On a tight budget - Rome, Florence, Assisi, the Cinque Terre
My partner and I are leaving for a 10-day trip to Italy in about a week, and we're realizing that we're going to be on a much tighter budget than we had expected. Our nicest meals will need to be under 40 euros total (20 per person), and usually we'll need to have something much cheaper, probably quicks stops for pizza, farmer's markets, etc - I hope this won't bar us from being able to experience some good food!
Any recs for lunch or dinner within such a budget in these cities would be very much appreciated. We're open to anything - thanks in advance!
I am a broken record, but I'll keep recommending the SlowFoods Osterie et Locande d"Italia, which you can get at amazon.com or the SlowFoods website or once you arrive in Italy - where I believe they have a restaurant only version of this publication - it gets you to the more out of the way, smaller places and the recommendations come primarily from Italians wanting to preserve the old ways of dining and food preparation. The glossary will be very helpful once you get away from the pricier tourist places.
I hope you are staying in the cheapest places possible and spending your money on food instead - a far better way to enjoy your time and budget in this expensive country - you have chosen some of its most expensive destinations.
Thank you for your reply. We are staying at the cheapest places I could find (the places cost a lot less than our food allowance!) - we're just two modest people who saved up for a long time to finally go see these places, and we can't wait. Just wanted some suggestions for the best food we can find for the money we will have.
I can't give you restaurant suggestions, but here are two fantastic places for specific items that are, well, fantastic.
CInque Terre: On our second visit to the Cinque Terre, in about 1996, we were walking along the narrow via Roma, when we smelled a delicious scent, and noticed a large number of people wandering out of an alley (via Gioberti) with fresh focaccia in their hands. We ventured into the alley, and discovered a tiny place (as I remember, takeout only). Pizza to go (you buy by the slice) and that excellent bread, focaccia, with a variety of toppings (olives, cheese, etc.) Generally, they’ll cut a rectangular slice, fold it, wrap it in paper and hand it to you. If you want a bigger piece, just motion with your hands! I know the place was still there in 2008, because I looked up the name and location for some friends who visited the Cinque Terre. It's called Pizzeria Focacceria Il Frantoio, and it's on the tiny alley-sized "street" of Via Gioberti 1, 19016, in Monterosso Al Mare.
In Rome, the equivalent delicious foccaccia is called "pizza bianca," and our favorite place is "Il Forno." It's on a corner of the Campo di'Fiori. They have other bread items, but the pizza bianca is my favorite. Pizza bianca, some cheese and a bottle of wine, and a meal doesn't get much better.
Almost no one in Italy still dines according to the old rules of antipasto, primo (pasta or soup), secondo (main course), contorno (side dish), dolce (dessert). Any restaurant except the snootiest will be prepared to serve only one course or to split a dish (uno per due). Average prices are 6-10 for antipasto, 8-11 for pasta, 15-18 for main course, 5-6 for side dish or dessert. The only thing that might draw frowns is asking for each dish to be split. Combining one split dish and one full order for both people, it ought to be possible to come in under 40 Euro for two in many restaurants.
it's been written about a bunch on this board, but a good panini place in florence popular with students and people looking for cheap food is Antico Noe. Its under an arcade and thus a bit hard to find but google map it or something and you'll come up with it. filling and really delicious. last time i had a roasted pork, sundried tomato, provolone panini...so good. i also love the mini-chain Pugi for pizza/foccacia. there are a copule but i generally go to the P. San Marco one...i'd reccommend getting whatever has just come out of the oven. def packed at lunch but super cheap and worth the struggle. if you're feeling like being super authentic, go to one of the many tripe (trippa...there's another local name for it that i'm totally forgetting right now, though) carts around florence. super popular, affordable panini. of course, its tripe so not for everyone.
i second Il Forno in Campo di Fiori in Rome for pizza bianca and other breads as a good stop for filling, delicious food. i also like Cul de Sac right near the Pantheon. Great wine bar with delicious small plates for sharing making it a pretty affordable night out.
have a blast!
P.S. One place you might try in Rome is Fraterna Domus. It's a convent north of Piazza Navona, off Via Monte Brianzo, that offers a full-course meal of plain, homecooked food for, I believe, 15 Euro per person and carafes of wine for very little.
We are trying to do the same thing for our break in Sept. Foolishly I booked Rome and Positano before finding out quite how expensive Positano is!
We were in Florence last year and went to Tratattoria Anita -we found the service to be friendly and efficient and the food good and not too expensive. It was a small family run place and we liked it so much we went twice. It was a recommendation from this board and one of the best. We also had their local house red in carafes and it was pretty good. It was great to be there with a mix of locals and tourists - the old guy reading his paper in the corner was exactly how I visualised eating in Italy.
The other place that wouldn't break the bank was the market. We wondered around wishing we were in an apartement so we could cook some of the food. We ate where we saw a crowd of local people - although I didn't manage tripe. We also bought a load of antipasti for the Monday when a lot of places were shut and had prosecco and snacks on the balcony listening to an intense argument in Italian between a couple in a nearby flat that had crockery thrown and ended with opera being played - you just couldn't beat it!
Take advantage of the aperitivi hour that bars offer. If you are not a big eater, the food on offer might be enough for dinner. The aperitivi hour is happy hour basically. For the price of a cocktail, you can partake of food that the bar puts out. It will be mainly meats and cheeses, but lots of places go beyond that. A personal favorite is Ciampini in Piazza San Lorenzi in Lucina. Not to be confused with the Ciampini by Trinita dei Monti, which is also great, but i've never been for aperitivi.
Another option is Antica Birreria Peroni, an old (or actually new in Roman terms) large beer hall. You can easily fill yourself up for 20 euros. Have fun.
Thank you very much for all the suggestions! These are really helpful!
I also was wondering if restaurants post their menus with the prices in the window, as restaurants here often do? I did a quick search online and wasn't able to find an answer, and a friend who was there a couple years ago doesn't remember.
Also bear in mind that most of the prices include service but not "pane e coperto," which is a charge for bread and a cover. Actually -- do they still do that? I haven't been in a while but am going in two weeks. Can't wait!