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Need restaurant recs for 3 nights in Siena, 3 nights in Florence, 1 night in Lucca late Aug.-early Sept.

My husband and I are traveling for a week in Tuscany in late August/early Sept. We are mid-20's, consider ourselves laid-back foodies and enjoy (mostly red) wine (Italian-wise, chianti and montepulciano, and recently enjoyed some prosecco, but would love suggestions for other tuscan ones we should try). I'm looking for dinner recommendations primarily, and lunch ideas (quick paninis or places to put together our own picnics). We both enjoy Italian food generally, but want to focus on regional/local cuisines on this trip. We love pastas/bread, beans/legumes, fish, all veggies/fruit, prosciutto/bacon/cold/salty meats, and my husband loves steaks/beef. It would be nice to try a couple places with a more inventive take on traditional Tuscan food as well. Also, I love pizza, would like to hear thoughts on "the best pizza" in the three cities.

I'm looking for one splurge each in Florence and Siena (up to $200 USD for 1-2 appetizers, 1-3 first/second courses, dessert and wine), and then other places that are more reasonable, say less than $100 for the same courses. I like the idea of smaller and/or family-run trattorias or osterias, and am particularly looking for a good atmosphere- buzzy but not full of tourists, candle-lit/romantic, neat interiors, not stuffy/"fancy" restaurants. For instance, our favorite places on a recent trip to Paris were a couple smaller bistros that had fantastic food and wine with a fun, relaxed atmosphere, where people sat for 2-3 hours enjoying their dinner.

I've look some on TripAdvisor and on this board, but I'm feeling a little overwhelmed at the many options. I'm also curious if we'll be able to eat most places since it will be late August, and I've read that often locals shut down for part of the month. Finally, I'm wondering about whether or not we need to make reservations, though I assume it's restaurant-dependent to some extent.

I really appreciate your suggestions. The food and wine will be a key focus of this trip, so thanks for your help!!

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  1. For Florence, take a look at my post dating back to Devember 2007 about various Florence restaurants ("Florence Report December 2007") I wrote about Teatro del Sale, Vini e Vecchi Sapori, Trattoria Antico Fattore, Nerbone at the Mercato Centrale, and a few others. You might find some good ideas there for your consideration. I also always recommend a visit to Sostanza (also known as Troia) where you can eat bistecca fiorentina and a special dish of chicken breasts in butter sauce which will blow you away (no credit cards accepted, go there early or make a reservation)..

    Teatro del Sale
    Via Dei Macci, 111/R, Florence, Tuscany 50122, IT

    Via dell'Ariento, 87r, Florence, Tuscany 50123, IT

    Via della Porcellana, 25, 50123, Florence, Tuscany 50123, IT

    Vini e Vecchi Sapori
    Via dei Magazzini, 3, Florence, Tuscany 50122, IT

    1 Reply
    1. Give us some of the bistros in Paris that you liked so we can have an idea of the type of place that is appealing.

      Late August/early September should be no problem here for most places re being open. Ferragosto is on a Monday this year and most everything should be back to normal by August 29th.

      Was that 200 USD for two people or for one? You used the word splurge, so I'm not sure.

      5 Replies
      1. re: allende

        Our favorite bistro was Au Vieux Comptoir, and we also really enjoyed Au Petit Sud Ouest.

        The splurge was for 2 people...just trying to get a sense of what we could do with that sum.


        1. re: laurenpk

          I haven’t been to Au Vieux Comptoir (but went to the site and saw the interior and the menu), nor Au Petit…(saw the menu).I think I have an idea of what you want. It exists, but in a much different way.

          Firenze, Lucca and Siena are not Paris so the restaurants will be totally different. Trattorie are not bistros; they are different. That being said, in Firenze, one of the last of the real old time trattorie is Alla Vecchia Bettola, 34r Via Luigi Ariosto. We’ve been going there for 30 years and it has remained true to its roots. Very casual with great simple food. On the south side of the Arno, 10 minutes from the Ponte Vecchio by foot. At lunch it is mostly businessmen from that side of the Arno (the San Frediano district). At dinner it is a mix of the beautiful people of Florence, businessmen, young couples. You will not find very good wine, but you’ll be able to choose something decent. Do not stay for coffee.

          The second place would be Da Ruggero via Senese, 89r, near the Porta Romana, again, on the south side of the Arno. Low key, perhaps room for 30 people. Very good menu, well prepared, particularly the pasta dishes.
          Neither of these two places will have many, if any, tourists.

          I would second CJT on Sostanza for bistecca which is fantastic. The only problem is that everyone in the place will only be two, or at most three, degrees of separation from you and your husband:) For fish in Tuscany, you really have to come out here to the coast. The preparations inland leave a lot to be desired.

          Nothing in Lucca. Buca di San Antonio. Okay, but nothing special. Filled with tourists.

          For your splurge. I’d probably go to Arnolfo in Colle di Val d’Elsa not far from Siena. If you go easy on wine, you should be able to get out of there with the equivalent 65-70 Euros per person. A Michelin two star and highly rated in the Gambero Rosso, but don’t let that scare you. Very low key, in the upper part of a town that is nowhere. Very good food, great atmosphere and if you want to splurge, splurge there is an excellent wine list.

          Having spent a lot of time in Paris over a long period of time, eating and drinking, may I suggest that you forget about it vis a vis food in Tuscany. It is so totally different that if you try to make any comparison, you and your husband are going to be disappointed. In general, Tuscan food is simply prepared, stressing fresh ingredients. It happens to be wonderful food, very regional in nature and is very satisfying. However, it is not in any way like Paris, even like the bistros in Paris.

          Have fun and enjoy it for what it is.

          ps In listing the wines, you left out the Brunellos and Rossos of Montalcino. Make it a point to drink them before any Chiantis or Vino Nobiles from Montepulciano.

          Hope this helps a bit.

          Via della Porcellana, 25, 50123, Florence, Tuscany 50123, IT

          Alla Vecchia Bettola
          Viale Vasco Pratolini, 3, Florence, Tuscany 50124, IT

          Via Senese, 89, Florence, Tuscany 50124, IT

          Via XX Settembre, 50, Colle di Val d’Elsa, Tuscany 53034, IT

          1. re: allende

            Thanks, this is very helpful. I'll look into the restaurants and wines. We've been to Florence but it was a while ago and our tastes have changed somewhat, so I wanted to get some advice such as yours.

            Any other great places just for wine/appetizers, in Florence or Siena? I'm seeing a lot of wine bars, but can't decipher which ones would be great.

            Thanks again!

            1. re: laurenpk

              For a wine bar (enoteca) in Florence, look no further than Le Volpi e L'Uva (located between Ponte Vecchio and Palazzo Pitti). A small speciality shop with tons of awards; the latest (at least as of summer 2010) was Travel & Leisure naming it one of the top 10 wine bars in Europe--not just Italy (it and an enoteca in Turin were the only Italian shops named). Great small plates--when we're in Florence, we usually eat lunch there 3-4 times a week.

              Le Volpi E L'uva - Piazza dei Rossi, 1 Florence, Tuscany

              1. re: Longing for Italy

                Great, thanks! I had seen this one actually, but it's nice to have such a stellar endorsement.

      2. Siena is such a magical place! Don't miss La Torre, just to the left of the campanile in the campo. Amazing homemade pastas (oh the tortelloni) and steak florentine and very reasonable. Another extremely reasonable place is Osteria la Chiacchera (The Chatterbox) which serves deceptively simple Tuscan peasant food. The sausage and beans is a dish I still think about! My mom had the chocolate pie and while it's not my scene, she said it was terrific.



        1. In Siena, the owner of Uccelliera winery in Montalcino (one of the top Brunello producers) has opened a wine/food haven called Casato Enoristorante which is worth picking as your splurge there. The owner, who began his wine life at 12 planting vineyards and has a real passion for food and wine, has created a place where he wants to eat.

          In Florence, I second the comments about Vecchia Bettola. It is like Il Latini before it was taken over by the tourist trade. We also never miss a chance to dine at Francesco Esposito's wonderful family restaurant Cave di Maiano in the hills above Florence (near Fiesole).

          Il Latini
          Via dei Palchetti, 6, Florence, Tuscany 50123, IT

          1. When will you be there? I will be travelling solo around that time, Im in my late 20's and I would love to discuss meeting for dinner sometime if you'd be interested! There is a fabolous place that has what is supposed to be the best bistecca florentina and butter chicken. Ill be staying in Florence from Aug 22-28, then off to Siena and Montalcino. Does that overlap with your trip?

            1 Reply
            1. re: jessabella617

              We'll miss you by a couple days, have a nice trip.

            2. If you have a car there is a lovely restaurant an easy 20 minute drive outside of Lucca - lots of pics on our blog link below - your husband will want to go for the steak!


              Antica Locanda di Sesto
              Via Lodovica 1660
              55029 Sesto di Moriano - Lucca - Italy
              Tel. +39 0583.578181


              We ate at Buca de Sant'Antonio which someone else mentioned as OK but touristy - we really enjoyed our meal there - but it was early February so we were the only non-locals. Pics on the blog link here

              Buca di Sant'Antonio

              Address: Via della Cervia 3, Lucca, 55100

              Phone: 0583/55881


              1. We holiday in Tuscany every year. I can't help you with Florence as I grew up in Italy and avoid it as I don't consider myself a tourist. Sienna we do every year, a few days. We travel with a group that loves to eat including a chef from what is considered the best restaurant in the US (think Chicago) and the private chef of one of Italy's wealthiest families (who happen to be in the food business).

                Personally, we use our nose in Sienna. How much you spend is irrelevant and Sienna is basically a tourist town with many of the more expensive places catering to non repeat customers. Our method is to get away from the old center and walk around sampling the exhaust fumes. Mama throws us a loop quite often but we do find some gems. Sorry I can't help you with any names as we don't keep track of where we eat in Sienna. If this approach appeals to you, go into the neighborhood south of the Duomo. You will find some very good cooking in there. All local spots.

                If your itinerary allows it and you love eating, do not miss Chianti when you move from Florence to Sienna. We have traveled extensively in Italy, have little to no budget restrictions and have found Chianti to be one of our favorite areas. You will spend about what you have budgeted, if not a bit more but, the restaurants are to die for. If this appeals to you, post and I can give you some gems.

                3 Replies
                1. re: Ray2

                  Which Chianti restaurants are to die for? Thanks.

                  1. re: allende

                    We are interested in stopping on our way, so we would be interested to hear about places in chianti; and/or wineries with a good restaurant for an afternoon meal. Thanks!

                  2. re: Ray2

                    +1 on Arnolfo ... and their website also doesn't prepare you for one of the most spectacular views once you get inside the restaurant.

                    In Siena, I would highly recommend Osteria Le Logge. It perfectly fits your description of what you're looking for in an Osteria. It's small, elegant, non-touristy, excellent food and wine list ...

                    Via XX Settembre, 50, Colle di Val d’Elsa, Tuscany 53034, IT

                  3. I can try to help you with some Florence ideas:
                    My favorite local/authentic place is Trattoria I Due G. Very old fashioned. I also love Casalinga, but that is very rough and ready. But excellent, simple food.
                    For a newer feeling place, with great food, Cipolla Rossa. Don't miss the marinated grilled pork chop.
                    For more of a splurge try Osteria Personale. It's one of the newer 'hot' places in town, but was one of the best meals I had recently. And very affordable tasting menu for extraordinary cooking.

                    A fun atmosphere is Il Santo Bevitore. Simple, relaxed, candlelit. Great florentine food.
                    Hope this helps!

                    Il Santo Bevitore
                    Via Santa Spirito 64r, Florence, Tuscany 50125, IT

                    Cipolla Rossa
                    Via de' Conti,53, Florence, Toscana 50123, IT

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: minchilli

                      Thanks! I had seen your suggestions elsewhere and was hoping you might respond :). Appreciate it!

                      1. re: minchilli

                        Elizabeth, quick question. I had gotten excited about Osteria Personale- it looked like the atmosphere and splurge-kind of place we were looking for. Unfortunately, they're not open until the day we leave. Do you have anything along the lines of OP in terms of a little more innovative food and slightly more modern atmosphere? Thanks!

                        Osteria Personale
                        Borgo San Frediano, 167r, Florence, Toscana , IT

                        1. re: laurenpk

                          Why yes I do! I also love Ossi di Seppie. Quite new, and very modern in both the interior as well as the approach to cooking. On the 'creative' side of things.
                          But for something a bit more traditional I also like Olio e Convivium. A lot of Slowfood ingredients, and the entrance feels almost like an old fashioned shop.
                          You'll eat well at both.