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Venice, Florence, Siena, Rome + a little more --- done research but more help appreciated (long)

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Hello, we are going to be on our honeymoon in Italy this June. We arrive in Venice ~2pm on a Monday and depart from Rome 13 days later ~7am on a Sunday. This is our first real trip to Italy (we took a snowboarding trip in Austria with some friends a few years ago and took a day trip just over the boarder to Bolzano). This is obviously a long post, but I aimed to provide a good amount of relevant information in order to get best possible advice. Hopefully the length does not push away the most knowledgeable posters, but instead will inspire you guys to help as you can see I am serious about this. Thanks very much for all the info I've already gathered on this site. I plan to write up some reviews once I return, and to start frequenting the Manhattan boards to help out (and learn).

A little about us: We live in NYC. We like food. That is a big reason we chose Italy. For those of you familiar with both the New York dining scene and the cities we will be visiting, I thought it might help to let you know that we prefer places like Lupa or Frankies Spuntino over Del Posto; Pearl Oyster Bar over Oceana, Itzocan over Dos Caminos; Hell's Kitchen Thai places over Ruby Foo's. In other words, little holes in the wall with flavor are great. Don't want to pay more for the fancy décor if the food is no better. We do appreciate nice decor if the price is the same or the food makes the place worthwhile. In terms of adventurousness, we'll try most anything, but don't have much love for the organs that I've tried, so we are not specifically seeking anything like that. We'd like to eat the local specialties. We'd like to average no more than 55-60 Euros total per person per day for all meals including house wine and tip plus occasional snacks/gelato (some of our breakfasts are included with lodging, and when they aren't we'll eat breakfast cheaply). Ideally no single meal would be over ~155 Euros (including a bottle of house wine and tip).

These are the cities we are staying in, as well as the rough location:
Venice - 4 minute walk Northeast of the Rialto Bridge
Florence - 2 minute walk east of the Duomo
Monterosso al Mare
Santa Margherita Ligure - near the train station
Siena - 15 minute walk north of the Duomo
Rome - west of the train station, north of the Coliseum, very close to Piazza Venezia

Below is a food itinerary that I've put together mostly from what I've read on Chowhound. I've tried to gather info on prices, restaurant/regional specialties, but would love more input there, as well as any help people can offer regarding the restaurants I've chosen (if they are closed that day; if I put them down for lunch but they are only open for dinner; pricing; restaurants that are very similar; if you think I'm making a mistake with one I've chosen etc.). We will not have a car and only speak English fluently (fiance has a minor in Spanish, but that was 6 years ago and she doesn't use it often). We do not mind walking 1 to 1.5 miles one way to get to a restaurant and would prefer doing that to taking a cab to another restaurant farther away (of close closer restaurants are great too). We're used to walking around Manhattan after dark and feel very comfortable doing it here, if it's not a good idea in any of these cities though please let us know. I Googled most of the locations in relation to where we are staying and they seem close enough to walk except for some in Rome - let me know if you disagree. I'm not set on any of these being specifically for lunch or dinner, just put them in where they seemed to fit with my limited knowledge. Unless I am told otherwise, I'll assume reservations are not needed for lunch, but are for dinner.

Monday Venice lunch - getting in ~2pm, grab something quick near hotel

Monday Venice dinner - Al Covo - seafood okay here on a Monday? (www.ristorantealcovo.com known for fritto misto, risotto; ~55 Euro per person w/o wine; closed Wed and Thurs

)

Tuesday Venice lunch - Al Fontego dei Pescatori (www.alfontego.com; cost?; closed Monday

)

Tuesday Venice drink - Da Fiore (she wants to check it out)

Tuesday Venice dinner - Il Ridotto (~155 Euro for 2; www.ilridotto.com; closed Wed and Thurs for lunch

)

Wednesday Venice lunch - Da Remigio (cost?; Sestiere Castello, 3416)

Wednesday Florence dinner - Sostanza (cost? get the bistecca fiorentina and pollo en burro; Via della Porcellana, 25)

Thursday Florence lunch - will be sight seeing: Duomo, Accademia, Uffizi Gallery - Cibreo Tratorria (cost?; no reservations - will this be a problem for lunch?) Via Andrea del Verrocchio, 8/r; http://www.edizioniteatrodelsalecibre...

Thursday Florence dinner - Teatro del Sale (20 Euros for lunch / 30 for dinner, plus 5 membership fee includes wine; dinner includes entertainment, but what type? Music?; seems to be owned by same people as Cibreo - will these be very similar?) http://www.edizioniteatrodelsalecibre...

Friday Florence lunch - Il Pizzaiola (can't find this via google, is it Pizzaiulo, Via de'Macci, 113-red near Cibreo? Is this thin-crust pizza like I'll get in Rome (if so how does it compare quality wise to that)? Might replace this with non-pizza

)

Friday Monterosso dinner - Miky (http://www.ristorantemiky.it/page1-en...; cost?; can you reserve a table with a view here?

)

Saturday Cinque Terre lunch - hiking the trail

Saturday Monterosso dinner - Il Ciliegio - in Beo, in the hills above Monterosso, the restaurant will send a shuttle to pick you up and drop you off, correct? Is there a view here? 20 euro per person? Not open monday

Sunday Santa Margherita lunch - Da U Batti (get the Gavi house wine, lasagna pesto, scampi and then berries for dessert; cost? View? Would it be better to swap the SML lunch and dinner places?)

Sunday Portofino drink - doing the hike - get drinks at the outdoor bar/terrace of the Hotel Splendido

Sunday Santa Margherita dinner - Trattoria Cesarina, huge prix-fixe dinner of seafood, no choices (60E pp w/ wine; view?; closed Tues)

Monday Santa Margherita breakfast - Pestarino's

Monday Pisa lunch - will probably make a pitstop here on our way to Siena from Santa Margherita. In doing so will probably grab lunch at Osteria dei Cavalierei (http://www.osteriacavalieri.pisa.it/e...; avoid seafood since Monday?). Does the train/bus station have places you can safely lock up your bags?

Monday Siena dinner - Hosteria il Carroccio (cost? avoid seafood since Monday?

)

Tuesday Siena lunch - L'Osteria, via dei Rossi (cost?)

Tuesday Siena dinner - cooking class

Wednesday Siena lunch - wine tour

Wednesday Siena dinner - Ristorante Grotta Santa Caterina (http://www.bagoga.it/index.htm; cost?

)

Thursday Orvieto lunch - considering making a pitstop here on the way to Rome, again can we store bags at the station? Possibilities: La Palomba, Trattoria Etrusca (near duomo), I Sette Consoli, L'Asino d'Oro, La Pergola, Trattoria La Grotta, La Volpe e l’Uva, Trattoria dell’Orso

Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Rome dinners - need help narrowing down, would like at least one meal in Trastavere, probably one pizza if we can't easily get good Roman pizza for lunch one day with our plans, and would like to be able to walk there if possible - Antico Arco (www.anticoarco.it; sort of modern, interesting place; €40 per person); Checchino dal 1887 (www.checchino-dal-1887.com; not walking distance); Trattoria Monti (is this the right address? Via di San Vito, 13), Paris (45 Euro per person before wine; http://www.ristoranteparis.com/mainen...), Pizzeria Da Remo (15 Euro per person; Piazza Santa Maria Liberatrice, 44) or Ivo (Via San Francesco a Ripa 158

)

Friday Rome lunch - sightseeing Colesseum, Pantheon, etc - Armando A Pantheon (open to suggestions)

Saturday Rome lunch - sightseeing Vatican - Da Cesare (open to suggestions)

If you made it this far I feel like you deserve a prize, will you settle for some good karma?

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For what it's worth, and maybe this will help someone else planning a similar trip, here are some other restaurant's that were considered:

Venice: Il Refolo (pizza around 10-12E, antipasti and primi 15E, secondi around 20E)
Light lunch: San Marco: da Asciugheta (same owner as Il Ridotto); Cannaregio: al Bomba, alla Vedova, La Cantina all near the busy Strada Nova; Santa Croce: al Proscecco with outdoor seating at the beautiful Campo San Giacomo d’Orio; Dorsoduro: ai Feri, Cantine Del Vino Gia Schiavi
For moderate price seafood dinner: Cannaregio: alla Frasca; San Polo: Antico Dolo; Dorosoduro: Dona Onesta

Florence: Il Latini (communial dining, caters more to tourists), Acqua Al Due (touristy, reasonable prices, http://www.acquaal2.it/ ), Vecchia Bettola (mostly locals, communal dining), Ristorante La Giosta, Vini e Vecchi Sapori (authentic), Trattoria il Contadinno, Baldini; Quick lunch places: Nerbone, Vini del Chianti, 'Ino, Borgo Antico

Santa Margerhita: Trattoria Baicin - pasta lunch

Siena: il Canto, Antica Osteria da Divo - dinner, Enoteca I Terzi, Divo, Antica Osteria da, Le Logge Due (fine dining), Al Mangia (seating outside on the Campo, decent food), Morbidi (good value buffet type lunch downstairs; €12, with a glass of wine @€1.50), Mugolene (Best evening meal, very near to the Campo)

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  1. If you follow your intended plan, that is a lot of eating. As for Venice, I don't think you can stay within your average budget of 55 to 60euros per person per day for food with the places you've chosen (all good). As for the cost for lunch in Venice at Al Fontego dei Pescatori and da Remigio, it depends on how much you eat. I have not been to either place in 3 or 4 years but I would guess, antipasti/primi around 12-15e, secondi around 20-25e. da Remigio might be a little cheaper. Pizza at Il Refolo is more like 15e. I would not try to squeeze in a drink at da Fiore (I assume this is the famous restaurant in San Polo) between lunch and dinner. They don't do much lunch business and at mid-afternoon, you will be the only one at the front bar and not much going on in the dining room. The interior is nice but nothing special. If I want to splurge, I would trade that in for a late afternoon drink at the Hotel Bauer terrace. It has the most beautiful terrace of any hotel on the Grand Canal. Or take in the spectacular view at the rooftop bar in the Molino Stuckey on the Giudecca, especially when the sun is setting. Just hope the piped-in music is a little better though. Or slumping it with a spritz on the sunny terrace of Bancogiro/Naranzaria.

    1 Reply
    1. re: PBSF

      You're right, this is a ton of eating. might need to trim it down and make a priority list for dinner, and then see what we feel like doing for lunch. Will look into these other places for a drink, but my fiance really wanted to check out da Fiore due to a recommendation, but it was too much for a meal so we thought a drink might be nice.

    2. In Venice, I wouldn't bother with da Remigio. Are you taking the train to Florence later that day? If so, maybe get some cichetti for lunch then take some sandwiches and a bottle of wine on the train... you should definitely try to get some cichetti in somewhere on the Venice part of your trip. Cantinone Gia Schiavi could fit nicely here.

      La Cantina and Al Prosecco can take the place of the drink at da Fiore. Or any of PBSF's drink recs. You can't go wrong, seriously.

      Il Pizzaiuolo - its been a few years, but I loved the pizza here then. I heard it changed hands, and wasn't so good but now reviews seem to be good again. I hope if you go here you will report back.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Shannon

        Is Remigio not good in its class any more? What equivalents would you recommend instead these days?

        1. re: Shannon

          Yes, train to Florence later in the day. I like this cichetti + sandwich and wine idea. Will definitely consider it.

          If we go to Il Pizzaiuolo I'll definitely post how it was and compare it to the pizza we get in Rome (is it the same style?)

          1. re: uncledunkel

            The pizza at Il Pizzaiuolo had a slightly thicker crust than most pizzas in Venice (and Florence) I have had. I don't have enough experience with pizza in Rome to make a comparison. They also had killer house red.

            Do consider the cichetti crawl - you can get a lot of sightseeing in between snacks!

        2. Ok, send over the good karma, please :)

          I have one general observation/suggestion to make and then some words on your Rome plans.

          If you are foodies and chose Italy because of that, I would skip 5 Terre, Portofino etc. (not that Liguria doesn't have good food, but there are better places) and do Venice - Bologna - Firenze - Roma. Do a little search on Bologna and Modena eating, that will be a better foodie experience.

          In Orvieto, we love La Palomba.

          Rome: pizza at lunch - that will be pizza by the slice only, which is a totally different thing than Roman pizza (yummy nevertheless). If you want Roman Pizza, Remo is best, if you want pizza in Trastevere, Ai Marmi or Ivo. (all only dinner)
          Antico Arco is more expensive than what you have planned (but very good and worth it, modern Roman cuisine, more like 70- 80 per person)
          Let Paris go, not good anymore.
          Friday lunch idea near Colosseum: Taverna dei Fori Imperiali (but Armando by the Pantheon is good, too, if you are there around lunch).
          Sat lunch idea near Vatican: Pizzarium, one of the best pizza by the slice places. That way you save money and can add it to the Antico Arco budget.
          Checchino is the best Roman Trattoria, meaning with Roman dishes, meaning with a lot of offal dishes that it excels in, though it can be avoided if you really don't want it. In that case have pasta carbonara, and then oxtail or lamb.

          oh, two more overall things:
          Tip is almost a non-issue. You just leave change, some coins, except maybe the best, chic-est places, there you could go up to 10% (but really not a "must").
          Use the money towards wine - order a bottle of wine, not the house wine (especially in nicer places) - Italy is the country with the lowest markup on wine in restaurants, you can have great wines at great prices. A "12 euro in the shop" bottle can be had for 20 euros and will already be a good wine.

          Have fun. And: relax!

          3 Replies
          1. re: vinoroma

            good karma sent.

            looks like it'll be La Palomba if we make the stop in Orvieto.

            Although the 5 Terre food and scene doesn't seem to get a ton of love on here, we've heard some good things from friends and that hike is part of the reason we chose Italy (in addition to the food of course). Wish we could fit Bologna in too, but it'll have to be another trip. At least it gives us a good reason to come back soon

            If Rome pizza by the slice is different than Roman pizza, what is it similar to, NY pizza?

            Looking like Antico Arco will be our splurge in Rome. If Checchino is known for lots of offal dishes, not sure it makes sense to trek there if we aren't particularly looking for that, just so we can avoid them. Will probably replace it.

            Thanks for the reminder on tip (and to relax, I am definitely over-stressing about this trying to make it perfect). So even a place like Il Ridotto where the owner is there waiting on you and cooking for you, you only leave ~5 euro as a tip? Just a concept I need to get used to. Regarding the wine, I've heard that most Italian house wine is pretty good, which is why that was my plan - do you disagree? We both like wine, but neither are real connoisseurs and are often quite happy with inexpensive bottles.

            1. re: uncledunkel

              ok, so if 5 Terre is set, have a look at http://www.parlafood.com/cinque-terre.... I lived there for 1,5 years, but my info is old, so I can't offer anything on that. I became a pesto convert in that area, so try trofie al pesto, and any type of focaccia, especially the cheese focaccia (which is very different) in Recco.

              Roman pizza is thin crust, very thin, and it is a round pie that was baked free-style in a wood burning oven. Pizza al taglio is rectangular pieces of a big rectangular pie, that was baked in an oven dish, in an electric oven. There are thin versions (but not as thin as roman pizza) and there are thicker versions. Pizzarium that I recommended has a thick version, with a sourdough that has been resting for 72 hours.

              If you really are sure you don't want to try offal, than you can replace it with other good roman trattorie, like La Campana for example.

              Yes, the tip concept is really different here than in the US.

              Regarding wine: I am a sommelier and have a different idea about what a good wine is than most others, I guess. I am definitely not saying you need to pay a lot for good wine, but what I am saying is that usually a house wine is not the best wine and since a good bottled wine is so within reach, why not try that. But your palate, your taste, decides what you drink, and if you are happy with a house wine, fine, go ahead.

              1. re: vinoroma

                For your stay in Cinque Terre, I wouldn't limit myself to dinner in Monterosso. Instead, you can hop on the train (less than 5 minutes between each town) and go to Marina Piccola http://www.hotelmarinapiccola.com/ for dinner in Manarola (reservation highly recommended, especially for a table on the edge of the terrace facing the harbor (or a similar window table inside). I would also choose Gianni Franzi http://www.giannifranzi.it/ on the beautiful harbor in Vernazza in the evening when the village is much less crowded. (When you buy the Cinque Terre pass for hiking on the trails, you can buy one that includes train fare. Alternatively, you can simply buy train tickets, which are very inexpensive.)

                Both offer the local cuisine, well prepared. Be advised that if you order shellfish, such as crab or shrimp, you usually receive the dish with the shell on, which can require a lot of careful work to remove the meat.

                In Florence, you might want to check out the Mercato Centrale with its wonderful displays of meats, seafood, sausages, olive oils, vinegars, cheeses, etc. on the first floor and fruit and vegetables on the second floor. There are several food stalls on the first floor, including the famous Nerbone, where you can get a quck, delicious, and inexpensive lunch. Just next door is the equally famous Mario's, which only serves lunch, which is delicious and crowded.

                As to the Cibreo restaurants, I've enjoyed the Cibreo cafe with outdoor seating for a very pleasant lunch.The last time I ate there there were only a couple of hot dishes but both were outstanding. I also loved lunch at Caffe Richi in Piazza Santo Spirito, one of the few places in Florence where you can eat outdoors. You get the added benefit of looking at the stunning Brunelleschi designed Santo Spirito Church http://www.museumsinflorence.com/muse.... Caffe Richi also has an excellent gelateria.

                For Venice, a favorite of mine (and many others) is Vini da Gigio http://www.vinidagigio.com/

                For your dinners, I highly recommend a reservation. You will be assured that the restaurant is open, you generally will get a better table, and often you will be served a little extra something, such as a little appetizer or a glass of prosecco.

                Congratulations on your upcoming wedding!