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Sep 30, 2012 10:19 AM

Lunch between Florence and Alba?

Hello Chowhounders! We will be driving from Florence to Alba on a Sunday morning at the end of October. Is there someplace in between that we should stop for lunch or plug straight through and eat in Alba? If so, any suggestions during the truffle festival? Thanks in advance for your help!

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  1. About 2 1/2 hours from Florence is Ne', south of Genova. Two really good trattorie, Antica Osteria dei Mosto and La Brinca. That might be too close and too much driving after lunch.

    Alba is 4 1/2 hours plus from Florence. Unfortunately, IMO there is no really good restaurant or trattoria in Alba. There are loads of them very close by in the countryside. Trattorie: Del Belbo Da Bardon in San Marzano di Oliveto... our favorite, by far, trattoria in Piemonte. It's about half an hour before you get to Alba after getting off the autostrada, so max 4 hours from Florence. Go!

    Others: Osteria Veglio in Annunziata just south of La Morra. Wonderful trattoria.

    Cascinalenuovo in Isola D'Asti, again on the way to Alba so max 4 hours from Firenze.

    I've written about all of these. Great places for Sunday lunch. Really, don't bother about making it to Alba. Many better places outside the city to eat. The city itself is a gem, one of our favorites, but the restaurant/trattoria scene is just okay.

    3 Replies
    1. re: allende

      Allende - do you know Del Belbo Da Bardon's closing day? We're driving between Caiar (between Largo di Garda and Verona) and Piemonte on a Monday next April and looking for a nice place to have lunch and then visit Alba before heading to our B&B (near Cocconato)...

      1. re: DexterDog

        Thursday is the closing day. The restaurant is open on Monday.

      2. re: allende

        we had a classic, wonderful Italian sunday lunch at La Brinca in Ne this last Sunday. I dont know if Id want to undertake a long drive after a meal and wine there, but it was terrific, well paced 3.5 hour experience. would have been longer but our taxi had arrived to take us home. Highly recommended if you have the time, as is Ninna Nonna in Camogli. Will report further on another thread.

      3. Drive on to Alba - I totallly disagree with the poster who said there is nothing good in Alba. Osteria La Libera may be one, if not the best in Piedmont. Reservations are necessary for lunch, but you will see some of the regular "locals" come in and get seated. The food is wonderful. If you are driving along the coast, there are several great places in Genoa. While Il Tre Merli has a place in NYC, the first one was in Genoa. It's easy to park by the harbor. While there, you can stop in to EATLY and grab some goods to go (or just eat there). Enjoy!

        13 Replies
        1. re: flirtinfilly

          If La Libera, where I've been a number of times before its standards started to decline, "may be one, if not the best in Piedmont" (whatever best means), then our standards for very good food in an osteria/trattoria are totally different.

          IMO, La Libera is okay, nothing special. Compared to Da Bardon or La Torre in Cherasco (two other trattorias), on a scale of 1 to 10, La Libera is a 4. Da Bardon is a 10 and La Torre is an 8. JMO.

          I've never been to Il Tre Merli in Genova. It might be great for all I know. Have been to the one in New York. It was an embarrassment... particularly the poor service, but also the mediocre food and the greatly overpriced wine list. Again, JMO

          1. re: allende

            I've been to I Tre Merli in the centro storico of Genova (not the one in EATALY, or in NYC). It's more or less okay, but I certainly would not drive into Genova to eat there. I hate all EATALYs, so won't recommend the one in Genova.

            The towns of Recco and Camogli are about a 2 hours drive from Alba. Manuelina in Recco has an outstanding reputation, and it is right near the autostrade exit with plenty of parking. (I've only eaten foccacia col formaggio there, and in general that's not my thing.) Da o Vittorio is similarly well regarded (I have never eaten there).

            La Cucina di Nonna Nina is NOT near the autostrade exit, but in village of San Rocco di Camogli, and unless you have a GPS, it is a bit tricky to find. Plot your route carefully. I enjoy eating there, especially their seafood antipasta and their pastas, but you might want to check back in a few days to see if Jen Kalb has posted a review. She ate there last week.

            If you secretly wish to have a glorious sea view with your lunch, then Rosa's in Camogli serves delicious lasagne al pesto and/or pasta specials, and I would go with a platter of grilled or fried fish (skip the antipasti and desserts). The food can be very good, but it doesn't aim to hit the heights these other places do.

            You would need reservations for all these places for a sunday lunch.

            1. re: barberinibee

              We've also been to I Tre Merli in the centro storico of Genova. Though it was a while ago (2007), I agree that it was pretty average (and not good value for the €). Genova is a fantastic place to visit - but I'm not sure it's the best option for a lunch stop between Firenze & Piemonte, simply because you won't have enough time to get a real feel for the place.

              That's why I'm looking for a place in a small village, we'll have enough time to have lunch and a good look around.

              If you don't want to press on to Piemonte, maybe consider a stop at one of the unbelievably picturesque villages of the Cinque Terre. They are all stunning, but the only place we ate was Riomaggiore. If you're interested, I'll dig out the name of the place - the food was good (ultra fresh fish, as you'd expect) and Riomaggiore was beautiful.

              Unless It's too big to get a feel for the place .

              1. re: DexterDog

                Do you have a favorite place in Genova? I'm headed back for a week (2nd trip this year) and always looking for suggestions. Grazie!

                1. re: flirtinfilly


                  In addition to Dexter's recs, there have been some recent reports from visitors to Genova if you do a search and jenkalb is there presently or will be shortly, and will no doubt be reporting in timely fashion.

                  1. re: flirtinfilly

                    My report on Piemonte from last year includes a lunch in Genoa, at Antico Osteria di Vico Palla:


                    1. re: rrems

                      Thanks, rrems & barberinibb! I've been to Genoa 3x in the last two years, so I'm pretty familiar with many places - prefer to seek out "off the guide book and down a caruggi" place offering regional/home cooking.

                      Wandered into a place like that in February (Antico Galeone via Giannini 10, 16124 Genova)after long flight and train ride down from Milan just needing to eat something. We were welcomed even though it was almost 14:00hrs, and had a great pranzo(trofie a pesto and seafood ravioli) and ended up being extras in a movie about native son/songwriter Fabrizio De Andre!

                      I'm headed back for another week this November (Genoa is so much like Baltimore - except it's in Italy!) so hopefully will have some more places to add.

                      1. re: flirtinfilly

                        If you haven't been to the Ostaja on via S. Vincenzo in Genova, it is worth seeking out. The front room is the place to either sit down and eat great vegetable tortes or get them to go. There is also a room in the back that serves various dishes of the day, all pure Genovese. I can't remember the exact address, but you can't miss it. It is at the end of the via S. Vincenzo that is closest to Brignole station (the osteria is almost kitty corner to Grom). LUNCH ONLY.

                        Another inexpensive place I like, but only if you happen to be in the neighborhood, is Ugo e Uga, on Via Bernardo Castello, 2. It's near the end of piazza della Vittoria that is furthest from Brignole. They serve a slightly more pan-Italian menu, with lots of daily specials at lunch, but all the ligurian classics are there as well, and it a charming place.

                        Genova and Baltimore are sister cities. But before I had learned that, I had also likened Genova to Baltimore. In truth, I think Genova is still a much more important port to Europe than Baltimore is to the US, but something about the 2 cities seems to link them in everybody's perceptions.

                        1. re: barberinibee

                          Grazie, barberinibee! I will seek out your spots. I too, found out they were sister cities after my New Year's visit in 2010, when I just spur of the moment decided to spend a week there. I had been there for a day in 1992, just as there harbor was being updated. Oddly enough, fast forward twelve years and I left New England and moved to Baltimore! I appreciate all your input on the boards.

                          1. re: flirtinfilly

                            thanks. Ostaja is worth walking out of your way to experience. For Ugo e Uga, it's someplace to know about if you are near there and hungry, and want to sit down but don't want a huge tab.

                  2. re: DexterDog

                    I agree with the need for a small town for ease of driving and parking, but Riomaggiore is not that. On a Sunday afternoon, if the weather is nice, all available parking will be gone early in the morning (as it will in all the le CInque Terre towns)

                    Good parking bets with good food are places I mentioned in Recco and Camogli, or if one wishes to drive further, look up past threads for recommendations in Sestri Levante. (Luchin in Chiavari is closed Sundays).

                2. re: allende

                  Agreed on ITM in Genoa -average, but easy to get to. I was just offering up a few options for the orginal poster as there didn't seem to be a lot of replies at the time.

                  1. re: flirtinfilly

                    Good point about the parking. When we visited the Cinque Terre we came in by train and, after doing part of the walk, took the ferry into Riomaggiore. (Also, forgive the cut & paste error at the bottom of my previous reply. Note to self, read what you write before hitting the big red button...)