Honeymooning in Italy
My husband and I have decided to go to Italy for our Honeymoon. We are planning at the end of March/early April. I know this may not be the best time, but neither of us prefer it too hot or overly touristy. We know we will stay in Rome for a few days, but are now researching where else to go/do while we are there. We of course will be doing some touristy things, but again are not too into the tourist scene so instead of going to a town that has one of the most well known landmarks, we might prefer a town that has a signature dish or wine that is not to be missed. I am not well educated when it comes to Italy, so any suggestions are welcome. We are doing 7-9 days. Thanks!
It would be well worth your while to spend 15-20 minutes scrolling thru the many posts that are already here regarding dining, wine-tasting, eating, etc. in Rome, Tuscany, Florence, the Amalfi Coast, etc. There are even posts regarding honeymoons in Italy. You can also go to the upper right-hand corner of this page and do a search. There is a ton of helpful information already here for you to review. Good luck and congratulations on your wedding!
Here is a past thread on honeymooning in Italy:
I honestly can't recall a single previous post that has asked a question like this about Italy, and I consider the super-touristy Florence and Amalfi coast some of the very worst places to eat in Italy.
I'm all for encouraging people to look at past threads, but in this case, I think it would be very unrewarding.
I appreciate your comments. I did mention Florence & the Amalfi Coast as they are "romantic" destinations that might be honeymoon appropriate.
As an aside, I would argue that the boiled beef sandwich at Nerbone is, in and of itself, worth a visit to Florence.
In fact, there have been threads on what are the best eating regions in Italy, where to find local specialties, etc.
As always (and has been mentioned on many past threads), Fred Plotkin's "Italy for the Gourmet Traveler" is an excellent guidebook for providing an overview (as well as specific recommendations) for the various regional & local cuisines of Italy.
Never had the boiled beef sandwich at Nerbone so you could be right.
I find the past threads on Chowhound often difficult to decipher -- or even locate. I generally end up going to google and typing up what I can remember were the key words in a thread. But I just can't recall one where somebody had the idea that, for a memorable honeymoon, instead of going to a conventional "don't miss" sightseeing town, they might enjoy a "signature dish" eating town -- and was asking for help in finding that.
It's a fun, romantic idea -- and since so many of Italy's best eating towns are unjustly underappreciated in terms of their beauty and atmosphere, it's a real win-win and I hope they are interested in going beyond the the usual-suspect honeymoon places, some of which have now acquired a manufactured honeymoon atmosphere in addition to substandard food.
It is worth the cover price and shipping costs to go to Amazon and order Fred Plotkin's Italy for the Gourmet Traveler, which will tell you precisely what the historic signature dishes are from many towns within day-trip reach of Rome, all the rest of Italy and also the most marvelous dishes for Rome itself. It is a beautifully written book that will really help you make the most of your experience of Italy. So I highly encourage you to order it. It also has some restaurant recommendations, some of which are golden (like Armando al Pantheon in Rome) and others which might have closed, so check back here about any restaurants you are interested in.
It may surprise you to learn that Naples -- only an hour by train from Rome -- is actually an off-the-beaten track destination in Italy when it comes to mass tourism, and it is the very birthplace of pizza, as well as many singular pastries and pasta dishes -- in general it's a fabulous place to eat and it has nice March weather.
(By the way, even if Rome didn't invent pizza, I think its versions are every bit as good as those in Naples, but they are very different.)
Once you are willing to relocate outside of Rome, rather than just day trip, the possibilities for unique, famous and wonderful dishes are almost infinite, and you needn't worry too much about the weather except in the highest mountains.
If you like risotto, you should go to one of several towns in the North (Vercelli or Mantova). If you like basil pesto -- which is actually wonderful in cold weather -- think about making your way to the Italian Riviera to taste it. There are duck specialties and polenta in the north, extraordinary seafoods on the Adriatic coast. Parmigiano Reggiano in Parma? Dishes with balsamic vinegar in Modena? Pumpkin-stuffed pastas in Ferrara? Exceptional chocolate in Perugia or Torino. Luckily, too, all these places I mentioned have world class art and historic, romantic atmosphere but are not touristy at all. Italy is rather amazing that way.
What kind of food and flavors do you most like to eat?
Late March/early April is Easter time in Rome. It's actually a pretty exciting time to be in town. Nothing wrong with being a tourist since most restauants are on their best behavior.
As far as Naples goes, is it a better day trip, or worth spending a night? I have heard it can be a slightly rougher area to stay, but sounds like the food does not disappoint!
So far we are thinking of maybe flying into Venice and staying for 1 night- I have looked at various threads, but if there is a recent recommendation for 1 dinner there, please share. Taking a train to Bologna for probably 2 nights and either do the Italian Days food tour to get in Modena and Parma.-This concerns me slightly on some of the posts on here regarding some of their restaurants so I am rethinking this slightly, but still thinking it may be worth the visit. From there a train to Rome for 3-4 days. I haven't even begun to search the boards for the best places to eat in Rome so that will be in my near future. Naples would either be a day trip from Rome or an overnight.
We are thinking if we dont have to rent a car and try to navigate through Italy, we would prefer not to. We of course are still thinking this over as I see from the boards that most foodie towns are not off of the train stops.
Would Silicy be something we should look into?
Thanks for the posts. Once I get a better idea of where we will be spending our time, I am sure I will be posting a new thread for restaurant recs.
Thanks for all the advice so far. I am searching every thread I can find and keep changing my mind on locations!
You can have fabulous food and never drive a car or even ride in one. Venice, Padua, Modena, Bologna, Ferrara, Mantua -- all have major train stations and great food. If that area is your orientation, I would save Sicily for another trip. It's a whole different reality and benefits from having a car.
Naples and Florence are both easy day trips from Rome by high-speed train. And the Campania region actually has a good public transport network, so you can do a lot by train or bus, but, again, it's a vast area worth a visit in its own right. If you are determined to hit the gastro high points of Italy, I might fly to Milano and take trains to one or two cities in Emilia-Romagna, then Rome, then Naples, and basta. There is good food in Venice, but it probably wouldn't make the cut of major gastro destinations for a first trip (though I never miss a chance to eat at Da Fiore and Al Covo). Torino probably would. Again, Sicily might still be too much, but you can fly directly to Catania or Palermo and stay there. However, I think most experienced Italian food hounds would say you will eat more and better by concentrating on one or two areas and going for depth rather than breadth.
An example of the sort of place you asked for would be Amatrice, known for its signature pasta more than for its art. But, much as I love both the town and the dish, I wouldn't recommend bothering on a first trip (the surrounding scenery is spectacular, however). Modena, on the other hand, has a world-class duomo as well as great food. You have to do something between meals.
The previous post by mbfant has some of the best advice. If you spend just one day in Venice, you will be stuck with the throng of tourists pushing each other trying to get from one sight to another, nothing but just a passing glimpse of the Rialto Bridge, San Marco, etc. A day here and a day there might be fine if one is taking a tour or a cruise because the logistics and planning are taken care of for you. Otherwise, it is packing, unpacking, finding your way from the airport/train station to the hotel and then getting orientated each day in a different city.
Like others, besides your planned stay in Rome, I would use the remaining few days to concentrate on one other area. Take into account what you want to see/do between meals as well as your food preference. I have found good food in just about every region of Italy. I love seafood so I am more drawn toward the coastal areas (Veneto/Friuli, Liquria, Marche, Sicily). Less so, the richer food areas such as Piedmont or Emilia-Romagna, though I enjoyed visiting both, especially the cities and towns in ER.
Four days in Rome barely scratch the surface, therefore, unless one has a short attention span, I would just stay put rather than trying to make a day trip to Naples which I love but not for a day trip.
4 or 5 days in Sicily is an option; fly to either Catania or Palermo and use them as a base to explore the surrounding areas. Having a car is big plus but we have spent a few days around Catania-Siracusa-Nota by buses (requires a little planning but not difficult). We have done the same for Palermo-Trapani.
My suggestion is start by reading a good general guidebook on Italy (you might already have done that); map out a few itinerary that interests you, then ask this board for their feedback. If it is your first trip to Italy, your interest might be different than those of a repeat visitor.
Below is another earlier thread on your topic:
Hi dee, seeing your post now.
For me it is really hard to give advice without knowing what it is you look forward to eating, and also what you are looking at in terms of a budget. But we could start even more simply: When it comes to wine, red or white?
Despite having dissed the Amalfi above, I realize there is a case to be made for heading south to the Amalfi area in March/early April and eating lemony pasta and lemon-y fish and lemon-y desserts -- I've eaten mozzerella grilled in lemon leaves on Capri -- but if you don't like lemons, why should you go?
If you do want to go, some of the best restaurants serving an all-lemon extravaganza will mean dropping lots of euros, and if you are on a budget in the Amalfi, it is pretty hard to avoid the fate of bad food.
In March there is also a case to be made for some of the rib-sticking unique pastas and rich meat dishes of Ferrara that you really can't get anywhere else -- but if you roll your eyes at the thought of heavy dinners, no good either. And if you were hoping for great wine, not likely. Or if you were suddenly thinking vegetarian basil pesto on the Italian Riviera sounds sublime, it's just as easy to get to from Milan.
If you are not heading south after Rome you certainly can visit Naples as a day trip. It's just an hour away by train.
It's funny, but like mbfant, I had mentioned Amatrice to you in my original post but went back and edited it out because it is so hard to get there by train. I suggested it because your original post seemed to focus on wanting not so much a food "region" but to seek out particular dishes that are unique to a place.
If you would still like to conduct such a treasure hunt as a way of organizing your itinerary to go to beautiful unexpected places -- literally following your nose -- then if you gave some indication of whether you would be thrilled more by rice dishes, or pasta dishes, blue-veined cheeses or mild cheeses or fish or veg or pork or beef or lemons and pizza, it might help others pinpoint towns and restaurants for you that are close enough together you won't be running yourself ragged.
I will definitely look into the cities that mbfont has suggested.
As for Venice, we weren't really going there for food, just thought maybe we shouldn't miss the experience if we were that close.
Barberinibee...I thought I did post on my likes, that must have been the post that didn't end up saving. I thought about basing us in Bologna so we could take advantage of Parma and Modena for what they have to offer.
Things that we like/love in no particular order:
Cheeses: we do not discriminate, we pretty much love them all from a mild to a strong stinky cheese. I make a cheese plate for us before dinner several times a week.
Charcuterie: Prosciutto, Coppa, Bresaola, and any other salumi we can get our hands on. Just recently had a great duck sausage and a wonderful wild boar.
Pasta! My husband's love for Pasta is 2nd to his love for me. And he loves me a lot. So, we plan on going heavy on the pasta. It doesn't mean we want all heavy dishes, but we want to try many. We love meaty sauces as well as lighter oil or brown butter sauces and everything in between. Filled and unfilled pasta.
Rice dishes- we do like a really good risotto, but overall would go for pasta over rice.
Anything with fresh mushrooms is always a winner as well.
Meats: we are a big fan of most meats but I cannot see us wanting a steak in Italy as we can get that here. Wild Boar, Duck, Lamb, Goat, Saugage, Veal, Pork...Yes. I also have seen posts that the roasted meats can sometimes be dry, so we would probably stay away from roasts. Plus I make a lot of roasted meat at home anyway.
Seafood: we are big seafood fans, but less fish and more shellfish. We love- Shrimp, Crab, Lobster, Octopus, Calamari, Escargot, Mussels, Clam, Scallops...
Olives, Olive Oil, Vinegar
After looking back on this list, I realize it may have been quicker for me to mention what we dislike. We really do like to eat and drink wine. :)
As far as budget for eating, we don't really have one although we are not looking to dine at the most expensive place in town. I do not wish to spend a $1000.00 on a meal.
I know that we are thinking now at least 10 days, but of course we will be able to plan better once we get cities nailed down. I have heard Easter week can be a busy one, so I think we are now thinking the week after may be best, so begining of April.
As far as other activities, I am not too worried because it looks lke any city we go to will be filled with great sites to see and things to do.
I'm sure others will want to chime in, but you did elaborate your likes and they do say to me that Emilia-Romagna would be a wonderful place for you to enjoy eating in Italy, and it is rich with marvelously beautiful, atmospheric towns that will be lovely in the beginnings of spring.
Given your love of charcuterie there is an argument to be made that you'd be thrilled to base yourselves in Parma rather than Bologna, which also is a uniquely beautiful town with excellent train connections that would give you a taste of Bologna as well. But if you end up basing in Bologna, you might want to make special note of having one of your dinners at All'Osteria Bottega, and let them pick your wine for you as well as helping you with their menu of cured meats. It won't be cheap but you won't be anywhere in the vicinity of $1000 per meal, that's for sure.
There are many fine places for memorable pasta in so many forms in the Emilia-Romagna region, for lunch and for dinner. Based in Bologna, it is not hard to include the unique pastas of Ferrara on a luncheon day trip. Based in Parma, it can be worth the train trip to the sweet Tuscan town of Pontremoli, along an antique pilgrim's route, to eat testatoli, a kind of ur-pasta of Italy, somewhat like a cut-up crepe, dressed in pesto sauces.
It is worth reading up on the many different classic pastas of the central Emilia-Romagna, because so often people only hear about tagliatelle al ragu or tortellini in brodo, but there are actually at least half a dozen luscious common pastas -- in brodo, or with mushrooms, or baked in lasagne, or stuffed with cheese, herbs, dressed with butter and sage -- that are so worth sampling while you are there.
It's easy to track down seafood dishes in Rome and also there is more than one great cheese shop there that Chowhound's Rome contingent can guide you to and virtually through. There are also world-class cheeses in Emilia-Romagna worth sampling on their home ground (and taking back home, vacuum packed, from Salumeria Garibaldi in Parma).
Vinegar in Emilia-Romagna, but I suggest doing your olive and oil shopping in Rome.
We are not allowed on Chowhound to give hotel recommendations, but if you ask on Frommer's message board, you can get honeymoon-worthy suggestions for both Bologna and Parma that don't break the bank.
have a great time!
Yes -- thanks for catching my typo. Testaroli is served in trattorie mainly now in the Lunigiana and southern Liguria. I can't recall ever finding it served on the street, but I've not been everywhere. The Osterie d'Italia guide I have closest at hand gives both Antica Trattoria Pellicia and Da Busse in Pontremoli as exemplary places for sampling i testaroli a pesto. It's a simple train ride from Parma, 75 minutes, for a lovely bite of Tuscany and Liguria rolled into one, a distinctly different taste from the primi of Emilia-Romagna and Rome.
Personally, if i were honeymooning in Italy, I would want to spend some time where I could experience spring. Tuscany will be relatively cold in April, for example.
Of the places I have been that I would like to return to in spring Campania is at the top of the list. We were in Ravello at end of Mar and the lemon blossoms on the hillsides smelled beautiful. April is still offseason for that area so the beach and resort scene is not happening but walking through the hills, viewing the stupendous scenery and visiting the little villages in the area is extremely pleasant. Spending a couple of days on the Amalfi Coast, the Sorrentine Peninsula or Capri, with a visit to Naples and Pompeii/Herculaneum could be a very nice complement to a Rome stay.
The food in Campania is very different from that in the north, lighter, with wonderful vegetables and fresh local cheeses, and they have a great touch with seafood. I think it would be a good contrast to Rome foodwise as well as ambiance-wise.
As far as charcuterie, while a trip to Parma, etc would be wonderful, there is plenty of charcuterie and cheese in Rome - one advantage of Rome as capital is that it has products from all over. You dont need to go to Modena or E-R generally to buy balsamic (its no bargain anywhere!) when Volpetti in Rome will give you a tasting. I think you could have eye-opening experiences without ever leaving Rome. In E-R, assuming you are taking the train and not driving, Parma is the most attractive of the cities i have visited so far, prosperous, pleasant for strolling and cultural touring, with a passionate food culture.
PS - the plan of flying into Venice and taking the train down to Rome is not bad. Venice is plenty romantic and unique - you dont need to spend your time there in crowds in San Marco, and if you follow the recommendations here you will eat well. I think for such a short visit, two or 3 destinations is enough - you will find out if you like Italy and want to return.
re: jen kalb
I would agree with Jen that further south is safer in April, although even then, no guarantees. We were in Ravello mid-to-late April 2012 and had lots of cold, rainy weather, but that is less typical at that time of year in that location. Despite the weather, it was still stunningly gorgeous, and you would certainly get your seafood fix. (By contrast, I spent my 40th birthday--March 1st, quite a few years ago-- in Rome, and it was so much warmer than here in New England that it was a lovely choice.Bottom line: for weather, it's a tough call.) I would really just pick a region, or a city or two, with both something you would like to see as well as something you would like to eat. Much more enjoyable to delve a bit into one place.
I am an Amalfi Coast girl. If you enjoy the off season feel of resort towns a drive down to Positano/Ravello/Amalfi is beautiful.
We went last year on an unexpectedly warm March weekend and it was simply amazing. It is easy to maneuver the windy road and explore towns that are usually packed in the summer season.
We went here for Sunday lunch.
Ristorante Da Armandino di Praiano
Via Marina di Praia 1
We are staying in Praisano and, based on Hound recs, went out of our way to try Da Armandino. Maybe it was a bad night. Maybe it was different season, but our dinner was - at best - mediocre. Two microwaves visible in the kitchen. The food was "fine." I had a zucchini flower (which I love) that was stuffed with ricotta and sausage that I didn't finish. The sausage just tasted off.
We left and came to Il Pino to finish dinner, which was wonderful. Don't know what went off, but I could never recommend it. If it's close, why not? If it's aways away, don't bother. We have had other much better meals here.