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Where can I walk out the door and eat all day?

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Kable Jan 9, 2011 06:14 PM

My girlfriend and I are planning a trip to europe and I do not want it to be hectic. I don't want to site-see, I don't want to spend much time traveling... all I want to do is relax and eat food.

We would like to focus on Italy with just a few days in France. The trip will either be two or three weeks. What cities are best for long stays and excellent food? My vision is of open air markets and streets full of caffes and restaurants.

I am looking for a place where we can walk out the door every day and start walking, eating and drinking. In three weeks, I would like to limit our trip to only three or four cities maximum. I would really like to allow time to absorb the nature of a place rather than dashing in, looking around, and moving on. What cities in italy are the best for lounging and eating too much?

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    barberinibee RE: Kable Jan 10, 2011 06:14 AM

    Italians don't tend to eat all day, nor do their markets stay open all day (many only are open in the mornings). There is a certain pattern to Italian meals and snacks throughout the day, and you should get a copy of Fred Plotkin's Italy for the Gourmet Traveller, which describes it very well (and it sometimes varies from region to region).

    When I first saw only the headline of your post, I thought: "Sicily!" but it really matters what time of year you are going. In some months in Sicily, I don't think I'd want to eat at all.

    But since you want "streets full of cafes and restaurants," I highly recommend you consider the cities of Trieste and Torino. There are good train and air connections to them and between them.

    Then you might want to consider finding one of the great gourmet agriturismi or relais in Piemonte for at least a couple of days, where a great chef is in residence, and the focus is on the food and wine. If you really want to feel well eating a lot in Italy, I think it's often best to let Italians arrange your meals for you.

    1. d
      DavidT RE: Kable Jan 10, 2011 06:20 AM

      There have been several threads on this topic here over the past 3-6 months. You should be aware that the foods in Italy vary quite a bit by region. Some regions eat a lot of fresh pasta. Some regions eat a lot of dry pasta. Some regions eat a lot of rice. Some regions cook with olive oil. Some regions cook with butter. Some regions use tomatoes and tomato sauce. Other regions don't.

      There is plenty of good food to eat in Italy just about everywhere. The question deciding what kinds of food you would like to eat.

      I would suggest getting a hold of Fred Plotkin's "Italy for the Gourmet Traveler." The chapters for each region of Italy begin with a very good description of the foods & wines found in each region. He also recommends the cities and towns in each region most notable for the eating and dining on offer.

      Personally, I think the best eating regions in Italy are Piemonte and Emilia-Romagnia. The only shortcoming of those regions is that you will not find a lot of seafood on the menus in either region.

      1 Reply
      1. re: DavidT
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        DavidT RE: DavidT Jan 10, 2011 08:33 AM

        Here is a thread on eating in and around Bologna:

        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6125...

        Here is another thread discussing the foods in the various regions of Italy:

        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7391...

      2. PBSF RE: Kable Jan 10, 2011 09:25 AM

        Just to add a couple of comments to what the previous two posters have states so well. The Italian eating habit is deeply engrained and eating establishment follows that pattern. What they eat and when they eat it revolve around their daily rhythm and link to their long cultural history. Many shops still close their doors for three hours in the afternoon. It is not the land of gluttony. Generally, Italians do not eat on the run and do not snack much, therefore, there is not much street food and what we call open air markets are for shopping for their midday and evening meals. In every big city, you will find areas lined with cafes and restaurants but to search out great food, one has to walk and walk; they don't appear on your doorsteps. Rome has very good food and some of the best cafes, but in order to find them, you'll be walking from one hill to another and to close ones eyes to the layers of history and the historical sites is missing a connection of food to culture. Spaghetti Carbonara or Carciofi alla Giudia has a connection to a place. Same for any large cities may it be Naples, Venice, Trieste, Turin. After a few days of eating and gorging everything, unless you have a built of a Sumo wrestler, your appetite and appreciation will wand in no time.

        16 Replies
        1. re: PBSF
          jen kalb RE: PBSF Jan 10, 2011 11:42 AM

          I think all the comments above are good, but even though most of Italy is not street food heaven, there is a lot of eating during the day. I am thinking about the coffee and cornetto in the morning in lieu of a big breakfast, the bit of a snack (tremezzini. pizza bianc or toast, say,) top for another coffee in midmorning. stops for gelato after lunch or whenever and such, stopping by a wine bar/bacari for drinks and a bit in the early evening, etc. etc. There is a daily pattern of eating anchored by a SMALL breakfast and good sized lunch and a late-ish supper that would usually be smaller than the lunch. Its nice to fall in with the local pattern, although as noted if you are interested in restaurant dining, too many of the little meals in between will fill you up too much to enjoy.

          As for cities, all of the major cities will be good to stroll and there will be treats, from pastry shops to wine bars to pizzerie to geleteria to public markets (more for produce meat and fish for cooking than snacks for eating on the spot) where you can snag a piece of fruit to sustain you through your touring day.

          As to cities for strolling and snacking, Naples is very good, Venice, Rome, Parma and Florence also (of the cities we have visited). the season you will travel in is relevant - Summer weather may reduce your appetite as well as your desire to stroll in many towns.

          1. re: jen kalb
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            barberinibee RE: jen kalb Jan 10, 2011 12:36 PM

            I'm just going to toss these comments in here, and anybody is free to disagree with me or just ignore it totally, but I don't think it's true that you have to walk and walk in other Italian cities like you do Rome to track down a WHOLE LOT of good eats.

            The lively and delicious parts of Treiste are in a compact area with a great many of the streets completely pedestrianized, flat and tree shaded, and lined with great cafes plus pastry shops plus restaurants plus buffets -- and it's got great FISH and great MEAT too!. It's pretty easy pickings!

            Torino, home of the auto, isn't quite the same pleasure to stroll, but you really don't have to walk far between outstanding taste treats. It's also flat, plus it's got great trams. Torino, with its extraordinary caffes, food markets, bakeries and apertivo hour, plus a very good array of restaurants, seems to me closest to what the OP might be looking for.

            As much as I love Napoli, it is not a pleasure to stroll in my book (and my last visit, strolling past way too much rotting garbage honestly was an appetite-killer, even gag-inducing once). Venice and Florence? Good luck casually lucking into great eats. Parma is beautiful and delicious, but I think it's eating there is fairly regimented, and confined to a limited menu.

            Another place I was tempted to suggest as an 'eat-all-you-want' extravaganza of declious foods is Milano. The Milanese frown on walking and eating (you might bump into somebody's Armani suit with that panini), but they have great morning pastry shops, great food stores, great restaurants and a great bar scene.

            I'm thinking the OP might have a lot of fun, starting in Trieste and eating his way across the top tier of Italy, then (weather permitting) rolling over the mountains to Lyon, then onto Dijon and then I'd probably skip Paris and go straight to Belgium.

            1. re: barberinibee
              PBSF RE: barberinibee Jan 10, 2011 02:12 PM

              Your itinerary of eating through northern Italy is good and it might open up another option for OP's trip. But his premise is that he does not want to spend time or deal with the logistics of driving from one place to the next; just want to settle down to 3 cities at most in Italy and eat from morning to night.. Of course one can stay in one center neighborhood in many big cities and never have to walk far and have the excellent coffee at the same cafe, the couple of good places for lunch/dinner, in between wine/snack eating if one wants a very limited experience. If I were in Rome and not even get into sightseeing, I want to go to the Testaccio market and Volpeti, or grab a great coffee at Tazza d'Oro, some great seafood at Tuna, or pizza at Ivo, the classic Roman food at Checchino. In Venice, I want to buy bread at Forno de Canton, cheeses at Casa di Parmigiano, maybe breakfast at Tonolo, a outdoor table with a spritz and lemon gelato at Paolin, some wine and cecchetti at La Cantina, risotto at Carampane. These are just a few. I like Trieste very much and appreciated that they pedestrianed the old flat area and Buffet da Pepi can be a blast, but I also want to stroll up the hills to Le Caffe, visit Illy. After a couple of days, Jan Morris's Trieste and the Meaning of Nowhere starts to creep in. The responses so far have not really address what cities/regions are the best for food which I am sure will elicit some heated debates; they are more about the general eating habit of Italians and the different regions of Italy. Maybe we are being too presumptuous that the OP really even care about this.

              1. re: PBSF
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                DavidT RE: PBSF Jan 10, 2011 03:11 PM

                I thought I did reference several prior threads on which cities/regions are best for food. Isn't an awful lot of what is "best" dependent on what kind of food one likes? If one is a hearty beef eater, the food in Pulgia might be a disappointment. If one is looking for a lot of seafood, dining in Tuscany or Piemonte will likewise be a let down.

                I do think spending time in Bologna, where you can access cities like Parma, Ferrara, Modena, etc. in no more than 60-75 minutes by train (and cities like Florence, Mantua, Cremona, etc in not much more than 90 minutes) is certainly a very viable option for the OP.

                1. re: DavidT
                  PBSF RE: DavidT Jan 10, 2011 08:12 PM

                  You did and they are excellent threads.

                  1. re: DavidT
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                    barberinibee RE: DavidT Jan 11, 2011 03:55 AM

                    DavidT,

                    Having just spent one day in week in Bologna for the past 3 months, I found the business of getting to the train station and waiting for pokey trains to take me to and from Ferrara, Parma and Rimini tedious and boring, and sometimes I did have the feeling I was rushing to look around at everything before getting back on the train. I was rewarded with good lunches and great local taste treats, but if I were dreaming of a trip of plonking in one spot for a few days and not having to travel far by foot or train to enjoy taste thrills, I wouldn't pick Bologna on the basis of the idea it was easy to take a train elsewhere every day.

                    I could make lounging in Bologna and eating all day work for me: morning coffee at Caffe Terzi, off to the markets to shop, drag my haul for a late morning snack with wine at Osteria al Sole, cup of coffee in the markets, off to lunch at a good restaurant, dessert at Zanarini, back to the markets, gelato later, apertivo at Le Stanze nibbling stuzzachini and on to dinner and maybe a nightcap at a student hangout.

                    I do agree that "best for eats" depends on what the traveler wants to eat. But I've headed off to a number of Italian destinations eager to try foods I've never eaten before. So how could I know? But it did help to know in advance that places like Milano are rich in variety when it comes to restaurants and menus, whereas a city like Genova perfects the local classics, and it is a limited (but seductive) repertoire.

                  2. re: PBSF
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                    barberinibee RE: PBSF Jan 11, 2011 03:47 AM

                    PBSF,

                    You and I are reading the OP's initial post differently, and perhaps he will come back to clarify.

                    Is he driving? I don't see any mention of it . Also, the OP specificially stated:

                    " I don't want to site-see."

                    You should of course report you were bored by the culture in Trieste, but others -- notably James Joyce for one! -- found it inspiring, but that's beside the point for this thread. The OP doesn't want to sight see.

                    I also think you may have misinterpreted my posts slightly. My posts are saying to the OP -- explicitly -- that Trieste and Torino (and Milano in between) are gastronomically much better targets than Florence or Venice or what have you for walking right out the door into foodie fun. I like to avoid the word "best" too, but I was answering his question concretely. That's my opinion.

                    I don't think this discussion is doomed to be heated. Were someone to ask me to name some cities in the US that have great fun eating neighborhoods, or even areas of NYC that are better than others for lounging and grazing or even pigging out all day, you my disagree with my favorites, but surely the OP benefits from hearing a range of opinion.

                    Just as an aside -- and this isn't directed personally at you -- I've noticed in more than one thread in Italy on Chowhound where people are coming to Italy for the first time and want food to be the focus of their trip, they are put under pressure to go to at least one of the "big 3" out of the belief that it simply must be done for first timers, not gastronomically, but culturally. But I think there are a lot of really very intelligent and cultured people whose introduction to Italy was "through the stomach" and they've done quite well in coming to understand Italy by pursuing that passion primarily. I would think Chowhound is the place for people to come and be food-centric about Italy.

                    1. re: barberinibee
                      PBSF RE: barberinibee Jan 11, 2011 08:04 AM

                      You make some very valid points. I would just like to add that from my sense of people who ask for recommendations on this board, many are not as food-centric as many of us are led to believe, especially those visiting the big three. What most are looking for are places in the center of the city that offer good food at a decent value with an occasional splurge. Without going in any details, we all understand why the cities of Rome, Florence and Venice draws such an enormous amount of visitors. I think there is good food in Venice and certainly in the Veneto. At times, I shamelessly defend Venice because it is sort of our second home and it's somewhat undeserved reputation. Though there are some excellent food in these cities, from my experiences, they are not the most pleasurable cities to eat in Italy. I've enjoyed eating in all the cities you've mentioned, Trieste, Torino, Milano and certainly Bologna.
                      Because the OP is somewhat vague, maybe I've interpreted the OP's intentions too literally. He is actually more open than just plop himself in the middle of a city and just consume.

                      1. re: PBSF
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                        bob96 RE: PBSF Jan 15, 2011 12:47 AM

                        Might be a good (and courteous) idea for the OP to re-enter this thread. He/she has posed a sweeping question for which there are many many possible solutions, and posts here have suggested lots of them. Frankly, if all OP wants is a place to plotz and much good stuff to eat, and not worry about local sight seeing (which in one sense is what OP will be doing anyway), Rome-Milan-Bologna would work well. As would, say, Genova-Florence-Rome. Or Florence-Rome-Naples, and many other combos, given the vagueness of OP's quest.
                        3 cities in 3 weeks? I suggest getting to any of the places mentioned in this thread, settle in, and start walking around. Piece of cake.

                        1. re: PBSF
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                          barberinibee RE: PBSF Jan 17, 2011 12:53 PM

                          PBSF,

                          Sure, but I've once or twice considered going to Lyon, and every time I read up on it, I still want to go -- but only to eat! Without the lure of food, I don't think i'd choose it as a travel destination.

                          Likewise, I'm planning a trip to Galicia, Asturias and Cantabria, and I DON'T want to sightsee. I want to enjoy the coastal scenery, the lack of tourists and EAT.

                          I don't even like Brussels but I love going there to eat. I've not much feeling for touring Oregon, but I'd rather eat and drink there than in London.

                          But I certainly agree that for all we know, what the OP is really asking is: "Which is better for walking out the door and eating? Florence, Cortona or Siena?"

                          (By the way, I'm not "food-centric" when I visit the "big 3" either -- or at least 2 of the 3 --. I mainly just try to avoid really bad meals. When food in Florence and Venice is bad, it's verrry bad.)

                          1. re: barberinibee
                            jen kalb RE: barberinibee Jan 17, 2011 03:28 PM

                            I dont think very much info is needed to avoid VERRY bad food in Florence or Venice, however. Just a few names and a few basic ideas. Those lucky folks with great "chowdar" aside, I always wince on travel websites when people just go into random places with no thinking at all (cant remember the names or locations of the place, of course) and then have terrible meals and think ill of the city. Of course its also frustrating when they have wonderful food and cant tell you where they had it!

                            1. re: jen kalb
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                              barberinibee RE: jen kalb Jan 18, 2011 01:54 AM

                              Sorry, I have to disagree. I think even if you do go with the consensus recommendations for Florence and Venice (and to a large extent Rome, as Mbfant never tires of reminding everyone) you can end up with some surprisingly dreadful meals, and in Venice at a whopping price. But my experience of much of the rest of Italy is that you can go explore and follow your nose and have delightful experiences because the foundation of food quality hasn't been corroded by tourism.

                              Also, please don't imagine that I think ill of Florence or Venice or any place I've had a bad meals following recommendations from Chowhound or elsewhere. They are wonderful destinations I enjoy revisiting as often as I can. But the OP in THIS thread asked a question that interests me and that often governs my own travel choices. I like to think Chowhound's Italy board is a place where people who sometimes pick travel destinations just because good food is in such abundance there can get help for planning a trip. Most people don't blink over on the Spain board when someone says they are going to Spain for the first time and have picked their destinations -- San Sebastian, Bilbao, Barcelona, , etc -- primarily because these are famous for being wonderful eating destinations. No one suggests they re-order their trip to include the Alhambra for a first visit., or says that property prepared, Sevilla can be just as gastronomically rewarding. Italy gets a different reaction. I think people tend to take a more academic view of travel to Italy.

                              1. re: barberinibee
                                jen kalb RE: barberinibee Jan 18, 2011 04:17 AM

                                I wasnt talking consensus recommendations and even if I had been (for this Board at least) it wouldnt have been so bad. the fact is that OP is not driving and they want to devote a big chunk of time to each city.

                                Whatever OP means about no sightseeing, I have a hard time to believe they are excluding looking around them, and enjoying the architecture and street life. At a minimum, the chosen city is going to be a big backdrop at least to the eating and food touring. It should be a place that it is a pleasure to stroll, and where taxis or fighting traffic are not needed for enjoyment. Where there are cafes, wine bars, bacari, markets, pastry shops, whatever, to dip into easily and comfortably. Where there is a variety of walks, a distinct cuisine worth experiencing or alternatively a number of worthy culinary destinations. So, it seems that the more obvious destinations like Venice, Florence, etc., would be good with a little preparation perhaps (Plotkin's book and even Emily Wise Miller for Florence, Scibilia for Venice etc ) around what neighborhood to base oneself in, interesting/beautiful backdrop and a variety of different walks and places to eat, Otherwise, the OP should have a car, find a nice relaxing base in one or more country inns and mosey around the smaller towns and country restaurants in say, Piedmont, E-R or Tuscany.

                                Id be interested in what you would recommend for say a week in Torino or Trieste. Or what about Genoa?

                                1. re: jen kalb
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                                  barberinibee RE: jen kalb Jan 22, 2011 10:03 AM

                                  Jen.

                                  I would personally pick Trieste over both Florence and Venice as a beautiful backdrop for cafe life, strolling, eating, enjoying Italy. So we are just miles apart on this. I think Trieste has an wonderful outdoor ambience, very sophisticated, and what it lacks in the monumental artworks of the two cities you mention, it more than makes up for in being so untouristed. Trieste is filled with bakeries as well as cafes, a truly wonderful variety in its menu, and great wines at hand. I enjoyed all the recommended restaurants I tried (Plotkin and Bastianich are great guides) and I wouldn't hesitate to strike out on my own. (I really do fear heading into Venice and Florence -- and even Bologna -- without specific recommendations, including what and what not to order.) To me Trieste is like Napoli. Time to cut loose!

                                  For me, the attractions of Torino go well beyond food, although those are mainly indoor attractions. But as a land of food DISCOVERY, I'm not sure it is possible to get bored in Torino these days. Likewise, it is hard to think of another Italian city where somebody who likes nibbling could find more nibbles. You could probably spend 7 full days in Torino nibbling night and day and not repeat a venue or nibble the same bite twice.

                                  I think the very limited menu of Liguria means that most people will exhaust the "newness" possibilities of Genova in a day or two. That said, it and San Remo are great places to recover from food extravaganzas elsewhere. I could eat farinata every day, likewise minestrone alla Genovese, or lasagne al pesto, and whatever is the catch of the day. (I can only take foccacia col formaggio about twice a year, and I've never found a good place to get it in Genova anyway). The fun of Genova as a food town is its wonderful covered market, the tang of the anchovies and all that fabulous, fabulous olive oil. I think food is simply -- literally simply -- delicious. But I would suggest to somebody coming to Liguria to get their own kitchen so they can really enjoy its simplicity.

                                  1. re: barberinibee
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                                    barberinibee RE: barberinibee Jan 25, 2011 10:40 AM

                                    PS, Jen, it occured to me much later to add if you or anybody is contemplating a gastronomic tour of Genova and the region that in addition to Plotkin, it really is worthwhile to invest in David Downie's book, especially if you are looking for food shops, producers and vintners, and hole-in-the-wall type places.

                                    1. re: barberinibee
                                      jen kalb RE: barberinibee Jan 25, 2011 11:29 AM

                                      thanks, yes.

              2. steve h. RE: Kable Jan 14, 2011 02:50 PM

                Rome is a nice city, plenty of enclaves with their own identities.
                I like it when shop owners/restaurateurs (sp?) bang on the window when I walk by their shops in my neighborhood. Familiarity is important. Find a city, find a neighborhood and move in. Stay there. Get to know your neighbors.

                1. n
                  neenzer RE: Kable Jan 19, 2011 07:26 AM

                  Hi All,

                  Very interesting reading your responses! My husband and I are going to Rome for our first anniversary next week. We are definitely making this a food focused trip (it's just a short trip and we've both been to Rome many times).

                  We are on a bit of a budget, which can be problematic with the euro, but can any of you recommend places that we shouldn't miss? Especially for pasta and desserts/coffee. If you know the price range, please include it.

                  Thank you so much!

                  8 Replies
                  1. re: neenzer
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                    DavidT RE: neenzer Jan 19, 2011 08:14 AM

                    Have you done a search for Rome on this board? Be sure to go to the upper right hand corner of this page and do so. There have been dozens and dozens of comments about eating in Rome made on this board over the past 6-12 months.

                    1. re: DavidT
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                      neenzer RE: DavidT Jan 19, 2011 08:29 AM

                      Yes, I just got overwhelmed by all of the opinions and choices. I've been doing research for two weeks, and my lists are VERY long. Also having a hard time discern the price ranges of these places. We aren't looking for romantic meals, just great pasta.

                      Thanks for responding!

                      1. re: neenzer
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                        ekc RE: neenzer Jan 19, 2011 08:34 AM

                        Neenzer, Katie Parla recently updated her list of favorite places to eat in Rome - that should help narrow your list.

                        1. re: ekc
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                          neenzer RE: ekc Jan 19, 2011 08:51 AM

                          Ah great - I'm going to look now. Thanks!

                          1. re: neenzer
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                            neenzer RE: neenzer Jan 19, 2011 09:12 AM

                            That was very helpful. Adding these places to my list.

                            Now for a very specific question . . . Babbo is my favorite restaurant in NYC. I always get the pasta tasting when I'm there because it mixes traditional with more unique.

                            Is there anything in Rome that can compare? Or would be a great change from Babbo?

                            Random, specific question, but worth asking in case anyone knows of something.

                            Thanks, again.

                            1. re: neenzer
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                              neenzer RE: neenzer Jan 19, 2011 09:16 AM

                              May have just found an answer to this on the Babbo website - thought i'd share:

                              http://www.babbonyc.com/italytravel-r...

                              Some of these places have already been commented on, so thank you!

                              1. re: neenzer
                                jen kalb RE: neenzer Jan 19, 2011 09:51 AM

                                Babbo, and you say you are on a budget . . . .
                                My advice for Rome is to eat the classic roman food, especially if you havent been there before. Lots of advice on this Board about where to find it.

                                1. re: jen kalb
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                                  neenzer RE: jen kalb Jan 19, 2011 10:41 AM

                                  Once a year we do Babbo for our anniversary (then dream about it for the following 12 months!). Also, the prices at Babbo (for pasta at least) are not ridiculous. Just my opinion. Also helps that it's the dollar and the not the euro.

                    2. sagerussell RE: Kable Jan 19, 2011 12:38 PM

                      It may sound trite ant Touristy, But the old-town, walled, core of Siena is a great place to spend a couple of food days. The student population means that there are a number of cafes tucked away that are happy to serve and let you sit. there are loads of great restaurants, and it is easy to avoid the day-tripper tourist haunts. And frankly, the views that can be found make any stop divine. An afternoon spent on the Piaza is worth the 3 Euro espresso and the swarms of tourists. If you want to read some italian food travelogues, click my profile and visit the Food Pilgrimage site.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: sagerussell
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                        nancynovickis RE: sagerussell Jan 19, 2011 03:21 PM

                        I would totally agree with your comments on Siena. We spend 3 weeks each year in Italy and have had some of our best meals there...authentic, small, tucked away spots with a dog sitting on the chair in the corner...inexpensive and great vino de casa.

                        1. re: nancynovickis
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                          barberinibee RE: nancynovickis Jan 22, 2011 10:06 AM

                          I wish you folks could be more specific since Siena otherwise has an extremely poor reputation as a restaurant town. I haven't been there in a few years, so I don't know.

                      2. steve h. RE: Kable Jan 19, 2011 03:11 PM

                        Typical day in Rome:
                        Wake-up reasonably early, shower and shave. Dress in a normal fashion: no shorts, no sneakers. Walk down five flights of stairs to the Via Giulia. Wave to the cops (special anti-mafia squad), ignore the art students expressing their angst on their way to school.
                        Arrive at the coffee bar in the Piazza Farnese. Select a table outside that allows me to see the nuns, priests, bureaucrats, bums as they walk to work. My cover is my cappuccino and the FT that I religiously buy from the same kiosk every day. Yogi Berra said, "You can observe a lot just by watching." Maybe my favorite time of day.
                        Shopping, to me, is best done early. Know your targets and relentlessly seek them out. Bring your own bags. Be a tourist for the rest of the late morning/early afternoon. Stop in at your restaurant of choice and ask for a late reservation for that evening. Be polite.
                        Retire to your roof-top terrace after a full day of tourism around 4 p.m. and snack a bit. A good house wine is mandatory.
                        Relax a bit, catch up on e-mails, news and such before heading out to dinner. Dress appropriately. Enjoy your dinner. Never spend less than two hours at the dinner table. If you do, you're not doing it right. Afterwards, stroll the neighborhoods, enjoy a gelato, maybe visit a club.
                        Lots of variations, usually involving wine bars, to this approach but you get the idea. Inverting the dinner thing with a full lunch is pretty common. Late pizza is a sinful option.
                        Rome is wonderful. Snacking at/near the Campo de' Fiori has its appeal: breads, meats, cheeses.
                        Been visiting the neighborhood for some time now. I like it.

                        1. k
                          Kable RE: Kable Jan 20, 2011 06:58 AM

                          All of these posts have been fantastic. Because I know so little, every post has been valuable even if off-target from my initial post.

                          Really, I want to enjoy food, relax, and avoid a highly scheduled and hectic vacation. I don't want to be lazy or avoid an appreciation of culture and history, I just don't want to spend all my time running for trains or spend my money renting cars.

                          Some of the most interesting replies have been those which suggest a specific schedule. I would like to pose a new challenge which might show me to be lazy and ignorant, but which may also present a unique and interesting challenge to all of you who are so knowledgeable on the topic. Because it is difficult for me to say what I will appreciate and what I will not, I will define my question this way:

                          Assuming a culinary emphasis and a time frame of a few days to a week (per location), What single city or region would YOU visit?
                          Where would you eat?
                          Where would you stay?
                          How long would you stay?
                          Why? What is best and most important to you about this place?

                          Basically, design your absolute ideal Italian vacation to ONE basic location, step by step each day. Names of eateries and so on...

                          If I get some replies, I will simply pick the ones which embody our goals, go to those cities, and follow the proposed plan. Lazy, yes, but I would rather follow educated suggestions than blunder around, confused and wasting time.

                          Again, thanks for all the fantastic information so far.

                          9 Replies
                          1. re: Kable
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                            zerlina RE: Kable Jan 20, 2011 08:23 AM

                            Your questions 3, 4 and 5 (unless the answer is "the food") are beyond the bounds of this forum.

                            In the very first reply, it was suggested that you buy Fred Plotkin's Italy for the Gourmet Traveler. Follow the advice. Decide on your destinations. Come back with specific questions about *food* at your destinations. Buy a travel guidebook. Ask travel-related questions in a travel forum.

                            1. re: Kable
                              PBSF RE: Kable Jan 20, 2011 08:47 AM

                              This is not to imply that you are lazy or ignorant but it is best to do some initial research on Italy so that any recommendation on this board is just not a name and an address. Italy is not a big country but each region has it's own special food and cooking. Any detail itinerary that you request will require a guidebook. And you might get 15 different conflicting responses that makes any decision even more difficult. Or maybe a good guided tour is what you are looking for.

                              1. re: Kable
                                d
                                DavidT RE: Kable Jan 20, 2011 10:05 AM

                                Kable -

                                You have been presented with a wealth of information on this thread and there is much, much more information available to you on this board. The questions you are now asking have been asked and answered a good number of times before on this board. How much more help do you need?

                                With respect, I suggest you make some effort to digest this information, do some research on your own and show some initiative by planning your trip to Italy yourself.

                                DavidT

                                1. re: Kable
                                  sagerussell RE: Kable Jan 20, 2011 10:28 AM

                                  Tuscany. No doubt. as clich├ęd as it sounds, it simply cant be beat for sheer passion for food combined with an accommodating attitude (sorry Provence). Step by step. Fly into Pisa, nothing special, small college town, ignore the leaning tower. you'll visit Lari, Montopoli and end up in Siena, at your own pace. See my blog and search those four cities and you'll pretty much get my best haunts. Search: Trattoria Papei, Norceria Marianelli, Albergo Quattro Gigli, Antica Osteria da Divo, Osteria Enoteca Sotto le Fonti... cant walk you day by day, but some of our travelogues might give you an itinerary. The most important things as mentioned above: Breakfast of Cafe and Cornetto. Pizza slices at some point each day, Gellato at multiple points each day, an Apertivo before dinner, and at least a few hours at the dinner table. After dinner, find a busker playing music and slow dance in the Piazza for a spell.

                                  Sage

                                  1. re: sagerussell
                                    b
                                    barberinibee RE: sagerussell Jan 22, 2011 10:08 AM

                                    Again, what if somebody doesn't like meat? I'm fine with anybody's personal opinion -- and thus the impossibility of really answering the question for kable without any clue as to his or her food preferences -- but Tuscany ranks about 7th (if that) on regions of Italy where I enjoy eating.

                                  2. re: Kable
                                    jen kalb RE: Kable Jan 20, 2011 12:26 PM

                                    despite all this structure, I am still finding your request to lack necessary elements - what kind of eating do you want to do? Are you looking for ambitious, world class cooking, traditional or regional specialties, eating on a budget, what? without that sort of info its impossible to respond, Lord knows, I have made extensive recomendations to people over the years, but a full scale itinerary down to the local bar for the breakfast croissant and ending with a post-dinner drink for multiple days? No thanks. Most of the major cities previously mentioned will support strolling and eating itineraries of a week or more .

                                    .. You could not do better than buying Fred Plotkins book which includes these types of itineraries and gives you an idea of the culture and feel , the eating habits and a range of types of eateries and food stores for all the major, and many minor cities.

                                    1. re: Kable
                                      The Chowhound Team RE: Kable Jan 20, 2011 04:11 PM

                                      A response regarding Lyon has been moved to our France board so it can be found by people searching there: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/760895

                                      1. re: Kable
                                        j
                                        jla1960 RE: Kable Jan 20, 2011 05:46 PM

                                        here are my trip reports for Venice, Rome and Florence from last November. Perhaps they will be useful to you:

                                        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/746845
                                        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/746852
                                        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/746836

                                        1. re: jla1960
                                          n
                                          neenzer RE: jla1960 Jan 21, 2011 05:58 AM

                                          I love your reports. Thanks for including the price of all your meals. Very helpful!

                                      2. k
                                        Kable RE: Kable Jan 20, 2011 01:34 PM

                                        I only meant to change the question to "where would YOU eat" instead of "where should I eat". I thought this question might be simpler to answer because it doesn't require so much restriction. I am interested in alternate views with differing ideals.

                                        I only ask about location for its relationship to food.

                                        I have done a great deal of research since deciding to travel to Italy, but I did not want to complicate the question with more specific questions.

                                        I thought it might be fun for someone to describe their ideal experience in any italian city. I did not know I was crossing a line with respect to this forum's etiquette and I apologize.

                                        Thanks everyone for such detailed and informational responses.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: Kable
                                          jen kalb RE: Kable Jan 20, 2011 06:29 PM

                                          you didnt break any rules. Its just that asking very broad questions any expecting folks to lay it all out to you is not that realistic. Most Chowhounds - like folks on discussion boards generally = I think function better in a more interactive context

                                          Ive mentioned several cities (obvious choices) that I would recommend a long visit to based on my experience. but since I am just a tourist and like to try new things, my "dream visit" would not be the same visit I would recommend to you, necessarily, it would likely include largely but not exclusively places I have not been to before. So I am already in a quandary - since I cant necessarily recommend places that I havent been to yet my dream visit woulnt all be repeat visits, how to pursue this project?

                                          Further, while food is a major factor on our trips, and weI research and prepare extensively to get our minds around our eating options, its not all mapped out. A lot of our eating is built around our other activities, so that where we eat is highly dependent on what we are doing on a given day which may be changeable (in Venice, if we are spending the morning in Cannareggio, we will probably eat lunch there, for example, if seeing the Lagoon eat on one of the Islands, Dorsoduro/Accademia, probably eat in the cluster around San Barnaba, etc. etc. We try to be flexible and use resources, like the Scibilia book (which includes maps) and Rough Guide map that help us locate nearby options. In Venice I would focus on getting good examples of the local cuisine rather than trying for a *** experience. And pay attention to closing days etc to avoid disappointments. Some dinners require reservations so more research and planning is needed for these. For Rome or Florence it would be a similar approach - If it were a touristically more limited but nevertheless interesting characteristic place, say Parma , Modena or Siena , where there is not such a high density of touristic attractions (suggesting to me a shorter visit) ,but a very distinct and highly developed local cuisine I might focus on developing a list of 2 or 3 restaurants I want to visit in the town, and then try to arrange a trip into the country to see food- making activies, a winery, olive oil mill, or such and have a country lunch . If it were a trip to Naples, it would probably (like our prior trips) be equally balanced between walking around the city, visiting museums and churches in different areas and taking day trips to the Islands, Pompeii, etc. Again, our eating would be driven by where we went, there is a lot of street food and some good street markets available in Naples, and dozens of worthy restaurants one of which might be calling to me over others at a particular time but none of which demand attention over the others within the city proper.

                                          For the third time at least on this thread - Plotkin comes the closest to doing what you are looking for from us. I do hope you dip into it.

                                        2. The Chowhound Team RE: Kable Jan 20, 2011 05:44 PM

                                          We've split some comments that are focused on France over to our France board, here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/760920 We'd ask that you make further suggestions related to France on that thread. Thanks!

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