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Mar 30, 2010 07:09 PM

Milan thru Emilia-Romagna to Marche, then onto Rome via Umbria

I'll be traveling to Italy for a work, spending the last week of April in Ancona.

I've decided to to take advantage of this opportunity, by adding a couple of days to both ends of the work week. Rather than fly directly to Ancona, I will fly into Milan, spend two days driving through Emila-Romagna to Ancona. Then after my work week, drive from Ancona thru Umbia to Rome, where I fly out two days later.

I'm looking for recommendations for places to eat, and foodie experiences along the way.

Part 1: Milan to Ancona via Emilia-Romagna
From a food perspective, this is the part of the trip I most look forward to. My plane arrives at Milan-Linate on Friday around 6:00 PM. I plan to drive directly to Parma, with the hope of arriving before 8:00. Eat dinner and sleep in Parma.

Would this get me into Parma too late for dinner Friday night? Are there recommendations for dining between Milan and Parma? Am I missing out by avoiding Milan completely?

Saturday: explore Parma, Emilio-Reggia, Modena in route to Bolgna. Sleep in Bologna. Sunday: Explore Bologna in the morning, eat late lunch at Trattoria della Gigina (, then drive to Ancona.

I'm looking for recommendation for: late dinner in Parma Friday, food tourism on Saturday (Parmesan cheese dairies, balsamic vinegar producers, etc), meals between Parma and Bologna, breakfast in Bologna.

Part 2: Five days in Ancona
Most of my time in Ancona is already filled with work. Even many of the evenings are already planned. However, if I do find myself with an evening free, I would appreciate any restaurant recommendations in the Ancona/Jesi area. If I am lucky, I may be able to steal away one afternoon for short trip up to Urbino. Any Reqs in Urbino?

Part 3: Ancona to Rome via Umbria & two days in Rome
I will leave Ancona around noon on Friday and drive thru Umbria to Rome, stopping in Assisi. I must return my rental car by 7:00 PM in Rome. Google maps calculates the trip at about 4.5 hours, so that leaves only a couple of hours for sight-seeing and dining. I was tempted to take a diversion to Norcia, having read great things about food there. Unfortunately, I don't think I have the time.

Any recommendations on restaurants in and around Assisi, or along the route (Spello, Foligno, Spoleto). Or am I better off planning a route through Marsciano and/or Orvieto?

There are numerous threads on Rome, so I will save the forum of yet another request for Rome recommendations.

I hope this post wasn't too long. Thanks in advance for any feedback.

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  1. The cities of Emilia-Romagna (Parma, Bologna, Ferrara, Modena, etc.) are all worth visiting. One highly recommended dining experience is lunch in the private dining room behind the famous Giusti food shop in Modena. It has been written about several times on the board. Do a "Search this board" search for Modena and Giusti to find the past threads. Advance reservations are a must as the dining room only has 4 tables.

    1. Im a bit dubious about the level of ambitiousness in your travel plan. The highways in Emilia-Romagna are congested and you will be hitting the road at what may be a peak time. Even if you are later getting to Parma than 8 pm, you should be able to book a nice dinner there. What kind of meal do you want? elegant or more relaxed? There is little point in actually going into the town of Parma unless you want to see the cultural sights (the duomo and baptistery, particularly). If you are not interested in that you can alternatively find very good eating and accomodation in the countryside. For r example there are a number of fine lodgings and restaurants in the Bassa Parmense (the Po lowlands north and west of Parma, where culatello is made). Another place where you could stay - a little farther than Parma and also dine on top foods of the region - is Arnaldo's Clinica Gastronomica situated in a very comfortable hotel, in a small town, Rubiera, between Reggio and Modena. The Arnaldo's restaurant serves its food (other than pasta) from carts, so you can sample a number of items - they will also do a combination plate of two or three pastas so you can try more than one of that course. We were very happy with this stop. If you then were to visit Modena en route to Bologna, you could (in addition to visiting Modena's amazing romanesque duomo, visiting its market and walking through the very pleasant town, consider visiting one of its balsamic vinegar lofts and sampling.
      (you could even book a lunch at famous Giusti) - alternatively, you could push on a little ways to Rubbiara, where there is a well known Osteria di Rubbiara with yet more foods of the region, as well as the Pedroni aceto balsamico operation to tour and sample their vinegars and liqueurs (the liqueurs of this region are wonderful) , before continuing on to Bologna.

      Others will have to advise about the feasibility of your remaining travel plans but remember, once you get off the main highways you will move slowly, because the terrain is mountainous and the roads narrow and winding.. You are unlikely to have too much time for touring and eating on your way over to Rome - Id pick a quick route and pick your stops for eating/touring close to that.
      Re Ancona, Id just note that there are quite a number of recommendations in the Slowfood guide, which seems promising for very good food there., including a couple of agriturismos recommended for their food, Aion in Motacuto and Rocca Verde in Candia.

      sound like a fun trip - hopefully others will chimi in also.

      14 Replies
      1. re: jen kalb

        In Senigallia, not far from Ancona, there are two Michelin two-star restaurants: Uliassi and Madonnina del Pescatore. Among the Italian foodbloggers I read, there seems to be a slight preference for Uliassi. Most are agreed that the food is wonderful, the ambience welcoming and prices lower than in comparable big-city restaurants.

        1. re: jen kalb

          Thanks for the response. I like the idea of going to Arnaldo's Clinica Gastronomica and Hotel. Particularly, the ability to sample items appeals to me. One of the problems of traveling alone is not being able to share plates with friends.

          Rubiera is farther along than Parma. I know people eat later in Italy. If I arrive at 9PM, is that later for dinner?

          I've seen several recommendations now for Giusti. It sounds wonderful. I'll put it on my agenda for Saturday.

          I was somewhat concerned about my plans for Ancona to Rome as well. The alternative Google suggests is going south on A14, then cutting west on A24. This is shorter, avoids the mountains and keeps me on main highways. I'd miss Assisi (save it for another visit). Also, puts me through Abruzzo (which I know nothing about). I'd need new recommendations for that route :)

          1. re: thomco

            You can't avoid the mountains; they form the backbone of Italy. The choice is between crossing them on an autostrada or on secondary roads.

   is more reliable than Google; it also gives you (optimistic) driving times and approximate toll and gas costs. For a route that takes you near Assisi, it says four hours. Even if you add a very generous two hours to that, you still have time to eat lunch and get to Rome before nightfall.

            Viamichelin also has restaurant recommendations, albeit with a French bias not shared by most Italians.

            1. re: zerlina

              I think via michelin offers some more restaurants choices than the red book. Its also more reliable out in the smaller towns than in big cities because there is less opportunity for the french-continental biases to come out - iwe found it pretty good for identifiying the bourgeois faves.

              Remember to leave time for touring - I cant imagine a trip to Assisi being worthwhile without visiting the basilica strolling around the town and out into the countryside a bit. Not at all up to date on dining there however, I think the highly touted restaurants are in adjoining hill towns, Spello and Bevagna, but Im sure you would find something good to eat. Many years ago we had a nice lunch at an osteria near the Santa Chiara church which featured meats of norcia , and its likely that that place or other unpretentous alternatives still exist.

              1. re: zerlina

                Thanks for the link to via michelin. It provides better information about the road conditions. I really like the warnings like: "Steep hill downwards 2.5 km", or "Series of bends for 12 km"

                I had wanted to see Assisi. My father, though not Catholic, has an affinity for St. Francis. However, I don't consider it a "must see" for this trip. I'm still a bit concerned that given the roads the travel times are optimistic. So, I am still considering travel though L'Aquila - which is driving 95% on major motorways. Italy for the Gourmet Traveler speaks well of sausages in this city - so I'm guessing I will have a memorable meal. I'm not sure there is as much to see on this route (not like strolling around Assisi) - but then that just means I get to Rome sooner.

                1. re: thomco

                  They had that big earthquake in L'Aquila in 2009 - you might want to do a little more current testaurant and touristing research before going there. Have no idea how much was destroyed (I think the duomo fell down) or where they are in rebuilding at this point

                  I think you could see much of Assisi in an hour. It is mostly uncrowded and very beautiful (pink stone, even a roman facade maintained on the main street. If you keep your meal time short, you should be ok.

                  1. re: jen kalb

                    If you do go to Assisi, here are some restaurant names that I have seen mentioned: La Stalla, Piazzetta della Erbe and Il Maniero.
                    maybe someone has some input on these.

              2. re: thomco

                if you want to go to Giusti you will need to reserve since it only has 4 tables.
                Wherever you go in emilia make sure you get the place of cured meats. both arnaldo and giusti serve this with the gnocco fritto (fried bread) and both have great meats, but the combo of the piping hot gnocci fritti and say, excellent lardo or culatello at giusti was spectactular. We didnt have the pasta in brodo at either place (it was hot summer and giusti was not serving )but I think it is a must. to try in this area

                1. re: jen kalb

                  Thanks again jen. I was avoiding making reservations until my plans were more set. However, it sounds like reservations for Giusti, Arnaldo, and Gigina should be made ASAP.

                  I read your review of Il Cavallino Bianco, as well as the description in Fred Plotkin's book. This sounds amazing. This is a restaurant only, correct? No lodging? Unless it has lodging, I will probably press ahead to Arnaldo's in Rubiera. Also from your review, it sounds like the culatello plate (which I am dying to try!) would be enough to fill someone up if dining alone. At Arnaldo's, I'd be able to sample multiple dishes. How does culatello at Arnaldo's compare to Il Cavallino Bianco?

                  Just to confirm. How late do Italians eat dinner? My flight arrives in Milan at 6:00PM. With customs and car rental, is it reasonable to make it to Rubiera for dinner? (I am arriving at Linate - 15km SW of Milan, right by A1 motorway. So I won't have to travel into Milan - or hopefully - encounter to much Milan rush hour traffic)

                  I'm not planning on making any reservations for dining between Ancona and Rome. Not sure when I am leaving, travel times and stops are unknown. As you see above, I'm not even sure which route I am taking. If I end up at a Pizzeria in Aquila, I'm guessing that still beats most of the meals I get in Seattle.

                  1. re: thomco

                    First Italians arrive to eat at around 9pm here in Rome, but could be a bit earlier in the north...
                    In Aquila you won't find anything to eat. Aquila is shot down. earthquake. A really good meal can be had at Ristorante Reale in Rivisondoli.

                    1. re: thomco

                      Il Cavallino Bianco has a very lovely associated lodging
                      I would love to stay there and explore the local cuisine more (they also offer classes and opportunities to explore nearby towns and areas - but it seems to me that you would not get maximum benefit arriving late and rushing off so quickly.

                      You could make a meal out of the cured meat, but i think it is a bit monotonous for one as well as huge -Personally, I would try to try other regional items in addition to the cured meat.

                      ALL of the quality restaurants in this area make a point of serving superb regional meat platters - we had them at Trattoria del Tribunale in Parma as well as Giusti, Il Bianco Cavallino and Arnaldo.
                      I suggested Arnaldos for you because if you want to sample very good versions of a lot of things it is a great place, especially if you are by yourself. Its also a bustling and convivial room and the hotel is comfortable.
                      It cultural touring is more important than food, your inital idea of Parma makes more sense since there is the duomo/baptistery square to see and the art gallery, among other things. I mentioned informal comfy Trattoria del Tribunale above, which we liked - there are also in-town places such as Sorelle Pichi, Cocchi, etc. - if you do a search you will find other reccs.

                      Other smaller places to stay in the area could be
                      Bussetto (we stayed at Hotel Due Foscari, right on the main square, but there are other choices and a couple of good, informal places to eat the local meats - described on this
                      or Soragna, which has at least one slowfood recommended place.

                      1. re: thomco

                        As I remember it was impossible to book our dinner at Arnaldo until 8 or even 8:30 pm - we were certainly one of the first arriving groups. So I dont think you should have any problem at all with a late arrival, and I wouldnt worry about 9 pm in Parma either.

                        In any case you should book ahead and inquire. these places were very good responding to {english language] emails, but the google translation tool is helpful too

                        1. re: thomco

                          Il Cavallino Bianco is wonderful. If at all possible you should try to get there. For Hosteria Giusti, reserve IMMEDIATELY. With any luck April may not be as booked as in high season, but normally 6 months in advance would be advisable. If you can get in, it is definitely not to be missed. In Bologna I would particlularly recommend Trattoria da Gianni and Al Pappagallo.

                          1. re: rrems

                            Well, I'll count one more vote for Il Cavallino Bianco.

                            Deciding between Il Cavallino Bianco, Arnaldo, and da Ivan is going to be tough. Too bad I have only one night west of Bologna!

                            If reservations are so hard to get, maybe it will come down to who has tables and beds available.

                            I have requested reservations now at Da Ivan (Fri), Giusti (Sat), and Trattoria della Gigina (Sun). I'm waiting to hear back

                  2. Hostaria da Ivan is another place you might want to think about. It is north of Parma.


                    5 Replies
                    1. re: DavidT

                      I would second David T on Da Ivan.

                      It is easy to get to (about 20 minutes off the autostrada), has very comfortable rooms, great food (and they'll let you try small portions of lots of dishes) and a phenomenal wine list, reasonably priced. Ivan and Barbara are the most gracious of restaurateurs. The best culatello (other than Miriam's at La Buca in Zibello). But seriously, it's the perfect place to eat and stay coming from Linate. You don't have to worry what time you get there. We've seen people show up at 10:15 on a Friday night and there was no problem.

                      1. re: allende

                        Ive seen recommendations of Da Ivan too - but didnt realize you could stay there also. think I agree it is another good choice.

                        1. re: jen kalb

                          You might be interested to look up your options on this good local foodlovers website - it seems to have expanded beyond Parma now.
                          Ive linked the reviews on Arnaldo which is in Reggio Emilia Province but you can go back to home page, choose a province (Parma, Modena etc and either browse or put the name of your target restaurant into the search (cerca) feature and get the reviews. Works fine, especially with google translate feature (tho some of the translations of food items can be mystifying.

                          1. re: jen kalb

                            Thanks again Jen.

                            I actually stumbled upon that page at one point today or yesterday.
                            I think the problem I have now, isn't finding a great place, but narrowing down the awesome choices available.

                            1. re: thomco

                              I think the local reviews can be helpful. While the people in the area can be blase about their classic foods and dishes I think they can recognize quality very well and are certainly price sensitive!
                              Im looking forward to your report overall.

                              I see you are not planning to tour "downtown" sites in Emilia Romagna, but each of these towns has an amazing central area especially the duomo. Ill never forget the first time I saw the romanesque Parma baptistery, 30 yrs ago and the incredibly civilized delicious meal we had nearby (it made us want to come back and we finally made it in 2008). The Modema duomo, a world heritage site, is equally wonderful. tho when we were there the campanile and front facade were covered. Not a long visit but definitely the high point in Modena, Giusti included.

                              looking forward to your report of the trip!

                    2. You probably won't have time to stop here in Bologna, but my brother, who's living in Bologna, brought me to this piadina place, "Al Vecchio Mulino," where I had the most delicious, warm piadine. It's run by these two Romagnola sisters, and there's some counter space to stand and eat, but it's more the kind of place you just get your food and take it with you. You can choose from a bunch of delicious fillings, including salumi, cheeses, grilled vegetables, and spreads, but I would recommend the piadina with truffle pate', brie, and some cured pork product that I forget. This simple treat was one of the highlights of my food experiences in Bologna, and trust me, I had a lot of amazing food there.


                      2 Replies
                      1. re: EllaBoBella

                        Hey Ella, thanks.

                        Is this the place:

                        Bologna is the only city on this leg of the journey where I plan on walking around and seeing the sites downtown for several hours. With all the filling big meals I've scheduled, it will be nice to step into a place like this and grab something light, yet equally awesome!

                        1. re: thomco

                          Yeah, that's it! It's not in the most central location-- maybe a 10-15 minute walk from the main piazza/ other sights. I don't know if it's really worth a special trip, but if you happen to be near, you should stop in. Also, I'd warn you that the piadine are surprisingly rich, so be careful not to eat anything too cheezy before a big meal. I made that mistake. Haha, not that it stopped me from stuffing my face later that night...

                          Do you speak Italian?

                      2. The original comment has been removed