Italia Trip September_Rome to Venice_Middle to Top
I would really appreciate your help and guidance on this upcoming trip!
My girlfriend and I will be taking my parents for their first Italian trip this September (have been planning and saving for this a while now), so I hope I can count on you to make their experience of the cities, culture and great art a bit more memorable with the perfect culinary counterpart. They live in Miami and are in their 60's and we live in NYC and are in our early 30's.
I studied in Rome and travel extensively in Italy for two semesters during college and grad school, and have my old favorites that I am hoping to revisit, together with your priced suggestions.
Aside for doing a lot of reading in the boards, i have frequented several websites, downloaded Elizabeth Minchili' apps for Florence and Rome, and bought several books including Fred Plotkin' Italy for the Gourmet Traveler.
We are looking for great food leaning towards classic places, dishes and rustic atmosphere, ranging from the simple to the romantic. I particularly love wine and would love to hear also from your local suggestions, producers, and vintages you prefer for the places we are visiting. I am very exciting about this since it will be great weather and harvest season.
Most likely we will have out biggest meal at dinner, but are also looking for some great lunch recommendations. Our price range will be 250 euros for the 4 of us for dinner.
Our itinerary is as follows (14 total days) I know this schedule seems like a bit too much, but I am trying to balance a relaxing time in Tuscany and Chianti while also showing my parents the great Italian cities of Rome, Florence and Venice in their first trip.
Rome is a city I know very well and would love to hear your suggestions. I have chosen these places as a combination of old favorites and others discovered in this board.
Thinking of a classic place to introduce everyone to Roman food in our first night there. I am looking for a classic place with great standard fare (caccio peppe, carbonara, amatriciana, etc) . Could also be a Roman Jewish food in the Ghetto. Romantic setting indoors or in a piazza is a plus.
Options are: Nino, Armando Al Pantheon, Antico Arco, Roscioli and Taverna del Ghetto ( this is an old favorite (love their torta della nonna), but can't wait to hear your recommendations on Roman Jewish food)
Renato e Luisa (dinner)
This is another old favorite as i studied in Palazzo Lazzaroni across the street and Renato cooked our thanksgiving turkeys. Have always visited each time in Rome.
For lunch we will probably head to Filetti di baccala, get some pizza, etc. We plan of eating light for lunch as not to waste too much time ,although was thinking of Roma Sparita because i am a huge fan of Cacio Peppe and their preparation seems different from all the other.
We are renting a car at Termini the next day and driving to Umbria for some great early renaissance architecture and frescoes.
_Todi (visit Santa Maria della Conzolazione) possible have some lunch here and sample some of the great Sangrantino wine.
_ Assisi after lunch for Giotto and Saint Francis, and spend the night.
Dinner at Assisi (no plans yet)
Visiting Montalcino (not sure what to do but i love the Brunellos and Rossos)
Ristorante Guido is the only one that has caught my attention.
DAY 7. GREVE IN CHIANTI. Staying at Vignamaggio.
Wine tour at Castello Verrazano (lunch)
Dinner at Ristoro del Lamole.
Other options are:
Ristorante Malborghetto, Osteria del Castello, Badia a Coltibuono, Taverna dell Guerrino, Ristorante le Vigne in Radda.
Day 8. GREVE IN CHIANTI. Staying at Vignamaggio.
Wine tour at Vignamaggio.
Dinner at Officina della Bistecca (have reservations already)
Plan to visit some of the smaller towns such as Radda, Castellina, Panzano and possibly San Gimignano.
Day 9. FLORENCE
Dinner options are:
Cipolla Rossa, Cavolo Nero, Nerbone, Osteria dei Benci, Bucca dell'Orafo
Day 10. FLORENCE
Dinner at Sostanza (have reservations already)
Day 11. IMOLA, BOLOGNA
Dinner in Bologna (very undecided here!!)
Options are Da Gianni, Serghei, Taverna dei Lords, Caminetto D'oro, Trattoria Anna Maria, Giampi e Ciccio, Meloncello
Day 12, 13, 14. VENICE. (Staing at Leone Bianco)
We are planning on having cicetti at some Bacari for lunch those 3 days, that way we can have a quick lunch while sampling several dishes and some delicious wine. There are several great post in the boards for this.
Options are La Cantina, Al Prosecco.
Dinner: Options are Osteria alla Madonna, Antiche Carampane, Al Paradiso, Antica Locanda Montin, Al Garanghelo, La Zucca, Fiaschetteria Toscana.
I know this might be too much to take in but I hope to hear from your excellent experiences and suggestions. Thank you so much in advance!!!!
Are you going to Imola to eat at San Domenico? For lunch? If so, you are unlikely to want much of a dinner in Bologna. You might consider the bistro run by Caminetto d'Oro, called Trattoria Twinside, where there would be less pressure to order a full meal and it has a terrific wine list.
But if you are looking for a full dinner in Bologna, I would take Trattoria Anna Maria off your list of possibilities for Bologna. My impression of Taverna dei Lords, having only walked by it, is that it is very much a sports bar pub with cheap food -- quite popular with Bolognese student locals, but not noted for its food. Serghei is a challenge for non-Italian speakers because there is no menu and no English spoken. Unless you are very familiar with the classic Bolognese menu, you may be uncertain what's available and what to order. Best food at Da Gianni runs to the richer dishes (cheese-stuffed pasta sauced with butter or egg pastas with sausage, or grilled mortadella or pork shanks). So if you think you might like something simpler, Giampi e Ciccio might be better. Both can be equally charming, with G & C veering toward the sweetly gregarious, and Gianni more warm and shy. If you want an upscale atmosphere, head to Caminetto d'Oro, but also give Teresina some consideration (especially if anybody declares a desire for fish).
Overall, I would raise a flag about your plans to constantly make dinner your "big" meal of the day. Not only can it be nice to pause for a leisurely lunch while touring in Italy, it is sometimes the case that SOME people in their 60s -- or even in the 30s -- find it hard to take a big meal after 8pm.
Also, since you have a great interest in wine, you might specifically focus on eating in wine bars for some lighter evening meals sometimes.
If you only have 2 nights in Greve, I think San Gimignano is too far. In fact, if your hotel reservations aren't set in stone, you might skip overnighting in Siena and to directly to Greve from Assisi. See both Montalcino and Siena as daytrips from Greve, on separate days.
I seldom deal in absolutes (and neither does anybody else in reality).
My experience of dining in Bologna is that the local wines are poor and usually all that is available. Twinside broke the mold in that respect.
In the wide, wide universe of wine, I find more French wines that I like than Italian ones. Eating in Italy, very few French wines turn up on wine lists. List at Trattoria Twinside has more than one of interest. "Oooooo, terrific!" I said. Hence, here my fingers fly with the same thought: terrific wine list for Bologna.
OP might appreciate any place you care to recommend in E-R. They have a car. Or tell them to go to Piemonte. Or San Cassiano if you really want to be an absolutist.
Thank you so much Barberinibee,
(Really like your chow name...will say hello to your insignia in the works of Bernini in Rome...I love the Barberini bees in the small fountain by Piazza Tritone and of course in the Baldachino.
Your suggestions and input are very thoughtful and sensitive. Thank you for all the recommendations and for opening my eyes to other plans. Will plan accordingly based on your comments.
We are going to Imola because my father has some old friends there and to see the Rocca Sforzesca. San Domenico might be a good detour but i think it is out of our league prize wise for this trip and for our current plans. In Imola we just plan to have a snack or light lunch.
We are indeed looking for a full dinner in Bologna and will carefully review your suggestions. The reason I listed Taverna dei Lords is because i ate there back in 2006 as a student when it was recommended by our hotel during a weekend trip (although i remember it to be a fairly nice place with a few locals and some foreigners, no students whatsoever...well I was at that time..but we were definitely the fish in the wrong pond there as we felt a little out of place . The memory of my experience there is quite a fond one with food on the heartier and heavier side, rich local specialties, and in a nice atmosphere. I am not sure how that would relate to my current tastes so I will follow your advice and skip it.
I will definitely welcome great suggestions for lunch to rest and relax (one of my great previous lunches while traveling was a middle of the day stop at Bistrot de Paradou in the Luberon, southern France and that set a nice rhythm for the rest of the day. I will definitely research some lunch spots and possibly visit and enoteca for wine and small dishes for dinner.
My italian is fairly apt to the challenge of Serghei, i would not want to skip the possibility of a great meal because of a communication barrier. I would love to hear what you think of it a bit more.
Thank you again for your great reply!
My impressions of Taverna dei Lords may have been colored by walking by on a hot evening when some kind of important game was underway, so the front bar was crowded with TV-watchers and the doors and windows open -- so don't skip it solely on my say so. I've never eaten there.
Serghei posts a menu outside and if you spend a few minutes studying it, you won't have any trouble ordering exactly what you want when asked. One of the chief virtues of Serghei is that it is one of the few Bolognese eateries that does well with its secondi, especially if you order braised turkey or braised pork shin. Most other recommended Bolognese eateries have fun pasta and there the story ends. (Teresina usually is solid for all courses.) The small interior psuedo-rustic space of Serghei is somewhat cramped and service is performed as a solo act by the owner (mom and wife are in the kitchen), so it is not a relaxed and leisurely dining experience but a bustling one. The patrons are usually in a convivial mood but the owner is a bit harried.
Good to hear you won't be trying to combine San Domenico and a Bolognese dinner in the same day, but it is hard to believe old Italian friends' of your fathers will allow you all to escape without feeding you generously. You might hold off with making a reservation someplace in Bologna until you have some idea how hungry you are and what you are in the mood for.
As for favoring big lunches over big dinners, you might think about switching out some of your already named picks for dinner in Rome or Florence for lunches instead.
Also, I just noticed you said you were going to Todi with the intent of sampling Sagrantino. The home town of that wine is Montefalco, which is also a nice place to visit with sweet frescoes (but it is very steep). Under all circumstances, wherever you drink Sagrantino, you should sleep there, and not drive afterwards. It is very strong. (Many people would not rent a car in Termini but instead take a train to Orvieto to rent the car there plus see its gorgeous frescoed cathedral and drink its white wine. Even if you rented the car in Rome, the art and architecture of Orvieto might be more compelling for you than what's in Todi.)
I will definitely look a bit more into Serghei as it sounds wonderful the way you describe it.
We had initially plan to stop by Orvieto but then decided against it because of time constrains, as much as I would love to see those wonderfully carved reliefs at the base of the cathedral.
Sangrantino is a wine i have never had, although i recently purchased a bottled in NY which is on my cellar waiting to be opened. I do have heard about Sangrantino's hometown of Montefalco and particularly about L'Alchimista for a lunch spot and well as its fine enoteca. Any thought on it as a destination, first taste of Umbria after Roma?
We will definetly stop by Todi as i must see the great Santa Maria della Consolazione (it’s been in all of my architecture books and is an early example of the pure centrally planned church in the way of Bramante and Leonardo, i believe the interior space will be sublime) and most likely will head to Montefalco for lunch (and frescoes?...will research this and thank for the tip) and Assisi afterwards.
I will happily handle the keys after the Sangrantino bottle is emptied.
Our favorite art and architecture sights in Tuscany were the Piero frescos in the Arezzo area especially the fresco of the true cross in that town and the Madonna del Parto in a little town nearby http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Madonna_...) if you have time. We liked the feel of Assisi town but the Giottos are not of the highest level - you should definitely make time for the Scrovegni chapel in Padova if that is a priory for you (requires a reservation). an easy day trip from Venice, or even on the way from Bologna.
there are other wonderful buildings similar to the Todi basilica in Tuscany, including San Biagio, outside the walls of iMontepulciano
There are many recommendations on this Board for restaurants in Tuscany and Umbria - once you settle your schedule, they will be forthcoming. I agree with choosing a central touring destination in tuscany and making day trips to Siena, etc.
re: jen kalb
Thanks for the reply and suggestions.
I agree with the Piero della Francesca frescoes in Arezzo, they are wonderful and i have also been to the Scrovegni chapel before (i was actually lucky to be there after the restoration and was allowed to stay for 30 minutes, twice as long as the standard 15 minute time frame. I love Giotto and although the Assisi frescoes are contested i feel like it is a great place to see the early works of fresco paintings from Cimabue, to Giotto to Martini. It is really a place that i think is wonderful and we are going most for the my parents than for me. I am trying to compromise between the things that i have already seen and would like them to experience and to the new ones that i havent seen and might be interesting for all of us in the same level.
Will definetly make it to the Tempio si SanBiaggio in Montepulciano, Antonio de Sangallo is a favorite of mine and i really enjoy his work in Rome. This is very similar to the Consolazione.
Don't want to go much further from the food purpose of his board, although in Italy every experience builts a momentum on the next and a great dinner followed by seeing a great work of art becomes a memorable experience to be treasured forever.
I think my itinerary is pretty much set since i have already reserved for all the hotels. I chose to stay in some of the cities because i find the night ambience in italian cities to be somenthing really wonderful and unique, the peopel moving, dark corners and lampadari glows, etc.
I woudl love to hear you imput on some of the dinner options and possible lunch spots. Look forward to your reply!!!
I was mostly thinking of your parents, having seen the things you have mentioned over the years. Will have to rely on others for food reccs in this area, since its been too long since Ive been in the tuscan countryside and umbria to have reliable personal (as opposed to guidebook reccs. If you put the town names into the box up top right on this page, you will see some suggestions in each of your towns (you may have to adjust the date range to be longer once your search results appear, tuscany is not as active as Rome, Venice or Bologna.
I think if Todi is on your "must" list then you have to play it by ear as to what else you can accomplish that same day if you want to be in Assisi that night. As you already know, one could spend months in just Umbria alone and not see all that's worthwhile to see -- and rushing through "hitting" hilltowns is big-time mistake. By the time you get your car in Rome and drive to Todi, you might find that the right pace is to limit yourselves to lunch and Assisi for the remainder of the day and count yourselves blessed with enough.
So the right plan for me would be to play it by ear that day and carry lunch recommendations for Todi, Montefalco (I enjoyed Coccorone and have no experience of L'Alchimista), and Assisi, plus any countryside spots conveniently in between Todi and Assisi. If you are carrying Plotkin, be sure to call ahead to confirm it is open. In fact, for any place, call ahead.
Again, a note about Montefalco should you decide to go: Everything worthwhile -- food, wine and Gozzoli -- is at the top of a steep uphill climb. Museum of Gozzoli is probably closed for the lunch hour, not re-opening until 4. Double check.
I will definitely deviate plans and slow down to have a nice relaxing lunch at Montefalco, at either your suggestions Coccorone or at L'Alchimista. This day will be a rather relaxing one after the large scale sounds,monuments and people of Roma.
I really have enjoyed Gozzoli in the past, but my limited experience is the hyper-detailed, finery -showy and flashy-golden one in the Palazzo Medici in Florence. Will research and climb the hill!
Thank you for that great insight and the rest recommendation!
Right i know you havent been to it but it has been discussed ont he boards before. Hopefully someone else could give us a direction.
Thank you for the fresco link. I wish that Montefalco was further than Assisi from Rome just to compare the ealier ones of Giotto to the later ones of Gozzoli.
When my wife and I and a friend had lunch at Serghei two years ago, they did have a menu in Italian. I fondly remember zucchini cored and stuffed with Bolognese sauce, . It is a tiny place, the seats are not comfortable, but the food is outstanding
I am still trying to figure out how to core the zucchini to stuff them. Obviously, one could split them and remove the seeds, but the effect is not the same.
The zucchini grown around Bologna are usually much fatter than the zucchini you typically find in American or British markets. So they are easier to core. Here's a picture of the fatter, stubbier variety:
But if you can find (or grow) some not-too-thin zucchini, carefully using an ordinary spoon should do it:
it is an old arab trick to coat the zucchini in salt before coring (rinse after). Or you can cheat:
I've never had zucchine ripiene at Serghei, but most of the time in Bologna, the zucchini are stuffed with a combination of ground pork, ground mortadella and parmigiano, not what most people would call a Bolognese sauce (they are usually served with a basic tomato sauce over them, though). This is a classic recipe:
Day 1: it is well known on the board that i love roscioli and antico arco as well, but neither are what you want, i think - rustic, simple, romantic, classic, standard... No. nino is tuscan if i am not wrong (?) and a bit stiff. i'd choose armando from your list as the perfect first night (what weekdays are these days? Did you Check openings for your days?)
Day 2: i wouldn't suggest it, but i understand the sentimental value.
Day 3: ditirambo, no.
Day 4: flavio excellent (which location? There is a new prati branch). Filetti di bacala is not open for lunch, though pizza al taglio at roscioli forno or pizzarium, depending on your location, is excellent. Skip roma sparita (discussion here on boards as to why).
Tuscany: wine tours you mention, are they booked or are you going to drive around yourself? In that case, don't forget to call ahead a couple of days before you plan on visiting, most italian wineries are not equipped for drop bys.
Thank you Vinoroma, straight to the point and assertive.
I will do a bit more of research about Armando but sounds like a great intro venue (that day will be a Tuesday Sept 4th). Will also look into roscioli and antico arco as well.
As far as Flavio i am thinking about the Testaccio location (Friday, Sept 7)
Can you elaborate a bit about Renato e Luisa and Ditirambo. I enjoy the cacio e peppe ar Renato's and although the preparations tend to be a bit over the top and contrived, it is a sentimental favorite. We have been many times there and are willing to rethink it as well.
I think Filetti might even be closed as part of Ferragosto on our visit. My experience before has been that they open in mid september.
Would you mind recomending somenthing further based on my suggestions.
I am also reading about Chechino's wonderful wine list, from a post by TENORTOM. Might be a place for me, including what it seems to be that wonderful Fiorano Bianco wine.
Sora lella has always been on my radar as well. Great Isola location.
I have already confirmed the reservation for the wine tours at Verrazano as well as Vignamaggio. Would welcome other Tuscan wine recomendations or in Rome as well.
Look forward to hearing from you all!
think about your parents - they will need to sit down for a while at midday and may burn out eating a large meal late (I know what I am talking about here). Roscioli forno or other eat and run venues etc are not what they will be wanting at lunch time. Sora Margherita in the ghetto (if it is open in August) is quick-ish and inexpensive - a plate of pasta there might fill the bill and I seem to recall their house red was better than aveage.
E Minchilli has reported on a summer popup on the Tiber Island - if you look at her recent posts you will find it.
Armando is a good pick but the roman standards are the best bet there - we had hits and misses going off on some of their alternative menu pages.
In Venice, which Al Garanghelo are you considering? There are two, and I can't recommend the one at which I recently ate.
"We are looking for great food leaning towards classic places, dishes and rustic atmosphere, ranging from the simple to the romantic"; if those are your criteria:
Trattoria alla Madonna: this is one place that has always mystified me. I ate there on my first visit in the early 80's and thought the food was at best, barely passable: black ink spaghetti with cuttlefish came out two minutes after we ordered it, lukewarm and gloppy with flavorless squids; the grilled branzino was dry and bland, the artichoke contorno was overcooked and water logged. After reading some positive reviews, we decided to give it a second try a couple years ago. Same uninspired food. I just can't figure out how a restaurant can have such a polar personality. And it is always packed.
Antiche Carampane: definitely one of the best seafood restaurant in Venice. Order the mixed antipasto and the seasonal Adriatic seafood. The only fish I don't recommend is the branzino, which I think is farmed.
Al Paradiso: we had a couple of very good dinners recently based on a very positive write-up on this site. The food is mostly traditional mix with a little creativity. Very friendly owners and comfortable warm ambience. Usually not busy as it is under the radar; or maybe because it is expensive, on par with Antiche Carampane and more than Fiaschetteria Toscana
Antica Locanda Montin: fine if it is on your list because of the beautiful back garden and its literary history but don't expect much of the food. I ate there in the 80's and haven't been back. From my Venetian friends, the food has not improved.
Ostaria Al Garanghelo: this traditional osteria changed hands recently. The friendly elderly owners retired. It was one of my favorite simple place in Venice and near our apartment. When I walked by this May, it had pizza on the menu, a very bad sign. A recent post on this board wasn't very positive.
Alla Zucca: has been written up much on this board. The food, though mostly good, does not fit your criteria of a classic place. The menu is very eclectic, a few Venetian/Italian inspired dishes and most others travel all over the globe. Good if one like vegetables.
Fiaschetteria Toscano: for me, the most consistent traditional Venetian restaurant; except for a raw fish antipasto, one won't find anything astray from traditional Venetian cooking. A large menu of antipasti, primi (classic bigoli and risotti), seafood and meat/poultry dishes. The seafood secondi are very simply prepared, either grilled or fried. The meat/poultry dishes are more elaborate. Nice desserts. Probably the best wine list in Venice. Make sure you sit on the ground floor dining room and not upstair.
For traditional: Vini di Gigio (wine list almost as good as FT), da Alberto, ai Promissi Sposi, Anice Stellato, L’Orto dei Mori, Trattoria da Fiore and its next door bacaro (not the expensive osteria in San Polo), Osteria Santa Marina
Seafood or mostly: Boccadoro, alla Frasca
Bacari and cicchetti: almost all bacari will have interesting wines, mostly from the Veneto and Friuli. The selection is always revolving, therefore, it is difficult to recommend anything specific. The two on your list:
La Cantina is excellent but it does not serve small plates but rather composed plates; plate can have buffalo mozzarella with tomato, a salad of carrot and radishes, some arugula or a seafood plate with carpaccio, baby scallop with roe, oysters, saor sardine; cured meat/cheese with a radicchio salad.
Al Prosecco: like La Cantina, mostly composed plates but also few small sandwiches. The wine list has some interesting Proseccos; some are still. My favorite is the “forte”, light color red with some backbone and just a touch of bubbles. The small interior is stand up only, therefore, pick a nice day and sit at one of the 8 outdoor tables. Located in one of the most picturesque campo. Lunch is serene, whereas, late afternoon and weekends bring out the playing children
Bacari that serve cichetti in a more traditional small plate mode: don’t miss alle Vedova, Cantinone gia Schiavi, Ai Vini Padovani, the atmospheric ones near the Rialto market such as All’Arco, do Spade, Bancogiro (great outside seating facing the Grand Canal) and on the same loggia is Naranzaria with interesting wines from the Conte Brandolini Estate.
Also check what days of the week you will be in Venice. Most bacari are closed Sundays and many restaurants, Mondays and some Sundays also.
Thank you PBSF,
I was really hoping you would join the conversation since your suggestions are always tailored, beautifully-worded and informative.
I will reserve one of the days for Fiaschetteria Toscana. Possibly the first night, as an introduction to the city’s classic dishes (that will be Friday)
I am also thinking about Al Paraiso and Antiche Carampane.
As for Osteria alla Madonna and Antica Locanda Montin, there were places that I went while I was in Venice last time. I remember a delicious fritto antipasto there, as well as the black ink spaghetti which I thought was good, even if the pasta and the sauce seemed to be one on top of the other without much mixing and delicacy. My memories of it and of the Locanda Montin are probably weighed up by the then company of good friends in the back garden.
I would love to hear what you have to say about your classic recommendations such as Vini di Gigio, da Alberto, Ai Promisi Sposi, Anise Stellato, L'Orte dei Mori, Tratorie da Fiore and Osteria Santa Marina. Which ones would you definitely recommend based on my criteria and as a counterpart to Fiaschetteria Toscana?
As for the Bacari and wine, i am beyond excited, and will choose a combination of places by the market and the others you mentioned. Any particular wine varietals, producers or vintage recommendations, or roads that I should follow?
We will be in Venice Friday, Saturday and Sunday and I will plan accordingly for opening times.
Look forward to your further suggestions!