Planning a trip to Italy and looking for suggestions
I am planning a trip to Italy. Right now, our itinerary includes: Saturnia, Perugia, Sienna, Arezzo, San Gimignano, Montepulciano, Florence, Parma, Modena, Lucca and Grosseto and Rome. Looking for suggestions for restaurants and food markets in these cities. Also, are there any other cities close to the cities on our itinerary that we should not miss?
You can't miss Bologna if you are interested in food and markets!
I am prejudiced of course, I live here, but many Italians consider Bologna to be Italy's food capital and will make any excuse to make a detour to shop and eat here. Great food markets, great delis and it is a beautiful town.
You may well find better Parma ham and balsamic here than in smaller less wealthy Parma and Modena - thew best always goes to where people are able and willing to pay more. Bologna also makes great Parmiginao Reggiano and Mortadella and the best Tortellini.
Also do consider Reggio Emilia, which makes both Balsamico Tradizionale and superb Parmigiano Reggiano. The original cows for making this cheese, the red Reggiana breed, are of course from ReggioEmilia, and they still make the best Parmigiano REGGIANO cheese. Capital letters to remind us Reggio Emilia also figures in the name of the cheese. The cheese in fact was very nearly called Reggiano Parmigiano and we often refer to it here as Reggiano not Parmigiano, for short.
P.R. is also made in Modena, Bologna and Mantua, all are within the official production
region, the cheese in no way " belongs" to Parma alone.
And now a plug for Reggio Emilia. Reggio restaurants are rarely frequented by tourists ( as in Parma) or business visitors (as in Bologna) but only by locals, who know what the food should be like, so as as diners they demand the very best. I think you eat better in Reggio Emilia restaurants than in any other of the larger towns of this region and I would add it to my list if I were you.
We ate our way through Italy using Fred Plotkin, Italy for the Gourmet Traveler. I understand that there is a new addition out too. Even if there isn't get a copy of the original. The best restaurants have been around a long time there.
I second the recommendation for Bologna - my husband and I will be there in 2 weeks and I have done a great deal of foodie research to prepare. It's the food capital of Italy for sure. After looking at recs here and other websites (also the SlowFood book), I have made reservations at the following restaurants which seem pretty appetizing -
Caminetto d’Oro, Via del Falegnami 4, Bologna
Trattoria Leonida, vicolo Alemagna 2, Bologna
Osteria Giusti, Modena
Il Tartufo, via del Porto 34, Bologna
Also contact Parmagolosa if you'd like tours of facilities making parmigiano cheese, proscuitto, and balsamic. You can reach them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In addition to eating and food shopping throughout Italy following Fred Plotkin's advice in the book "Italy for the Gourmet Traveler" I have a few more ideas:
The best ice cream in the world is in Florence. If you get there have the mango or the chestnut. It is called: Vivoli, Via dell'Isola delle Stinche near Via Torte in Florence.
In the fall we had white truffles. For a fabulous fixed price lunch go to a tiny place in the middle of nowhere in Tuscany (but near Grosetto). It was called: Osteria Vecchio Castello, (di Susanna Fumi) Via delle Chiesa 2 Loc. Triana (Grosetto) Roccalbegna, tel. (0564)989-192. It was a one star Michelin guide restaurant as I recall and the place is a real treat. If you possibly can, go there, it was one of our best meals in Italy. You'd need to drive there and it's so small, don't go without a reservation.
By the way we stayed at the Terme di Saturnia Hotel and liked it very much.
Some great ice cream in Bologna even if it is not what it is most fanous for.
To name just three :
Best pistachio is probably at Gelatauro in Via San Vitale, who make wonderful artisan ice creams with some wonderful flavours like fig and almond, pear and Parmigiano, watermelon and jasmine according to when each fruit is in season. I also very much like Stefini in Via Galliera, which always has a small queue for their organic ice creams, sorbets and graintas made without anything synthetic: no emulsifiers, thickeners, preserving agents etc. The same all natural philosphy goes for the ice cream at Grom in Via Massimo d'Azeglio, just off Piazza Maggiore, who have the best almond and coffee granitas, and use many Slow Food protetcted products in their ice cream, great chcolate and nut ice creams here too.
Definitely go to Bologna, not only is it a gastronomical centre it is also extremely charming and atmospheric. I went on a culinary trip to Italy last year and in Tuscany and it was incredible. I visited typical rustic farmhouses and I was introduced to the various “secrets” of traditional local cooking. A truly splendid experience. Nothing can compare to sitting in the backyard of a gorgeous farmhouse overlooking the Tuscana countryside while tasting delicious food and sipping on fantastic wines.
I booked through a company called www.italytraveltours.biz. You should check it out if you are interested in a truly authentic experience.
Hope this helps. Have a great trip.