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May 28, 2008 06:22 AM

Day trip from Florence - Suggestions

I am looking for some help regarding a day trip from Florence. We are already spending one day in Bologna, and one day in Sienna and San Gimignano. I was thinking about going to the Cinque Terre for the day, but some chowhounds have suggested that the crowds would probably be unbearable. The day I have free is June 22 (Sunday). Does not have to be food related, but hopefully somewhere food and wine will be consumed. We can rent a car if we have to, or take a train. Does anyone have any ideas?

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  1. The Cinque Terre seems too far for a day trip. Plus, once you're there you'll want to stay at least 3 nights (if not more).

    For a good day trip, try Fiesole: The view of Florence is amazing, there are Etruscan ruins, a museum, places to walk around. It's a quick and easy trip. Check online to see which bus heads that way. I didn't eat there, but I do remember seeing some nice outdoor cafes.

    1. My vote goes to Arezzo.

      In keeping with the spirit of this board, I'll restrict my non-food attractions to a general mention of superb art in several of the churches and a wonderfully atmospheric town for strolling (e.g. della Francesco frescoes and a restored Cimabue crucifix).

      Here are the food attractions:
      Ristorante Logge Vasari is my favorite restaurant in Arezzo. I’ve eaten at least one meal there on each of my annual trips between 2000 and 2005. The restaurant prepares both Tuscan classics and innovative dishes equally well. The restaurant is on the loggia along one side of the Piazza Grande. The daytime sight across the Piazza is engaging; at night, the floodlit buildings ups the beauty quotient.

      There are quite a number of restaurants along the logge, including Lancia d’Oro run by the brother of the owner of Logge Vasari. I’ve eaten at Lancia d’Oro twice and enjoyed both dinners. However, I’ve gotten attached to Logge Vasari. Besides, they pretend to remember me each time.

      Il Cantuccio is long-standing trattoria serving home-style cooking. Their butter and sage sauce -- I ate it over ravioli -- sets the standard for this sauce. From my lone dinner there, the wild boar ragu was amazing. I’ve eaten many lunches. And it’s always the same lunch: the aforementioned ravioli and carpaccio of veal with arugula and parmesan. My husband shares the ravioli, but he orders the same preparation with breasola instead of veal. This is an indoors-only restaurant. (Location: Via Madonna del Prato -- south of the Via Roma)

      Trattoria il Saraceno: The menu is a predictable list of Tuscan classics, but the execution of those dishes is superb. Especially recommended: pici al cinghale. (Via Mazzini, just off the Corso. The restaurant sign is visible from the Corso.)

      Trattoria la Vigna: The food and the show combine to make this a nice experience. The show comes from the fact that the raw food is arrayed on a wooden table in front of a cook who stands before a huge open fireplace. The cook slices the veggies, steak, sausage, etc. and, then, grills them in a huge wood-fired fireplace. We enjoyed a platter of grilled fresh porcini mushrooms along with a second platter of grilled eggplant, zucchini, and peppers. The star of the meal was our Bistecca alla Fiorentina. Incidentally, the Italian word for rare is al sangue -- the best way to show off the Chianina beef. (Location: Via Spinello -- south of the Via Roma)

      Gastronomia il Cervo: In 2005, this was the new kid on the block. It is a combination take-out and eat-in store. For those eating in, customers place an order downstairs and proceed upstairs to the dozen or so table distributed between two rooms. A waitress brings the food to your table. It’s not quite a Tavalo Caldo since some of the pastas get prepared to order while others have been prepared in advance. At our lunch experience there, everything looked so appealing that we ordered too much food. Happily, the taste lived up to the visual promise so the large quantities of left-over food reflected our too-big eyes and not a commentary on the taste. (Location: Via Cavour just beyond the western edge of Piazza San Francesco)

      Caffe dei Constanti: I’ve lingered over coffee or hot chocolate at the outdoor tables many times. If you’ve watched the movie LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL, there was a scene shot at this café -- among the many other scenes shot in Arezzo. There’s a large photograph of the scene on display outside the restaurant. (Piazza San Francesco)

      I'm happy to report that the gelato situation in Arezzo is excellent. Il Paradiso (in Piazza Guido Monaco) and Il Gelato (Via Madonna del Prato) serve fabulous gelato. I think pinolata at Il Gelato beats anything Florence or Rome has to offer!

      No need to rent a car. There are great train connections between the two cities. At the TrenItalia web site, you'll discover that the train trip is about 35 minutes with departures about every two hours.

      1. I would go to Lucca. It is a gorgeous and beautifully preserved medieval city, and we have had wonderful lunches (and they are open on Sunday) at Buca di San Antonio. You can get there by train.