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Apr 28, 2011 02:13 PM

An Agriturismo Question (Road Trip from Umbria to Piemonte)

Hello all. Let me begin by saying thank you to all of the regular posters here who have armed me with far more information than I can process as I prepare for my upcoming trip to Italy this July. We're going to be in Rome for 4 days, and am happily totally unsure of how I'll manage to eat all 100 meals that I've decided are essential - but that's for another post.

My question here involves our plan to bounce our way between a few agroturismos (agroturismi?) over a couple of weeks going from Rome to Milan. The thinking is this - we want to spend our days exploring in the car, walking in the hills, seeing some art, but most importantly, eating. Ideally, then, we'd return home at night to eat amazing food and drink good wine - no longer saddled with the car.

Now, I know that the relative merits of accommodations are beyond the scope of these boards. And that's not really my question - because what we care most about is food. The ideal place is good traditional home cooking with produce and meat from the farm - local oil and wine is a plus.

So, I want to ask those who know: if you could choose 2-4 farms to eat at on the rough northward path between Rome and Milan, which would they be? Tripadvisor can help me decide if the accommodation side works or not - but it just can't be trusted with food.


Thanks in advance.

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  1. Since you're in the mood for food, have you considered a stop that would include a cooking class? Pamela Sheldon Johns has an agriturismo and teaches classes too:

    Another similar stop is in Umbria, at Arnaldo Caprai. Chef Salvatore Denaro, who used to have the restaurant Bacco Felice, is now 'chef in residence' and you can book a class with him which is an amazing experience. For some reason their web site is down, but I think they also have rooms.


    1. I have heard good things about Il Melograno in southern Tuscany

      I would head to somewhere in the Sagrantino wine country in Umbria, around Montefalco. I have stayed at an olive oil mill right inside Montefalco (Frantoio I Brizi), and from there you can walk to very good restaurants. But a farm stay might be better.

      I would want to include an agriturismo around Modena-Bologna, but again would have to do research. People rave about Al Cavallino Bianco near Parma.


      Personally, I would want to nick into Piemonte, 90 minutes from Milan, to the rice growing area of Vercelli.

      Al Cavallino Bianco
      Via Sbrisi, 2, Polesine Parmense, Emilia-Romagna 43010, IT

      2 Replies
      1. re: barberinibee

        We are in Umbria now, and went to Montefalco the other day to have lunch at Frantoia i Brizi and it was closed with a "for rent" sing on it!
        We ended up back along vis Flaminia at La Trattoria for a spectacular "slow food" lunch.

        La Trattoria
        Strada delle vene, 7, Campello sul Clitunno,Perugio, Umbria 06042, IT

        1. re: kranzwendy

          Thanks for that update! Glad you found a great lunch.

      2. At tthe time of year you are travelling it may be hot hot hot. down in the valleys, particularly E-R and Lombardy in the humid po plain. Might want to think abour looking at places with some elevation, like the appenines. there are a fair number of agriturismos in the appenines between tuscany and emilia romagna for example,which might be good to retreat for the evening from the summer heat. Will try to come up with some additional suggestions.

        1. I suggest you try Le Case Gialle, a few km west of Bevagna (Umbria). I guess you could call it an agriturismo since Mauro has 700 olive trees. (I am his US agent, which means nothing.) Mauro has won several all-Italy awards for his oil. They have five little apartments, a pool and daily delivery of a loaf of bread and the International Tribune. Montefalco is nearby (Sagrantino). I can give you any number of good eating places within twenty miles. You can google for their website. BTW, above mentioned Caprai winery is between Bavagna and Montefalco.

          17 Replies
          1. re: DaleJ

            Thanks to all of you for these great responses. Jen, I'd be thrilled to hear if you had any more specific thoughts up in the hills. The initial path that I'd traced was through eastern Umbria (Norcia or in the hills outside Gubbio), then over to central Tuscany (I've always wanted to see San Giminiano), then up into the borderlands between Tuscany and Liguria (for the pesto more than the CT, but with a glimpse of the sea), then into southern Piemonte (around Acqui Terme).

            I know this is too much, but that's the ideal path if we had two more weeks. But, we'd happily detour into the Maremma or even Le Marche if that was where the good food took us. That's the primary deciding point for us - good food at night and access to good food during the day.

            Thanks again - keep the suggestions coming if you have more.

            1. re: badschiraldi

              If you are going into Liguria, it is worth the investment to buy David Downie's Food and Wine of the Italian Riviera and Genoa, which covers all of Liguria.

              There is plenty of great pesto all over Liguria -- but you are almost certain to miss it if you stay in le Cinque Terre. The area for the greatest pesto is Pra, just to the west of Genova. There are agriturismi there, I believe. Downie might have some recommendations. If you end up in Camogli, both Rosa's Ristorante and La Cucina di Nonna Nina (above Camogli in the hamlet of San Rocco) have exemplary pesto. My favorite way of eating pesto is with plain lasagne noodles. (Rosa's offers it this way.)

              Also worth sampling on your way up the coast is the testaroli of the area known as the Lunigiana (the intersection of Tuscany and Liguria). Testaroli is rather like a thick, wholemeal crepe that is cut into squares or fat ribbons, and tossed in pesto. The area around Sarzana, La Spezia and towns like Castelnuovo Magra (a great small town to visit), or Pontremoli (another charming small town) should be dishing up testaroli.

              If you are headed to San Gimignano, read up on saffron cultivation in the area. And if you pick a route through Norcia, it is very much worth the effort to drive up to the Piano Grande for the sights as well as the lentils. You can drive up from Norcia and down via Visso to central Umbria, and then on over to Tuscany. There are plenty of agriturismi everywhere (don't neglect to look in the hills of Arezzo too).

              I think you might find heading all the way over to Gubbio too far if you also hope to eat in Liguria.

              I think you are wise to stay someplace in Piemonte that serves great food and wine, since you won't want to drive home at night.

              1. re: barberinibee

                I think Arezzo is underrated. Unlike a lot of hill towns it's on a main rail line so it's easy to get to and to make day trips to other places (i.e. Florence) by train, and it's not nearly the Renaissance Tuscany Theme Park that Siena and San Gimignano are (amazing as they are). Be sure to have lunch under the loggia de Vasari -- everybody does (just kidding, I was amused by the fact that after our trip when we said we'd been to Arezzo everyone said "oh, we went to Arezzo and had lunch in the restaurant under the loggia" -- just as we had!).

                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                  Also to be noted is that Arezzo's restaurants have been less compromised by mass tourism, meaning menus are seasonal, not geared toward tourist expectations and have to meet the standards of repeat clientele to survive. For Arezzo lovers, the movie Certified Copy offers one of the most enchanting views of any Tuscan town I have ever seen: the main characters drive through the narrow alleys of Arezzo, chatting, while the historic architecture of the town is rolls by in the reflection of the car windshield, across their faces. It is delicious.

                  1. re: barberinibee

                    Going OT here, but I too, very much enjoyed Certified Copy. I wish there were more films like this. Of course it helps to have Binoche in it.. she can be brilliant in even the most pedestrian of films.

                    And back on topic - a few years ago, when we were driving south towards Rome, we stayed at the Locanda Palazzone right outside Orvieto.

                    The inn was lovely, and the food (prepared especially by the young Japanese chef) was exquisite (modern takes on seasonal Umbrian cuisine - that worked without being gimmicky or inedible pieces of art). I'll never forget the dessert: fresh figs with pieces of wine jelly in it, with a scoop of housemade gelato on top..

                    Even more exquisite was the bottle of white served with dinner (the Locanda produces its own wines as well).

                    I know the OP asked for more traditional fare, but we thought this place was fantastic, a very peaceful getaway (before we dove head on into Roma), and fits the bill perfectly in offering excellent food + being a place of wine production as well.

                    1. re: barberinibee

                      Agreed about Arezzo, one of my favorite Tuscan cities. Kiarostami's Certified Copy takes place in Lucignano, although they drive through the countryside, as i recall, on that drive.

                      1. re: grevegiano


                        The opening of the film takes place in Arezzo. That is where Binoche's antiques store of "certified copies" is located.

                    2. re: Ruth Lafler

                      While the summers are packed to the brim with tourists, Siena is not a Tuscan Theme Park. Maybe it depends on how you see it.

                      1. re: ambra

                        what about San Gimignano, though? I well remember arriving there on a sunday afternoon- and this was 30 years ago, could only be worse now - to a parking lot full of coaches and wall to wall throngs on the streets. It was only when the sun went down and the coaches departed that it felt at all comfortable. Siena is a great deal larger so it absorbs tourist hordes more comfortably, id say.

                        1. re: ambra

                          I think Ruth Lafler was careful to note parenthetically that Siena and San Gimignano are "amazing" places. But the contrast between the Tuscan towns that still have a thriving commercial life independent of mass tourism and those that don't can be very striking and deeply affect menus. It is worth it, especially gastronomically, to venture into the no-less amazing Tuscan cities that have not become mass tourism magnets.

                          That said, the tweaked-for-tourists feel of San Gimignano on a crowded day didn't prevent my getting a memorable rustic meal at the teeny I Quattro Gatti. I didn't eat in Siena. When I went over a Christmas holiday, I got crushed by the mobs battling to get into the Campo. Believe it or not, Siena sometimes can't handle the numbers of tourists it gets, even in winter. I left as soon as I could, without stopping to eat.

                          1. re: barberinibee

                            Yes, San Gimignano feels like a theme park in that it doesn't seem that anyone actually lives there any more, or if they do, it's just to serve the hordes of tourists. Siena is bigger, so the tourists are diluted a bit, but they must still outnumber the residents most days. I think DistendedBelly is correct that these towns can be different after the daytrippers have left. I spend a week in Venice in a rental in Dorsoduro and it felt like a real place, unlike the area around San Marco and up and down the Grand Canal.

                            On the original topic, I bookmarked this agriturismo after hearing about in on the Restaurant Guys podcast. Sounds amazing, if a little off the beaten track:

                          2. re: ambra

                            Re Siena: I guess it helps to spend the night there, so that you can wander the town when the daytrippers have left (like Venice).

                            In Sept one year, we passed through Siena, and it was just absolute madness there. I can see charm in the town, but it was so immensely crowded that we couldn't wait to leave..

                            1. re: DistendedBelly

                              After four years living in the Historic Center of Siena....I just cannot agree with you all less.

                              But like I said, I guess it depends on 'how' you see it. If you are following behind the troves of tourists, and eating in tourist traps and shopping in toursist shops, well, of course you'll have that feeling. If you only visit the important churches and never venture off "Il Corso," of course you'll feel that way.

                              Don't get me wrong, I could get frustrated getting caught behind a tour group while I was rushing to work, but it really just comes with the territory. I think my point is, that it's absolutely not a place to miss, because it's too "touristy."

                              In any case, I know it's all a matter of opinion, I hope I didn't upset anyone.

                              I will admit, that San Gimignano and other places like Montalcino, albeit, breathtaking, are pretty touristy in the not so good way. And yes, Arezzo, has way less tourists.

                              1. re: ambra

                                You are very fortunate
                                and hit the nail on the head.. what I had meant was that Siena was more complex than a tiny town like San Gimignano - there are areas it is possible to walk to and visit other than the Campo and particularly the crowded streets leading to and around it. and restaurants, too, in these other areas. Getting away from the main tourist draws, or visiting them on off-hours can be important for your sanity in Venice, Florence, NYC,you name it.

                                1. re: jen kalb

                                  One Naples trip we booked a budget hotel out in Fuorigrotta, past the Stadio. On a commercial street of no interest. But the Camp Flegrei FS/ Metro station and some unassuming but good pizzerie and trattorie (one became a local for us) were close by, and we were free from crowds. Not sure I'd choose this locsiton again (like lodging in, say, Flushing, Queens in trip to NYC), but general rule holds: make a few left turns more than you need, and get a little lost. Stay there if it works.

                    3. re: DaleJ

                      Hi Dale,

                      We are heading to Umbria next month, so if you will kindly post the restaurants you know of within twenty miles of Bevagna I will appreciate it.

                      1. re: BarneyFou

                        If you want to use the info on the restaurant page, Ive given you a link to a Bevagna restaurant. click on the link below the map to give you a list of nearby on any of them for further info.


                    4. Were you able to find agriturismo that rented for short periods of time? When we looked in Tuscany, near the Chianti Road S22, a Saturday-to-Saturday stay was required.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: AprilTwoCats

                        I've never had that experience, at least in Campania and Calabria, but we travel mostly off season. One, two nightt stays were always OK.