Tuscany & Umbria Trip
My wife and I are spending 2 nights each in Tuscany and Umbria in early October en route from Bologna to Rome. I have booked hotels in Siena (Palazzo Ravizza) and Perugia (Brufani Palace) to serve as our home bases from which to explore surrounding the area and towns (not to mention those cities themselves). I like the idea of having a city to come back to in the evenings for dinner and passeggiatta versus having to negotiate dark country roads to find dinner somewhere if we were staying in a remote locale in the countryside. But I'm beginning to have second thoughts after reading some of the posts about some of the small, beautiful hotels in places like Radda, Pienza and Orvieto - you seem to have the advantage of staying in charming, less touristy venues but with more than enough local dining options and evening activity. I would appreciate opinions on the subject of citta versus cittadini and any further recs on where to stay in the latter.
I spent 3 weeks in Umbria last year, and did just the exact opposite of what you are planning. A group of us rented an agriturismo in Bastardo (gotta love that name). Days were spent either just lounging at the estate (surrounded by vineyards, olive groves, and the amazing pool!), or trips to big towns. We were so close to Montefalco that i have developed an intense liking for Sagrantino and other Umbrian reds. We went all over - Spoleto, Spello, Foligno, Perugia, Assisi, Orvieto, Deruta. On nights when we decided to be in town, we did the whole passeggiatta, aperitivo, dinner thing, and then headed back home. Driving at night was never an issue, as long as you have a trusty GPS, and of course, responsible driver. The only scary route, which we didn't do at night, was Orvieto. The road is treacherous!
My best meal there (3x actually) was at a b&b called Locanda Rovicciano in Castel Ritaldi. It was a recommendation from other friends, and everything was so wonderful. Chef Andrea worked for Jaime Oliver and other big Italian chefs. His wife runs the front of the house, and we even got a grand tour from the chef.
Don't know where to start. I guess we've been visiting Umbria almost yearly for ten years. Always stay with Mauro and Silvana at Le Case Gialle, a couple of km from Gualdo Cateno and a few miles west of Bevagna. They are gracious refugees from the Milano ad world and have four or five little cottages. (They will rent for less than a week, too.) The NY Herald Trib and a loaf of hot bread at your door every morning.
They are within an hour from Bevagna, Spello, Trevi, Assisi, Montefalco and Perugia. Let me know if you need dining venues in the area.
BTW, on the SlowTrav website there is an invaluable set of directions for driving to a parking garage in Perugia that is at the base of the set of escalators leading to centro. Otherwise, I find driving in that city challenging.
I haven't visited Siena or Perugia so I can't compare those cities. I will say that this past spring I spent 3 nights in Spello and 2 in Orvieto and I wouldn't change a thing - except to stay longer in both places!!
Spello is a sweet little hilltown with just a handful of camera-totin' tourists. Wonderful restaurants in the town, plus there are so many options just a short drive away - Montefalco (great wine), Assisi, Bevagna, Spoleto, Trevi (great olive oil). Don't worry too much about the driving - it's easy driving as each town sits right along the highway.
Orvieto is a beautiful hilltown with gorgeous views and very good restaurants.
Thanks for your thoughts. I have since cancelled our hotel reservation in Perugia in favor of Palazzo Bocci in Spello. Decided to keep the reservation at Palazzo Ravissa though, as we'll probably spend at least a full day in Siena proper. We leave 3 weeks from today and after perusing all the great restaurant recs on the site for both areas my gastro juices are already in full flow mode. Amazing what the internet has done in terms of travel info versus the sterile and often dated recs we were once limited to in the traditional guidebooks.
At the very top of Spello is La Bastiglia, a hotel with great views and an adventurous kitchen. Highly recommended.
If you visit Montefalco (Sagrantino country) you should stop in at the little enoteca in the town center. Downstairs is a wonderful little restaurant featuring only local foods. A family place to be enjoyed.
In Foligno, nearby, one should go to Il Becco Felicio. Park at the train station and ask anyone for directions. Salvatore's place is a local institution. No wall is without grafitti, the food is from his farm and he will make you his friend.
In Bevagna try Enoteca Piazza Onofri right in the center of town. Good local food and wine. Sometimes boistrous in the late evening.
A km or so south of Trevi is Taverna del Pescatore. Lunch under the big tent alongside the little river is a real treat. Its on the right if going south, but pay attention since there is one small sign only.