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Advice for lunch/dinner plans with 2 weeks in Italy

Wanting some feedback on a possible itinerary for 2 food fanatics with 14 nights in Italy.
Staying in Rome/Florence/Bologna/Venice.

We realize a lot of great places will be outside of the city and need a car (like places in Emilia Romagna). But we aren't going to be spending enough time in each city to merit always getting a car. So looking for great places nearer to cities.

We haven't accounted for what is open when depending on what days we are there. Just wanting to get an idea if we are picking good places or if some should be swapped/replaced.

Here is how I broke it down:

Rome Lunch - Der Pallaro (heard mixed things, but sounds fun)
Rome Dinner - Restaurante Paris
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Rome Lunch - Roma Spirita
Rome Dinner - Il Convivio Troiani (or maybe Il Pagliaccio)
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Rome Lunch - Sora Lella
Rome Dinner - Felice a Testaccio
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Rome Lunch - Pizzarium
Rome Dinner - Nonna Betta e il Giardino Romano
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Florence Lunch - Trattoria Cibreo
Florence Dinner - Il Latini
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Florence Lunch - Trattoria Mario
Florence Dinner - Il Santo Bevitore
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Florence Lunch - ? ( we will rent a car this day to tour one or two Tuscan towns, not sure which)
Florence Dinner - Del Fagoli
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Florence Lunch - Nerbone
Florence Dinner - Ora d'Aria
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Bologna Lunch - Ristorante Ciacco
Bologna Dinner - al Pappagallo
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Bologna Lunch - Osteria Francescana (Modena)
Bologna Dinner - Da Cesari
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Bologna Lunch - All'Osteria Bottega (or maybe a daytrip to Parma)
Bologna Dinner - Marco Fadigo Bistrot
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Venice Lunch - Alle Testiere
Venice Dinner - Al Covo
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Venice Lunch - Bar hop including Cantina Do Mori
Venice Dinner - Anice Stellato
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Venice Lunch - Da Romano (Burano)
Venice Dinner - Alla Madonna

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  1. Hi Heeney,

    if you don't mind my saying, and perhaps others will disagree, but I think that once you have decided which days of what month you will be where and whether you are willing to rent a car for the Emilia-Romagna, it's fairly impossible to discuss your choices (at least for Emilia-Romagna).

    Perhaps you don't know the cost of some of these restaaurants, but you appear to be willing to spend a huge amount of money on food, twice a day -- and many of your choices in Emilia-Romagna commit you to much more rich and fancy food than most anyone could enjoyably eat twice a day.

    Apparently you've already picked up from past threads that "food fanatics" do not stay in Bologna. There is really no reason for you to be spending the kind of money you are contemplating for your Emilia-Romagna stay. If for some reason you must or genuinely prefer to stay in Bologna, the better strategy for food fanatics is to enjoy simpler places and the markets.

    But none of it is worth going into in detail without knowing what month you are traveling and what days you intend to be where.

    13 Replies
    1. re: barberinibee

      Well, nothing is even really set yet. But it would be in early summer sometime.
      I've seen a lot of conflicting comments of people talking about how Bologna is not up to par with the rest of the region. Hence my comment about limiting ourselves to not having a car.
      Osteria Francescana is a big draw for us to the region. And we picked Bologna as the place to stay because its the most logical one and we are not just traveling for food. But also for sightseeing.

      I realize the prices of the places I listed. And we would be happy to reign it in to avoid overdoing it. If there are different places in the area you'd suggest I'd love to hear it.

      1. re: Heeney

        If you're a "food fanatic", why are you going to Cibreo, Latini and Pappagallo? These are not places to go if you are really interested in food.

        1. re: allende

          Um, because those are places I heard had excellent food.
          But I could always be misinformed, hence my posting here.

          1. re: Heeney

            @Heeney,

            There isn't much conflict about whether Bologna should be regarded as a "food fanatic" destination when it comes to restaurant dining. Everybody agrees it should not. The only conflict is about how to advise people who have no choice but to be in Bologna and can't be leaving the city for meals.

            Don't know what your sightseeing priorities are and whether you are open to having a car. Having one isn't likely to interfere with your sightseeing. If you choose not to have a car (and you should ignore people who look down on you for that!), maybe the way you should approach Bologna is to track down some of the city's specialties rather than aim for "fine" dining or "innovative" dining. No Bolognese restaurant is going to match Osteria Francescana in that category, so don't set yourself up for expensive disappointment.

            There are a couple of food experiences and dishes in Bologna that you might have fun tracking down if you are inevitably going to be there, because you might not readily find them elsewhere in the region. Depends on what you like to eat and if you are okay with funky trattorie or picnics.

            But first it would help to know what date you plan to reserve at Osteria Francescana, and whether the decision about a car is final (and what that is).

            1. re: barberinibee

              Ok. I can always check back here with more info when more is final. But I'd love to hear your suggestions in Bologna ahead of time so I can plan with those in mind.
              We would LOVE funky trattorie and picnics, so let us know. That was my whole point in posting this thread.
              But Francescana would be for certain. And we're 90% sure there would be no car in Bologna.
              The reason for this is simply because we are doing 14 nights in 4 different cities and already renting a car for a day in Tuscany. We really don't want to spend every single day traveling around my train and car.
              I understand the freedom of renting the car (we had a great lunch at Etxebarri in the Basque Country a while back as a result), but with all the work around directions and parking and picking up and dropping off rentals we both decided that we have to find a happy medium between traveling for great food and also stopping to actually relax and enjoy vacation.

              1. re: Heeney

                My view of it is that you really want that meal to Osteria Francescana to be centerpiece of your stay, and that you should plan your other meals around that event. The food throughout the region tends to be rich, and if you eat a lot of it ahead of your planned meal at Osteria Francescana, you can end up walking in the door of this world-famous restaurant wishing you didn't have to face another plate of food. Likewise, you aren't necessarily going to be looking for another restaurant meal shortly after eating at Osteria Francescana.

                Also, you might reconsider -- if Osteria Francescana is a key reason you included the Emilia-Romagna on your trip -- whether you would like that meal to be lunch or dinner. Some people would immediately say lunch. Others, dinner -- it's a purely personal choice, but if you think you might prefer dinner, then you might want to base yourselves in Modena. You might find it is not hard at all to complete a sightseeing agenda from Modena using the trains (and there is really no reason for you to feel a need to explain your preference for not having a car for your vacation. One of my favorite things about no longer living in America is not having a car.)

                It's just easier to suggest what might be a really digestible and delightful experience of Emilia-Romanga once you've posted whether you are having lunch or dinner at Osteria Francescana on a Sunday or a Tuesday, and where you otherwise plan to be touring during lunch and dinner hours during that time frane. Otherwise, we end up posting recommendations only to have you discover they'll be closed the one day you'll be near there, or that it's the wrong choice for dinner if you've eaten lunch in Osteria Francescana, etc.

                In the meantime, Plotkin is a great resource for understanding the variety of regional cuisine and the local specialties, so if you visit particular towns, it isn't necessarily about sitting down to a grand meal at the most famous restaurant, but rather enjoying a dish unique to the locality.

                1. re: barberinibee

                  We have toyed with the idea of staying in Modena.
                  We just picked Bologna because it sounds like it has more to see and do.
                  Thanks. I'll check back when more is definite.

                  1. re: Heeney

                    In case it wasn't clear, my reference to "Plotkin" is the book by Fred Plotkin called "Italy for the Gourmet Traveler." It is a marvelous read, especially for understanding the specialities of the Emilia-Romagna, a region he has a special feeling for.

                    Bologna is definitely a larger city than Modena, and if you are not planning to do many day trips, then Bologna also has its extensive morning food markets as well as many other sights.

                    1. re: barberinibee

                      OK. Well 2 weeks in Italy is a go now (in May). Since I have more info I'll include it along with lunch and dinner plans version 2.0.
                      Feedback is appreciated:

                      Arrive in Rome on Sunday.

                      Day 1 (Sunday)
                      Lunch - Sora Lella
                      Dinner - Nonna Betta

                      Day 2
                      Lunch - Pizzarium
                      Dinner - Roscioli

                      Day 3
                      Lunch - Antico Forno Roscioli
                      Dinner - L'Arcangelo or Pipero al Rex

                      Day 4
                      Lunch - Trattoria da Teo
                      Dinner - Felice a Testaccio or Checchino Dal 1887

                      Go to Florence

                      Day 5
                      Lunch - Del Fagioli
                      Dinner - Trattoria Cammillo or Borgo San Jacopo or Trattoria Cibreo

                      Day 6
                      Lunch - Nerbone
                      Dinner - Il Santo Bevitore

                      Day 7
                      Lunch - Mario
                      Dinner - Ora d'Aria

                      Day 8
                      Lunch - Not sure, plan to rent a car to visit maybe Pienza and San Gimi
                      Dinner - Not sure, it's a sunday and most everything seems closed. I know Il Latini was recommended to remove from the list. But it's open Sunday.

                      Go to Bologna

                      Day 9
                      Lunch - Giampi e Ciccio
                      Dinner - All'Osteria Bottega

                      Day 10
                      Lunch - Osteria Francescana (Modena)
                      Dinner - Scacco Matto

                      Day 11
                      Lunch - Serghei OR Daytrip to Parma or Verona
                      Dinner - Marco Fadiga Bistrot

                      Go to Venice

                      Day 12
                      Lunch - Anice Stellato
                      Dinner - Alla Madonna

                      Day 13
                      Lunch - Chicetti from various bars
                      Dinner - Alle Testiere

                      Day 14
                      Lunch - Da Romano or Gato Nero
                      Dinner - Al Covo or Il Ridotto

                      1. re: Heeney

                        1. this looks better but it still feels like too many meals - Id keep some wine bar type restaurants in mind in case you dont really feel like a big meal in the evening - on your first day in Rome for example.

                        2. For your day out of florence I recommend finding a good relaxed country restaurant for a long Sunday lunch. If you start a new thread to ask for ideas for this you will probably get some good recommendations. Il Latini is not a good idea for an evening meal after a good lunch. Its a classic pigout tourist restaurant with notso special food. Not a good end to what should be a relaxing classic day for you.

                        3. We usually try to sit down for lunch (rest from touring) with a light dinner. Better on the stomach and also the feet - personal preference, which conforms to the middlay closings of many stores and attranctions. It seems to me you have a lot of lunches planned where you really wont get that chance to relax midday.

                        Look forward to hearing back about your trip.

                        1. re: Heeney

                          Hi,

                          For the Bologna portion of your trip, I wouldn't eat at Giampi e Ciccio for lunch your first day. I would look for something lighter, in particular a lunch of passatelli in brodo or tortellini brodo, and I personally would probably go for Bistrot 18 on via Clavature if it is open on Monday. Or Serghei if they are open for lunch that day, but only to eat a lighter pasta in brodo and maybe a secondo of melon or grilled vegetables.

                          I ate at Giampi e Ciccio a few weeks ago and I couldn't tell if it was the bite of austerity or the fact it had been a bitterly snowy day in Bologna that made the dinner sub-quality, but I would look for someplace else for that first lunch, and I would keep it simple and save yourself for Osteria all'Bottega (which you must reserve well in advance).

                          I recently read an Itallian food blog that declared the tagliatelle al ragu at Osteria all'Bottega the "best in Bologna." I've not had it there (and it's not my fave Bolognese dish anyway), but if you are thinking of making a point of sampling it while in Bologna, you might wait until you get to Osteria all'Bottega and test the proposition there.

                          If you haven't already, it would be to your advantage to read up on Osteria all'Bottega to learn their focus (cured meats), and if you want to make their house specialites the focus of your meal, know that this experiement doesn't come too cheap. Not the biggest tab you can run up in the center of town, but the per-gram prices for specialty meats can add up. I had a good experience letting the owner of the restaurant choose my wine.

                          I've not eaten at Marco Fadiga Bistrot, and probably never would (just prefer granny pasta). But if I did, i would not want a big meal for lunch. If you end up spending the day in Bologna, rather than go to Serghei. you could shop for an interesting lunch in the open-air markets and take your haul to the very funky Osteria del Sole, in Vicolo Ranocchi, 1/d. For the price of a glass of wine, you can eat your market-purchased lunch at a communal table. (You could also do this your first day in Bologna, if you know you will be there by 11am and are staying in the center of town.)

                          I seriously doubt you will want to eat much of anything after your lunch at Osteria Francescana. Depending on when lunch ends, you could visit Parma the same day, in the afternoon, after 4pm, when the religious sights re-open (but not the theater). On your way back to the train station, you could stop at Salumeria Garibaldi and get the makings of a light dinner.

                          As for Scacco Matto, my own opinion is that reach-comes-periously-close to-exceeding-grasp there. It's pleasant and sweet-natured (a bit inventive but very unpretentious); also unpredictable). But if I was going to bother to sit down and eat, especially fish (Scacco Matto is a pugliese kitchen), I'd go to Teresina. But on the same day with Osteria Franescana? No. You'll be risking a busted gut with either choice.

                          Other people know Veronese food better than I do. My extremely limited experience of it is that it can really stick to your ribs -- thicks grain soups, fat pastas, really rich soft cheeses and duck fat. That said, there are so many gorgeous fruits from that area in summer -- peaches and cherries and melons (likewise in Emilia-Romagna), that I would be on the lookout for those treats in lieu of another heavy meal.

                          Chowhound forbids discussions that veer away from food, but I will point out that Ravenna is a spectacular place which you might want to consider in lieu of Verona (another spectaular place!) and that Ravenna gives you the opportunity for a nice fish lunch -- although you have chances for that in Venice I guess (don't know, others will advise). If you decide to spring for Ravenna, the Osterie d'Italia guide or Gambero Rosso might have good suggestions. A final day in E-R that is a nice fish lunch in Ravenna and then maybe an enoteca-type dinner of cheese and sliced meats (at Divinis? Bistroit 18?) might be nice.

                          You should definitely invest in next year's good restaurant guides when they come out, and a copy of Fred Plotkin's Italy for the Gourmet Traveler, where restaurant recommendations may be out of date but the fundamentals of what unique gems to seek out still hold true. If you understand the regional cuisines of where you are going, you won't end up in too many super-fancy restaurants eating highly manipulated food --- which you can really eat anywhere these days.

                          Hope you enjoy your trip to Italy and report back with your own impressions.

                          1. re: barberinibee

                            Thanks for the advice. We will certainly look for spots to reign in and go lighter.
                            I agree that after Francescana we may indeed want to go light the rest of the day.
                            I'm surprised to hear we would have time to visit parma after a long lunch. But that sounds fun and we will look at doing that.
                            Also, will consider Ravenna.

                            1. re: Heeney

                              I don't know when an elaborate lunch at Osteria Franescana ends, and how quickly you can get from there to the train station. But Parma is 30 minutes by train from Modena, and it shuts up in the mid-afternoon for lunch (including in sights). You just have to look at train schedules. Since the historic center of Parma is a healthy 20-25 minute walk from the Parma train station, you might want to invest in a quicker taxi ride when you get off the train.

                              If you are early risers, you could do it the other way: Parma first, get to Modena by 1.30pm.

                              Also, if you are not planning to go to Ravenna, it may be that Modena or Parma would be a good "base" for you food-wise. Devil is in details. (Like restaurant opening days and train skeds, appealing hotel....)

      2. Similar objection to Rome choices - a food fanatic would not eat in many of these. How did you put your choices together, they seem to be very "old", as in recommended years ago but not anymore (quality of most restaurants in rome does change fast). For example, der Pallaro is a terrible place that only hoards of bus-travel groups like. Paris used to be good, but quality has went down. Roma sparita has declined since being touted by bourdain, food and service are below any standards. Convivio troiani has stayed in at least a decade ago (though have to admit maureen whom i respect a lot likes it), pagliaccio is very good but also another of the uninteresting-if-visiting-just-for-few-days, international type. There are more interesting fine dining restaurants in rome at the moment (metamorfosi, pipero al rex, all'oro, glass).sora lella might be one of the best choices on your list (for what it is, in its category of traditional roman jewish cuisine), felice is not the same since felice himself died (checchino or cesare al casaletto much better choices), pizzarium is great, nonna betta is one of the best in the jewish ghetto.

        2 Replies
        1. re: vinoroma

          My choices were put together based off early research of well rated places. Like Michelin, Gambero Rosso, and yes, Bourdain.
          It's been years and years since we've been and its still just early planning.
          If I knew all the good "new" places there wouldn't be much point in me posting here.
          That's what I need all you for. :)

          Glad to hear Pizzarium is good and so is Nonna Betta. We will certainly keep those. You saying Checchino is good and Felice went downhill is the inverse of what I heard other places so I'll look into that more.

          Heard good things about Pipero al Rex.

          I appreciate that you went the extra mile to include alternate suggestions which is exactly what I was looking for.

          If you were to pick 4 or 5 must vists in Rome what would they be?

          1. re: vinoroma

            I haven't been to Convivio in quite some time but have always respected Angelo Troiani and have no reason not to think the place is still good. Not everybody warms to it, however. We went to Pagliaccio about ten days ago for our anniversary and thought it pretty much of a bust -- even though our previous visits had been great. We thought our dinner at Agata e Romeo a couple of months ago was much better. I like Metamorfosi, though my most recent experiences there were for special evenings with set menus. I also like Pipero, but not Glass (two disappointments, e non c'รจ due senza tre, so that's it). We gave up on Sora Lella years ago -- we found it overpriced and half the dishes and wines we asked for weren't available. And the carciofi alla romana tasted boiled. I like All'Oro, but the one time I went without my Italian cavaliere but with two American guests, the service was several degrees less friendly than usual. Pallaro, hmph. Have still not made it to Cesare or Nonna Betta. In Testaccio we are loyal to Checchino. Can't imagine that OP heard Checchino went down and Felice up, but it may be that Checchino is always the same and Felice has renovated since the days of old Felice himself, nothing to do with the kitchen, of course.
            Nobody ever mentions Antonello Colonna on this board, but I like him/it.
            In any case, I think OP has planned too many meals. Best to leave room for bars, gelato, snacks, and spontaneity (NB I do not recommend spontaneity for dinners you care about, except maybe once in a trip).

          2. Oh dear....you've done a lot of research, but somehow have listed a lot of places I would never recommend.

            Rome:
            Take off:
            Pallaro, Paris, Sora Lella, Nonna Betta, Giardino Romano.

            Florence:
            Take off: Latini, The rest of your choices are good. Remember Fagioli is not open on weekends (and doesn't take credit cards)

            Venice: I think Testiere and Covo in one day might be a bit much? They are both excellent, but you may not fully appreciate Covo by the time you get there.
            Burano: I prefer Gatto Nero. I know Bourdain went to Romano, but....

            www.elizabethminchilliinrome.com

            4 Replies
            1. re: minchilli

              What would you add-on in place of what you took off?

              1. re: Heeney

                If you want a real non-touristy experience at a very off the beaten path place in Florence, and you love wine, I suggest Enotria: http://www.enotriawine.it/eng/home.html. You can get there by bus (17) or taxi from the historical city center. Run by a husband and wife team, their wine by the glass offerings are always intriguing and the food is divine.

                if you're interested in housemade pasta (and another wine nerd wine list), Coquinarius is the only edible restaurant near the Duomo in my opinion. It's on Via delle Oche. It's also open between lunch and dinner which is a rarity in Italy, so good place to go if you're off the normal dining hours for some reason.

                1. re: Bugsey34

                  I would second Coquinarius. It's the type of place I could easily imagine would be a neighborhood spot to hang out, were I so lucky to live in Florence.

                  1. re: lisaonthecape

                    Thanks! I will look at both of those.

            2. Sorry, forgot to add that I'm not a fan of either Felice or Sora Lella.

              1. For Venice:
                Alle Testiere, Al Covo, Anice Stellato are fine.
                Haven't eaten at Da Romano recently (since Bourdain) or in Burano in many years
                As for Alla Madonna, foodwise, I would skip it. My previous experiences, first time 30 years ago, two times more recent have been similar: bacala mantecato has a slight refrigerator taste, sloppy oversauced primi, acceptable grilled branzino (farmed but given the moderate price not a sin) and overlogged contorni. Friends who have eaten there have never found the food more than just acceptable. The display of the seafood and contoni in refrigerator cases when one enter should give it away. It is one those restaurant 'mystery' to me that other people had great food. Could be just my bad luck as it is always packed. Ok if one is looking for a large old-fashioned bustling trattoria with waiters in white tuxedo jackets running about, large menu and moderately priced.
                If you are visiting the bacari around the Riato, make sure it is not on a Sunday (all are closed) or Monday. The pescheria is closed both days and not much going on except tourists.

                1 Reply
                1. re: PBSF

                  We actually had a great lunch at Alla Madonna 2 months ago. Among the things we had - and enjoyed - was a truly great bacala vicentina, seppie in ink with polenta, and I thought the bacala mantecata was quite good. And there is something kind of festive about the big, bustling atmosphere.

                  www.elizabethminchillininrome.com