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Honeymoon in Italy in Sept: need recs & feedback, please!

My husband and I are travelling to Italy this September for a (belated!) 10 day honeymoon. Neither of us have been to Italy before and we've solicited recommendations from friends and family. However, while very helpful in the "where to stay" dimension, we've not had luck in restaurant/cafe picks. I'm attaching a rough outline of our plans and would welcome any feedback or recommendations you might have in terms of where NOT to miss for the best eating or at least a memorable, unique experience. I've also culled some recommendations from other 'hound posts that sounded unmissable.

Cinque Terre (3 days): Not much has come across our foodie radar here except repeated pleas not to miss focacceria Il Frantoio. Also considering ristorante il ciliegio outside of Monterosso, Gambero Rosso in Vernazza (or perhaps Il Pirate/Pirates Cove/Three Pirates instead?), and Cantina de Mananan in Corniglia. We haven't quite figured out what time trains run & so on in terms of making dinner reservations as we won't have a car in Cinque Terre.

Lucca (1 day, 1 dinner): Buca di San Antonio for lunch?

Siena (1 day, 1 dinner): Open to suggestions!

Florence (3 days, 3 dinners): Antico Noe for lunch or snacks, certainly. And likey 'Ino for lunch. Teatro del Sale for lunch or dinner and perhaps Trattoria Quattro Leoni for another dinner? Just thinking out loud...

Rome (3 days, 3 dinners): Colline Emiliane keeps coming up time & time again - can anyone speak to this as a don't miss? Also thinking about Antico Forno Roscioli for the pizza bianca and Trattoria Monti. I understand that in September, Rome can be quite busy. Will we require reservations more than a few days in advance, do you know?

Does this sound like a wonderful way to taste our way through both countryside and into the bigger cities? We're open to recommendations and critique - our goal is only to achieve the eye rolling back in the head bliss that comes with extraordinary eating at least one a day (hopefully twice!) while we travel. Thanks in advance...

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  1. I keep repeating the same suggestion, but it is a good one. Get a copy of the Slowfoods guide to Italy: Osterie et Locanda d'Italia. You can even find them used on amazon.com. This guide will take you more off the beaten track to choice Italians make for themselves, than the standard tour books.

    The trains seem to run pretty "frequently", like every half hour or so. Trenitalia, the official state train website, has a good website if you have not already been there. I didn't plan my Cinque Terre hike around the train schedules but don't remember any inconvenience waiting for the next one.

    They had closed off the trail between village #2 and #3 (can't remember their names, but starting from the most southern one) so I had to go back to town and take the train to #3 and restart my hike from there. Later I learned some young guys just hopped the barrier and took the #2--#3 hike anyway. Don't know what the condition is now. Truth be told I did not complete the entire route once I stood looking at #4--#5 as it looked exposed, hot and boring.

    But the routes I did take were spectacular. #1--#2 was very easy and set me up to think I could easily do the whole thing in one day. Then there was that detour at #2--#3 and had to back track myself to take the train instead of hiking to #3 Then #3--#4 was really grueling, but absolutely wonderful and I was content to wrap it up at that point.

    Took the train to #5, walked around and was happy to call it a day and don't think I missed much, except the sense of full completion. I stayed in Levanto which again had "frequent" trains to the Cinque Terre and more choices for hotels and dining.

    I wouldn't worry too much about getting the best of the best in the Cinque Terre as it has limited options, does get heavy tourist traffic and if you stick to what is fresh and simple, most likely you will not lose no matter where you go. I remember the focaccia in this area being very expensive and not all that great.

    5 Replies
    1. re: glbtrtr

      Thanks for that - I've actually purchased the Slowfoods guide (from Amazon!) and am waiting for it to arrive and then to devour it.
      We're not optimistic about the offerings in Cinque Terre but we've chosen our days there not for the eating but for the quaintness (whatever is left of it, anyway!) and for a chance to hike between small villages in Italy! We're staying at the Società Agraria Buranco (www.burancocinqueterre.it) which should be lovely...
      Sad about the focaccia but your trail information is quite helpful...!

      1. re: nycreba

        Slowfood is a great book but heavy to haul along - its easy enough to copy the pages you want, double side it and throw the pages away as you move from destination to destination. Its good to get a sense of what the special or typical dishes in each area are, so you go for those and not the familiar tourist stuff that is the same everywhere and unlikely to be very good.

        1. re: jen kalb

          Feel forced to back off my often enthusiastic recs for the SlowFood guide to Italy after a really poor meal at its recommended La Chittara in Naples, near the University of Mezzocanone - totally ordinary food of no merit at a high price. Strike that one from your list and since we were the only diners there that night, I gather it is not on anyone's list any longer. It is right next to another more highly recommended Taverna del'Arte which may send its overflow crowd to La Chittara because certainly the food would not draw them in.

          Had some great dining experiences elsewhere which I will include in a separate report, esp Procida at Scarabo - like a dream.

          1. re: glbtrtr

            I had lunch at La Chittara a couple of years ago - it was a very simple inexpensive fixed price meal and quite good for what it was - salad, pasta tubes with s spicy tomato sauce and grilled scamorza - nothing special but good baseline food. What did you eat at night?

            Im looking forward very much for the rest of your report.

            1. re: jen kalb

              Oooops, Make that Ristorante Scarabeo in Procida, not my mispelling last night: http://www.procida.it/scarabeo.htm

              I'll start a separate thread for my reviews from our recent trip later - trying to catch up right now but thanks for all the good suggestions: Posillipo for dining with views at Rosilio's (Sp?) and the wonderfully local Pizzaria Starita where the "meet and greet" ended up with no one other than ourselves but a wonderful dining destination.

              But the best was this one at our favorite destination: the island of Procida. Naples has too many choices and often not enough time and we were severely limited this trip due to many being closed during August.

    2. Since you've read the comments about Colline Emiliane, you already have the information to decide if CE is a don't miss destination for you. On the plus side you will find delicious Emilia-Romagna regional food including exquisite pasta and an amazing poached pear tart. On the minus side, you, like many others, will be treated with rudeness. (We did not have this experience.) If the rudeness will bother you to the point where it will undermind the positive aspects of a meal at CE, then don't go.

      One additional point about CE: The food in the restaurant may be delicious, but it isn't the cuisine of the region in which Rome is located. If eating locally is important to you, you'll do better at a place like Checchino dal 1887. There, the restaurant emphasizes the traditional food of Lazio/Rome.

      My personal three choices would be Antico Arco (modern Roman cuisine), L'Angoletto (wonderful seafood at excellent prices) and Checchino dal 1887.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Indy 67

        Consider buying David Downie's Food and Wine Guides to Rome and Liguria. They are both available from Amazon. In fact, if you use the Look inside feature, you can read a good deal of them online for free.

        1. re: zerlina

          Congratulations! My wife and I went to Rome for our honeymoon last September. We did have reservations for some of our dinners, but we found that none of the restaurants were full. I think that unless you are thinking of the best in the city, reservations more than a day in advance shouldn't be necessary.

      2. Since you're not going to Bologna on your honeymoon, I would agree with Colline Emiliane. We've eaten there several times, have never been treated rudely, and the food has always been outstanding.

        We also like Romolo, in an old Trastevere house where Raphael's mistress lived. Basic Roman fare. Try and get a table in the courtyard.

        Also while in Rome, make sure to hit San Crispino for gelato after dinner and eat it around the corner at the Trevi Fountain.

        In Florence, our favorite place is Osteria da Ganino, across little Piazza Cimatori from the American Express office. The owner, Angelo, can be a bit of a curmudgeon, but the basic Tuscan fare has been consistently good for years and the place attracts more locals than tourists. A tiny place, convivial and casual with brown paper tablecloths.

        Buca di San Antonio is the default restaurant in Lucca, and not without reason. But we also like Giglio, which is nearby, just off Piazza Napoleone. If the weather's nice, they have outside tables on the square.

        While in Florence, try renting a car one day and driving south through Chianti for lunch. Lots of simple-but-good trattoria choices, especially around Panzano.

        1. Just returned from Tuscany; a few suggestions based on our experiences.
          Lucca - always wary of the ever-praised restaurant but Buca di San Antonio did live up to its reputation. Busy but the food and service were spot on. Had a less enjoyable experience at Tratorria Gigi.
          Siena - had a good value buffet type lunch downstairs in Morbidi (€12, with a glass of wine @€1.50). Best evening meal at Mugolene, very near to the Campo. Also near to the Campo but with a more local feel, il Tamburino was less polished but decent food.
          Florence - no particular stand outs in our week there. Very friendly place, Osteria de Que Ganzi is worth a try in the Santa Croce area. il Pizzauiolo nearby is the place to go if pizza is your thing. Wine bar opposite the Pitti Palace, Pitti Gola has a great selection of wines by the glass and some decent food to nibble.
          A particular honeymoon suggestion in Florence would be to seek out the 500 Touring Club and head for the hills in a vintage Fiat 500; they do a wine tasting trip, escorted, to a small estate - and the car is suitably cosy for honeymooners (even belated ones).

          1 Reply
          1. re: SeeDee

            Thanks for all the suggestions! Our trip is coming together nicely. On your advice, we contacted the 500 Touring Club (adorable website, impressive operation!) and set up an escorted wine tasting for over the weekend. We're really looking forward to that, a trip to the Uffizi (hotel is setting up a reservation) and we'll work out the eating at some point.
            Have made reservations at Buca di San Antonio in Lucca...may investigate Mugolene in Siena as well.

          2. We were in Lucca in July and had lunch at Buca di San Antonio without reservations.
            Especially notable were the papparadelle with rabbit sauce, pasta pesto, and pasta with wild boar sauce.

            On a day when we didn't enter the walled city, we found Restaurant Damiani, listed in Michelin. Again, we had no reservations. We were more than satisfied with this restaurant choice and surprised at the freshness of the seafood on the menu. The sea bass stands out in my mind, as well as the warm octopus salad, to name just two. The pastas we sampled were also excellent.