely full of tourists with very little room for them, and not one of the most interesting destinations in Italy for a first trip. Your best bet is to stay in one area. Jen Kalb's Tuscan suggestions are excellent. If you have a hankering to see the south, I would think about ditching the car and using trains, buses, and hydrofoils around the Bay of Naples. Sorrento could be a base for a first visit since it's well connected.
I disagree with these posters trying to get you to travel the way they would, as opposed to the way you want to. As I stated in my above post, I like to see a number of different areas, for a couple of days each. If this is your preference too, I see no reason why you can't fit the Amalfi coast into your itinerary. The places you've mentioned are all within a couple of hours driving radius of Rome, so you could, for instance, begin with Amalfi coast, drive to Rome, then continue through Umbria into Tuscany, spend time in Florence and the countryside. You will get to sample the food of various regions, each different from the others, aside from different types of scenery and culture. I have been to both the Amalfi coast and the Italian riviera and Cinque Terre, and though I enjoyed both, if I had to choose one for my first trip, it would be Amalfi coast. Since you say that you prefer small towns to cities (as I do), a day or 2 in Rome and Florence is enough. As you will be traveling in the Fall, there will be much fewer tourists than in high season wherever you go.
I know what you are going through with all of the planning - my husband and I did a similar trip this past fall and I was overwhelmed by all of the options! In the interest of not overwhelming you further, I will try (in vain) to keep this brief:
Florence: We spent only about 36 hours in Florence, but managed to get to two restaurants: La Giostra (near the Duomo) and Il Santo Bevitore, for a quick lunch. La Giostra is a lot of fun and the food is good. It is decorated in twinkly lights, is bustling, and we found it to be romantic. We were in and out of Il Santo Bevitore so quickly, but it is a nice room and the food was terrific.
Tuscany/Chianti - We stayed in Greve (Fattoria di Rignana). This is a beautiful area and you probably won't go wrong with anything you choose. I have been to both Taverna del Guerrino and Cantinetta di Rignana. I would give the edge to Taverna del Guerrino, because it is the most charming little town of Montefiorelle. In Tuscany, it gets very dark at night and you lose the view, so hit this place for lunch - the view is fantastic. The food is terrific, too. Cantinetta di Rignana is also great, we ate there twice because we were right on the property. The food is good but I am not as fond of the look of the restaurant. You would also need to drive on a long, bumpy, gravel road to get there.
Panzano - We loved a place called Il Vescovino, right near the old church in Panzano. The food is absolutely out of this world, as is the view. However, the food is worth the trip, even without the view.
Montepulciano - This is a great town, so beautiful with many fewer tourists than you will find in Siena. We went to a restaurant called Il Gambe di Gatto. It is very small, the husband is the waiter and his wife is the chef. It was one of the most, if not the most, charming experiences I have ever had in a restaurant. They let us sample wine and breads, chatted with us, and made us feel like family. We went between lunch and dinner time (around 3) and the place was empty. They are open all day. I loved this place and would recommend it highly.
Rome - A fantastic city, of course. The best meal we had was at La Piazzetta. For a wonderful experience, go have a drink on the patio at Hotel Hassler. It is a beautiful garden patio with piped in classical music. A wonderful oasis at the top of the Spanish Steps.
Have a great time!
I assume you know that neither Montepulciano nor Montalcino is in Chianti. I would recommend exploring the region around those two towns, or else staying in Chianti, since your time appears to be very limited in the region. And give Il Latini a miss unless you don't mind being surrounded by gobs of fellow tourists at dinner.
I agree that you are trying to range much too far afield....Positano can wait! With 2 weeks you barely have enough time to see Rome, Florence and other parts of Tuscany.
They are both in southern Tuscany, but not in the Chianti area, and the place to stay, if you want to visit both, is Pienza. You must stay at il Chiostro di Pienza right in the centre. I will be there again in July - for the fifth time!
Visit Lucignano to eat at Albergo Da Toto next to the church on the hill in the centre. (You will find that, in Tuscany, everything is on a hill.)
In Pienza, I would recommend Il Rossellino for dinner. It has been recommended by others here as well. It is a small place (5-6 tables) that is run by a couple, who do the cooking. The food is very good and the owners could not be more welcoming. Reservations are essential.
Enzo & Franca Mariani
Piazza di Spagna 4
I would also recommend visiting San Quirico, a very charming village near Pienza.
As I stated in another post, just having a restaurant itinerary for Rome is very important I found. Rome has so many tourists (many of whom who have a limited sense of what is good Italian food) that many, many restaurants really don't need to do much to make a killing. Therefore, eating on the fly in Rome can be problematic I found. I found this to be not as true in other major cities.
Could I suggest going back to the drawing board and planning a MUCH less ambitious trip? Unless you think it's going to be your last trip to Italy, I'd concentrate either on Tuscany or on the Bay of Naples/Amalfi coast, depending on your interests. Tuscany is "easier". Both are highly touristed destinations. As for skiipping the cities, first, you're underestimating the logisitcs of getting places, being tired, finding your way around, etc., which will cut deeply into useful time on a short trip. Second, Florence and Rome are not just "cities" but two of the most important, beautiful, interesting, etc., etc., places in the universe. They deserve more, or at least one of them does, with a promise of seeing the other soon. I doubt I will change your mind, but I think most people would agree at least that the more time you spend in one place, the more fun you will have.
As for your restaurant choices, in Florence Cibreo (any) and Ruggero would be my choices. In Rome, Monti is very good but not the be-all and end-all many posts make it sound like. Likewise Colline Emiliane is very good, but might as well be in Bologna for all it has to do with Rome. We go there, but we live in Rome and go out for a change. CJT is right that you needn't worry about eating near your hotel if there's a place you like the sound of elsewhere. The rest of your list leaves me cold, though I would go to Fiammetta if it was convenient, which it would be if you're staying near Piazza Navona. It's a modest neighborhood place (though I confess I haven't been there in eons). Paris, in Trastevere, would be my choice for a classic Roman dinner for beginners, including the Jewish fritti. Don't forget that many restaurants are closed on Sunday, or sometimes Sunday evening and all day Monday.
I agree with the above post regarding Il Latini. It was recommended to us by the proprietors of the hotel (the Belletini, which we liked a lot and very convenient), but it seemed touristy to us (forgettable food, communal tables, loud).
You do not mention Lucca on your Tuscany tour. I think it would be a shame to miss it. It is close to Pisa, which we found totally forgettable, but Lucca is a beautifully preserved medieval city and the restaurant to go to is Buca di San Antonio. We had lunch there on 2 different trips and it was wonderful both times. Very popular with locals. If you can, I would try to spend some time in Umbria after Tuscany. Gubbio has a wonderful restaurant, Taverna del Lupo. Towns to visit include Gubbio, Assisi, Todi, Spoleto and Orvieto (plus many smaller hill towns). The scenery is magnificent, more beautiful and green than Tuscany, and many great restaurants (if you decide to spend time there, post again and I will recommend some). For the Amalfi coast I think Sorrento may be a better base than Positano. I can recommend some restaurants there as well. We did a day trip to Capri from Sorrento, and had a wonderful lunch at La Capannina. You should also be aware that one of only a few Michelin 3-star restaurants in Italy is Don Alfonso in Sant' Agata a few miles from Sorrento. We had a nice lunch in Positano but I cannot remember the name of the restaurant, only that it was right on the water. over to the left when you come down the main street. Elegant with simple fresh fish. Overall I really like your itinerary. We do similar trips, no more than 3 days in any one place, so we find the places we like best and then plan future trips to go back to those.
The best is Caruso, pricey but well worth it. I particularly remember the spaghetti with bottarga. Antica Trattoria is also very good and moderate in price. I don't think you would have any difficulty getting a taxi to Sant'Agata. We also had a really nice lunch in Marina Grande at a restaurant whose name I can't recall, but it was on a pier with windows all around, right in the center of the village. The food was simple and superb. I had a pile of baby clams for the appetizer that were wonderful. O Parrucchiano was not as good as the others but nonetheless decent and reasonable. The hotel where we stayed, La Tonnarella, has a nice restaurant with a huge menu. The food is very good, not exceptional, but we ate there twice because it was very good value, and the view is amazing. Nice hotel, too, though I see they have raised the prices and it is no longer the bargain it once was.
Regarding your Florence visit, the city is relatively small and you can walk to a lot of places or use the electic bus routes to get around more quickly. So for restaurant choices, you should focus on quality not distance from your hotel. That being said, I Latini is not very far from Sostanza, so you would be better off going to Sostanza for the bistecca forentina and you must try their pollo in burro (2 chicken breasts in a butter sauce which you will find exquisite). I Latini is a noisy free-for-all with lots of tourists (English is the main language you hear from the clientele) and the food is not all that great (nor is the price). Cibréo has 3 different rooms to choose from: Cibréo Ristorante (elegant, excellent, but pricey), Trattoria Cibréo (small intimate restaurant serving many of the dishes available at the ristorante but at much lower prices), and Teatro Del Sale for an experience unlike anything you will find in Florence or elsewhere. I did a write-up in December on this board (FLORENCE REPORT DECEMBER 2007 - LONG, BUT ...) I recommend you read it to get a feel for Teatro del Sale (at lunch - dinner includes live performances after the meal). It is the best dining experience we have ever had in Florence or Rome in our last 7 trips to those cities. There are other recommendations in that post which may be useful to you as well.
As for Rome, I recommend you get away from concern about restaurants being near your hotel, as that will needlessly lessen your potential choices. Rome has a good bus system which you can use to get all around the city (monuments, restaurants, hotels) and the buses run into late evening hours (11 PM or later). The system is easy to figure out and your hotel concierge can assist you with route numbers or how to read the bus stops. If you are staying in Piazza Navona, Ditirambo is very close by and they have good home-made pasta but it is not an extraordinary place to dine. Trattoria Monti, however, is quite far from there and you would need the bus or taxi. I'm not fond of Trattoria Monti, as we had difficulty on 3 separate Rome visits finding them open for dinner (the restarurant was quite close to our hotel). So we finally got there for lunch and found it far from worthwhile and a bit pricey for what we had (roast stuffed pigeon done to dryness and the stuffing was too dense). For best value and good mean in Rome, we always go to Vladimoro/Marcello in the Via Veneto area. They serve a great fixed price menu which includes multiple vegetable appetizers (all you wish to eat), a platter of 3 different pastas, each in a different sauce, and a main course of roast veal with potatoes. Price is about 35-40 Euros per person if you drink their house wines.
wow. that's ambitious.
deb and i like italy. we usually rent an apartment in march (rome, via giulia this year) and pretty much live on the economy.
ditirambo is a decent restaurant off the campo de' fiori. try the cacio e pepe. make friends with the guys who run the place. you have time. rome isn't going anywhere.