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Nov 29, 2012 12:14 PM

Spending 12 Days in Rome, Venice, Florence & Bologna for 25th Anniversary

Traveling the day after Christmas for 12 days to the cities listed above. Will spend 8 days in Rome
1 day in Venice, 1 in Bologna, and 2 in Florence. Looking for rustic and local restaurants in each
location that is a true example of the local regional food. Since some locations are for 1 day, need
something that will really fit the bill. Not looking for the most expensive spots in town but places
that the locals rave about. Being Italian myself and never have traveled to Italy I am looking for
the good people on this blog to extend to me their honest and best examples of food that Italy
is known for. Thanks.

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  1. 3 quick ones for you - Checchino dal 1887 in Rome, Il Latini in Florence, and Drogheria della Rosa in Bologna. All are authentic, old school, with great wine lists to boot.....just to start the discussion!

    1. The only advice I can give about Venice is get as far away from the Grand Canal as possible. Don't eat anywhere that has pictures of the food in the window or a menu in English. For lunch find one of the small stand up counter places and order whatever looks interesting.

      13 Replies
      1. re: dinwiddie

        dinwiddie, is there no suitable restaurant in grand canal area? i'm staying with a large froup near the santa lucia train station, so traveling any great distance won't work.

        1. re: raider

          do you mean you need a restaurant for a lot of people in that area? The Santa Lucia area (on the same side of the canal as the station) is probably most horrid in all of Venice for eating.
          Will you be on the same side or in one of the hotels on the other side, facing the station?

          1. re: jen kalb

            one of the hotels on the other side, facing the station.

            1. re: raider

              There are quite a number of restaurants that have been recommended on the board just a short walk from you - are you expecting to need to eat with your big group or will you be exploring on your own or with just a few? Is budget an issue?

              1. re: jen kalb

                with the big group. since i don't know venice at all, its hard for me to know what's "a short walk" from the hotel. interestingly, the hotel, which shall remain nameless, won't give me any recommendations. "come to our very expensive restaurant" is all they will say

                1. re: raider

                  how many people are you and what do you want to eat? you certainly dont need to eat in a hotel restaurant, but if you are a very large group, most venetian restaurants are smallish. You will need to call and reserve if you expect any good restaurant to accommodate a large group of people.

                  if your group members are not true foodies and pizza and large salads would suit, Ae Oche and Birraria La Corte are large and relatively close. (the latter has pastas and other dishes as well as well as additional seating in Piazza San Toma) Osteria La Patatina is also not far, informal and crowded with locals when we were there on a Friday night, for chiceti and maybe some pasta with seafood. - dont know how you would fare, squeezing in your folks.

                  If they are more serious eaters, La Zucca (a non-seafood restaurant) is not far. There is also a restaurant called Antica Besseta in the vicinity which Ive not tried but it looks nice - I have never seen a Chowhound comment on it.

                  Navigating around Venice can be tricky unless you are following one of the main marked pedestrian routes. You should make sure you have a good map or GPS to guide you to your destination or your group may get lost.

                  Of course, you can all pile on a boat and travel to many other eating destinations.

                  1. re: jen kalb

                    17 people. no particular preference as to what we eat. can't be too expensive, due to large crowd. good local food that's within walking distance from hotel is what i need. i understand i'll need to make reservations in advance.

                    1. re: raider

                      Hate to say this but 17 pax size takes you rather away from the good places, at least in Rome. You will have to lower expectations. Also consider you are dining around NYE, which will be another challenge for good and inexpensive meal for 17.

                      1. re: vinoroma

                        understood. haven't focused on rome yet. made nye reservations in hotel -- ridiculously expensive, but convenient for a large group. many thanks for all the venice tips. in rome, stying on via cavour. if you have any suitable suggestions for a group that size, would welcome them. would prefer to keep the tab below 30-35 euros per person.

                        1. re: raider

                          where on the via Cavour? It is one of Rome longer streets.

                      2. re: raider


                        What do you mean by "can't be too expensive"? How much per head for food not counting wine? Or If one person is picking up the tab as a treat for the rest, what is your dollar (or euro) budget per meal? Remember too that any restaurant is going to charge you a surcharge for a group your size.

                        1. re: raider

                          With 17 people in Venice, and over the Grand Canal from Santa Lucia, I would make reservations at Ae Oche on the other side of the Scalzi Bridge from your hotel (in other words, on the Santa Lucia side.) It is not going to be "authentic" or glamorous, but they have good pizza and pasta and they can easily seat 17 people.
                          (You want the one at Cannaregio 158. It is very reasonable and lots of locals eat there.


                          I love Antica Birreria La Corte that Jen Kalb mentions above, but it is in Campo San Polo (not Campo San Toma) - they can also do large parties. It would be better to take the vaporetto to Rialto and walk rather then try to navigate that many people down from the train station area. Other places I know can do that large of a group are Muro near the Frari and Taverna San Trovaso, both quite reasonable (unless someone gets crazy with the fish at Muro particularly) but with both of these you'd need to take the vaporetto....

              2. re: raider

                I'm sure there are, I just didn't look for them as we were staying at the Rialto and did not go near the train station very much in the 4 days we were there because we found it to be much to touristy. Venice was the one place in Italy where I found it possible to have a bad meal. Too many places mainly catered to tourists and as such were not exactly what we wanted and were not that concerned with making sure you wanted to return. We spent our 25th anniversary in Italy too. Started in Venice, then Como and spent our actual anniversary in Montalcino before on to Florence.

                We went to a couple of places that were recommended, then decided to just follow the rules above. (BTW, Venice is not that big, we found that walking almost anywhere was fairly easy, it was finding our way back that was hard.) We found a lot of wonderful out of the way places where a little Italian, lots of hand gestures and pointing, and a little luck resulted in some fantastic meals. Of course there are some very famous and expensive restaurants in Venice, but I don't think that is what you are looking for.

                Of course, one of our favorite meals was when returned to Venice the night before we flew home and stayed in Mestre. Restorante da Bepi. What made it so great was the waiter. Of course, he spoke English, (and French and Russian, and several other languages if you believe him.) They specialize in seafood and it was fantastic. One thing you can get in Venice that is almost always good is fresh seafood. We walked in just as they were opening (actually about 20 minutes before, so they invited us to sit and have a glass of wine while they set up) and spent three hours there in stitches eating huge quantities of fresh seafood. Must have had 10 different varieties, not counting the three fish (salmon, branzino, and turbot) including Baby Octopus, Squid, crab, Sardines, and all kinds of shell fish and shrimp.

            2. First of all, congratulations! its a wonderful time to be visiting Italy.
              Watch the scheduled public holidays in your time - frame, Capodanno/San Silvestro and Epiphany. - you may particularly need to reserve for the former.

              are you staying in the 1 day places? how many meal will you actually be eating in those places? Are you travelling by train, not car?

              3 Replies
              1. re: jen kalb

                We will be staying in Venice & Bologna for 1 day overnight and then moving on the next day. Really need lunch & dinner recommendations. We will also be traveling by train. Thanks for the help and your suggestions

                1. re: NYkid392

                  Venice: eat seafood, especially those are found in the lagoons around Venice. Two of the better seafood trattorie are Antiche Carampane or Alle Testiere; nothing fancy but just the high quality and precise cooking. If you are in Venice on Sundays or Mondays when most of the better seafood places are closed, go to Vini da Gigio or Fiaschetteria Toscana for traditional Venetian food. For lunch, eat cicchetti at the numerous bacari throughout Venice (most closed Sundays). Forget about the idea of a restaurant being 'local' in Venice; for simple 'rustic', ai Promessi Sposi or alle Vedova.

                  1. re: NYkid392


                    Looks to me like I mixed together your post and raider's post when responding in this thread. So the Bologna recommendations I made below were based on the idea of a restaurant that can serve a party of 17. If you don't have those restrictions. I would still recommend Gigina as my top choice, but I would also add Da Gianni and Teresina. And I would take Olivo off the list completely.

                2. I don't know where you are staying in Bologna or what your budget is. Bologna is a business city and a student city. The business folk have expense accounts and eat the best food. The students are total cheapskates, and what they rave about is big quantity and low price. Osteria al 15 is a student favorite. I've never been. I don't know if you can reserve. It's near the Basilica of San Domenico.


                  If you are willing to go beyond bargain prices and pay for fairly priced food that is outstanding for Bologna, then pile into taxis and take a 10-15 minute ride to Trattoria Da Gigina for dinner. Order a mixed antipasto for the group, order a lasagne or the pasta with sausage for the group, and for your main dish order a small mix of different dishes to pass around and share.. Skip desserts. The restaurant will call you enough taxis to get home, but let them know when you arrive that you will need them.


                  Otherwise, if you are unwilling to take taxis and need to walk someplace to eat, then pull out a map of Bologna so you have some idea of the location of places I am recommending before you ask your hotel to reserve. All of them can serve your large group, but you must reserve well in advance, and best to be following the same ordering strategy as above: Mixed appetizers for the table, one or two pastas for the table, just a few main dishes to share family style. Dessert is rarely worth the calories or added euros in Bologna (or the other places you are going in Italy for that matter).

                  Ciccio e Giampi (near the Church of Santo Stefano and the Archigennasio) -- great atmosphere, bollito misto is a specialty. Ask for a pasta recommendation so you get what is fresh that night.

                  Il Tinello (near the Due Torri) -- this is a place where students and faculty go in big groups when they want to eat budget but not awful. You may need to sit at two tables.

                  All'Osteria Bottega (near the Church of San Domenico) -- the specialty is cured meats of the highest quality, matched with nice wines. It can get quite pricey. Don't go unless everyone wants to taste the house specialties and you want to pay the price. Absolutely local but not a basic pasta place. You may not get one big table.

                  Trattoria Anna Maria (near the Pinocoteca art museum) -- a place to go for pasta basics like tortellini in brodo or lasagna or pasta in Gorgonzola sauce. Touristy prices, but only a few euros more; second courses are so-so and not everyone at the table needs to order one. Desserts should be skipped. Ambience is very informal and the pasta classics can be great, the antipasti are simple and fresh.

                  There are many restaurants near the Arena del Sole, where there are lot of hotels. If you are staying near the Arena del Sole, it is better to walk out of that area to a different neighborhood. There are great many people (not me) who love Trattoria Tony in that neighborhood. You may not all be able to sit at one table if you go there, but you can try to make a reservation. Rock bottom cheap, and they serve bolitto misto. For a grander meal, only Donatello remotely would be worth the price tag in that particular neighborhood.

                  Do not let anybody send you to Diana or Pappagallo. Before you let a hotel choose a restaurant for you, try to get a very good idea of the price (make them swear they are telling you the truth). For some of the restaurants I mentioned, you need to contact your hotel right away and ask them make reservations. It is unlikely a hotel will recommend a good restaurant over one run by their friends.

                  For lunch in Bologna, the best thing your group could do is to walk around the market district and buy lots of food: Sliced salume from Simoni, cheeses from La Baita, fresh fruits (pears are in season), mustard fruits from Melega, some prepared pastas like lasagne from the take-out delis or roast chicken.. You won't care it's room temperature. Buy half a pound of sweet "pinzi" strudel cake from Tamburini and candied chestnuts from Atti & Figli. . You take your booty to Osteria del Sole, where for the price of a glass of wine (or a few bottles for your group), you can take a seat at long communal plank tables with benches and eat the food you brought in. Doesn't get more local that that. Everybody's been doing it since the 15th c. (Save your plastic utensils from your plane flight if you don't want to eat with your hands.



                  You can e-mail Osteria del Sole in advance to warn them you are coming. Have your hotel confirm.


                  After lunch, walk 5 minutes to Zanarini's for a coffee (in the piazza Galvani). There's room for everybody at the bar.

                  If you don't want to eat from the markets, try Olivo, a 10-minute walk from the Due Torri, up the via San Vitale at the piazza Aldrovandi. They offer lunches priced at between 10euro- 20 euro per head depending on how much you eat, and wine and dessert are included in that price. Food is fresh. Atmosphere is non-existent. (Do not eat dinner here. Just lunch.


                  You can look up all these places on the web.

                  1. I can move a hearty “second!” to barberinibee's recommendation of Ciccio e Giampi, where I had a splendid dinner (“lunch” to you Yankees) back last 30 Jan. It’s a small place, more in the trattoria style, with good hearty food in the Bolognese tradition. My waiter, who seems to be in charge of the restaurant, was most cordial.

                    For fine dining, I ate a fine supper at Caminetto d'Oro, Via de' Falegnami 4.

                    I ate well also at the smaller Serghei, Via Piella 12, and right in the middle of the biggest snow storm in Italy in 25 years; yet its dining room likely is to small for large group.

                    And I thank Chowhounders for these recommendations.