Itinerary Review- Florence, Rome, Sorrento, Maremma
My wife and I will be making our second trip to Italy in late May and after reviewing many posts on this site as well as numerous other resources, I'm looking for any comments on where we plan to dine. Most of these places I'm sure are familiar to everyone so I'm really looking for comments along the lines of recent changes at the restaurant that may be important (change in chef, remodel) or if I've not considered something important (open/closing times, too many places of similar style, etc.) My wife is a ovo-lacto vegetarian which always influences some of our choices.
Arrive in Rome and take the train to Grosseto for 3 nights at L'andana outside Castiglione della Pescaia. We stayed here on our first trip to Italy and thoroughly enjoyed the food at both the fine dining restaurant (which won't be open at the time of our visit) and the more casual hotel restaurant. Our plan is to stay on site for this part of the trip, but would be interested if there is anywhere especially interesting nearby as we won't have a car.
Train to Florence for 2 nights
Dinners- Il Santo Bevitore, IO Osteria Personale
Lunch/snacks- 'Ino, Coquinarius, Le Volpe e L'Uva, La Bussola
Seriously considered Ora D'Aria and our hotel restaurant Il Palaggio for one of the dinners, but am leaning toward the more casual options.
Train to Sorrento for 2 nights
Dinner is included in our hotel rate for one night and the other is currently wide open as my research has confirmed that Sorrento is not a dining destination. Would be interested in any recommendations for dinner within a reasonable taxi distance (any budget/formality level).
Train to Rome for 3 nights before returning home:
In Rome, lunches will be dictated by where we are while food will dictate our evening plans.
Dinners- Roscioli (Friday), Metamorfosi (Saturday), Perilli (Sunday)
Lunch/snacks-Pizzarium, Pizzeria Al Leoncino, Il Goccetto, Il Piccolo, Le Barrique
We're fairly knowledgeable about wine and coffee and would be interested in any recommendations for wine bars in Rome with great selections of older Barolo/Brunello/Barbaresco (both to enjoy in the bar and retail) as well as high quality coffee shops.
Any insight or comments are much appreciated and I'll definitely report on my experiences upon return.
Recently returned from our trip and here’s a recap of our restaurant experiences.
For the first three nights of our trip, we stayed at L’andana outside of Grosseto. We had visited here on our honeymoon four years ago and had loved the whole experience with the food coming from their casual restaurant, La Villa, being a highlight. We’ve seen more of the world and have definitely eaten in more quality restaurants since then so we were curious to see if we’d enjoyed it as much this time. We shouldn’t have worried as the ingredient quality, service and execution over 3 dinners, 3 breakfasts, 2 lunches, and 1 brunch was even more impressive this time. The style of the food is straightforward, but the ingredient level is where the dishes shine. The 1* restaurant (Trattoria Toscana) was set to open in a week so many of the staff of their formal restaurant were on hand making the basic restaurant operate on an even higher level. I definitely recommend this hotel and restaurant to anyone looking for a refined, but relaxed experience in the Maremma region.
We then moved onto Florence. We didn’t get to see as much of Florence as we’d initially planned, but we had a lovely dinner at Il Santo Bevitore where we appreciated the playfulness of the cooking and the friendly service. The restaurant is also incredibly charming and a place I would go to often if I could.
We decided shortly before leaving for Italy to plan a day-trip from Florence to Modena for lunch at Osteria Francescana. I’d worried that sacrificing time in Florence was a mistake, but we had a world class meal. We ordered the longest menu and were impressed by the consistent excellence of the menu from start to finish. The modernist touches weren’t used to distract the diner from poor ingredient quality or for shock value, but just added a level of creativity and quirkiness that we appreciated. The highlights of the meal were the foie gras ravioli and a squab dish that were just perfect (made even better by the Barolo we had ordered), but I’d be happy to have any of the 12-14 courses again. I would note that my wife is vegetarian and though we’d noted this on our reservation and the restaurant said that accommodating her would be no problem, they seemed very surprised when we ordered the long tasting menu and they were not able to prepare a menu for her that had the same number of courses so she had 4-5 fewer courses than I did. However, what they did serve her was no less delicious than my menu so she left happy. Perhaps I should’ve pre-notified them of our intention to order the long menu, but it’d seem better for the restaurant to be more proactive about this in the future. Service was extremely professional, but not especially warm or welcoming. This did not bother us, but I could see how others could be put off by it. Overall, one of the better meals we’ve ever had and I have no regrets about making the trip to Modena for the meal.
Not in the mood for going out again after returning from to Florence from Modena, we decided to stay in at our hotel and eat at the bar. Usually this is a bad idea, but the Four Seasons Florence bar is not one’s average hotel bar. The risotto and pasta in their most basic dining area puts 99% of the pasta in the US to shame. Their cocktails (the Negroni cart was devastatingly good) and wine options are also world class so while I’d definitely do this again and would wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone; I would agree that it was not a very “Florence” food experience.
From Florence we went to Sorrento and Amalfi and as expected food to a back seat to scenery and relaxation for this portion of the trip. We didn’t dine anywhere worth noting, but did enjoy our time in this part of Italy.
We then finished our trip with three nights in Rome. On the first night, we went to Roscioli and the food was uniformly excellent. Roscioli’s gnocchi will be a reference point to all other gnocchi in the future and the carbonnara was also fantastic. We also had some meat and cheese and everything was of very high quality. The only negative of the meal was that the service went from good to nonexistent as the night went on and though we had ordered more wine, it never appeared (we weren’t charged for it, but with a wine list that good, we had all wanted to take advantage of it). That said, I’d definitely return here as the menu was full of things I wanted to try and recommend it as the execution and quality of the food is worth it.
We had nice simple lunch at Cavour 313 after some sightseeing and would recommend it if one is in the area.
Our second dinner in Rome was at Metamorfosi and this place exceeded my expectations. At the 1* level, there is much variability, but I felt that Metamorfosi was a rising 1* that paid attention to all the details and provided an all around great dining experience. We had the shorter classics tasting menu and especially enjoyed the pasta courses. The bread service was also a highlight. The service team was friendly and did everything they could to help us have a good time and enjoy ourselves. Definitely recommend for a more formal night out in Rome and not a bad value in terms of cost for this level.
Our last night in Rome was at Perilli and this was quite a bit of fun. We had the cacio e peppe and carbonnara to start and then had the rabbit and pork and finished with a variety of desserts. The pastas were standouts and I’d return just for the pasta and the atmosphere. We also had a cheeky waiter who added to the charm of the place.
The coffee situation was as expected (poor to average) as even in the nicest of places, the cappuccinos weren’t all that well made and below the quality of what one can find in the US and other European cities. I did try San Eustachio (espresso only) and other than being conveniently located to the Pantheon can find no reason for it being recommended as an actual coffee destination. It has character and atmosphere, but not great coffee. I do love the overall coffee culture of Italy and was quite happy being able to stop into countless old charming bars for a quick espresso, but find it surprising that the third wave coffee styled shop hasn’t taken hold in Rome.
I didn’t get to shop around for wines as much as I’d hoped, but that’s just a reason to go back to Italy some other time…
Thanks to all for the recommendations and for helping my wife and I have a great time eating and drinking in Italy.
In terms of lunch for Florence I would opt for La volpe e l'uva and Coquinarius. Don't know la bussola. Also, I personally like Il santo bevitore better for lunch than dinner. On that side of the Arno for dinner I like Le Barrique (no relation to the one in Rome) on Via del Leone. A jewel of a place with outside seating. It's more expensive than Il Santo Bevitore but the caliber of food is higher.
You've certainly done your research!
Florence: All good choices. I tend to go towards Ora d'Aria over Palaggio. A bit less stuffy.
Rome choices all good. Leoncina is open at lunch, if you feel like pizza at midday.
Wine: You might want to try Achille al Parlemento if you are interested in the 'important' wines. You can both taste and buy a lot of the older ones.
Look forward to hearing back from you.
Coffee in Rome: the obvious of course is Tazza d'Oro and San Eustachio
I agree Sorrento is not the best dining destination.
My advices is to hop on a ferry and spend a day in Capri at one of the swanky beach clubs (Da Luigi, il Fontelina or Il Faro)
Or head to Positano. If it is a weekend go to Da Adolfo (they may not be open during the week in May) Bar Bruno is excellent. Chez Black has a great location, decent food and friendly service.
In Rome il Piccoli is a charming spot. I also like al Vino al Vino in Monti.
Love your dinner choices for rome, except maybe perilli, but it surely has its supporters.. For lunch, am not sure if leoncino is open midday but even if it is, not necessarily a recommendation. Goccetto and barrique will be great for having a glass of wine.
Best older wine selection in rome you will find at costantini, on piazza cavour, definitely go by. But i also strongly suggest trying other wines of italy and not only the big B's :) You can try some new things at Goccetto and Barrique or even further your education at a wine tasting.
Thanks for the thoughts and recommendations everyone.
Re: Vinorama- trust me, we will definitely be drinking wines from all over Italy. We love all sorts of Italian wines and we learned that there's no end to the variety and exploration of Italian wines. It's just difficult to find the older "big B's" (great term) where I'm from so I want to try to find some to both enjoy while in Italy and maybe bring home. We also found great deals on wine in France so we're hoping to do the same while in Italy. I'll definitely add Constantini to the list.
Leoncino may not be a great pizza place, but we went there on our first trip to Rome so if we can, we may head back for nostalgic reasons.
Thanks for your thoughts and coffee recommendations. I'd read about San Eustachio, but any place that automatically put sugar in their espresso kind of violates my coffee rules (I'm borderline an obnoxious coffee snob, maybe not even borderline). Definitely a place with a lot of character though and we may check it out just for the experience.
Spending the day at Capri sounds pretty ideal. Thanks for that recommendation.