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Long range planning for Rome and Siena with my parents

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Several of you on this board (especially PBSF and Jen Kalb) were wonderfully helpful last year in helping me plan some great chowish stops during a trip to Venice with my wife's family. Now I'm doing some long-range planning for a few days spent in Rome and one day in Siena with my parents next spring. It will be their first time in either place and my first time in Rome since backpacking (I've never been to Siena). I'm much more of a foodie than they are, but they'll be up for anything, although I'd like to avoid super-expensive restaurants - unless it's a place that just cannot be missed. They'll get more out of smaller places that are loved by locals.

I know there are plenty of threads about both places, and I've started looking through them, but I had a few specific questions to start my thinking:

1. I'll likely arrange the trip with different days in different neighborhoods, so I'm currently starting to think about lunch places (can be pizza or sandwiches or markets or something similarly casual) (1) near Vatican City, (2) between the Pantheon and the Villa Borghese, and (3) near the Colosseum/Forum area.

2. For dinner, we can go anywhere, but for one night, I was thinking of going to Trastavere in the evening after the day spent at the Vatican. Would love some thoughts on places to go there.

3. Is there anywhere that we'll need reservations long in advance?

4. Rome's best markets for getting picnic supplies?

5. Great, non-touristy gelato places?

6. In Siena, are there one or two places not to be missed?

Any guidance on those questions will definitely help me get to thinking and having the fun of planning the trip. Also any thoughts on places to stay would be appreciated as well (I'd love to find a great, small hotel with modern amenities in an ancient setting).

Thanks in advance!!

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  1. I enjoyed Hosteria Nerone (near the Colosseum) and Armando al Pantheon.

    I would suggest that you not plan to eat dinner in Trastevere the same day you are touring the Vatican. It is likely that once sightseeing is over, you will want to return to your lodgings before heading out to dinner. It is somewhat deceptive looking at a map that the Vatican and Trastevere can be conveniently paired. There is no easy/enjoyable way to get from the actual entrance/exit of the Vatican museums to the central piazza of Trastevere (very much worth enjoying).

    I would recommend an apartment over a hotel for a stay of any longer then 3 days, which will give you an opportunity to enjoy some simple meals at the end of the day, bought from fabulous cheese stores and bakeries, with sliced tomatoes or whatever might be in season, maybe some eggs and herbs, and of course fruit and wine. If you pick an apartment around Campo de'Fiori or the Largo Argentina, it is actually not a long walk to Trastevere from there, so you could go for dinner there easily. If you don't want an apartment, then Gens Julia, Ponte Sisto or Barrett are very convenient to eating in Trastevere or the Jewish Ghetto, the Campo de'Fiori markets, cheese shops (Beppe) and delis and bakeries, plus some wonderful places to have coffee and buy pastries (Cafffe Camerino).

    But once you have chosen a place to stay it is easier to give recommendations about where to eat in the evening. You might not want to walk a great distance from your lodgings after an active day in the city.

    1. Siena has a little of everything. A fun funky little trattoria is the Trattoria La Torre , to the right of city hall. If you want to people watch, i love the wine bar, liberamente- young and fun. great wines and great food

      http://www.divinacucina.com

      1. 1. I'll likely arrange the trip with different days in different neighborhoods, so I'm currently starting to think about lunch places (can be pizza or sandwiches or markets or something similarly casual) (1) near Vatican City, (2) between the Pantheon and the Villa Borghese, and (3) near the Colosseum/Forum area.

        Options in these areas have been discussed at length here.

        2. For dinner, we can go anywhere, but for one night, I was thinking of going to Trastavere in the evening after the day spent at the Vatican. Would love some thoughts on places to go there.

        Trastevere. As barberinibee says, there is no logistical advantage.

        3. Is there anywhere that we'll need reservations long in advance?

        Nope. A few days is usually plenty except at megabuck levels.

        4. Rome's best markets for getting picnic supplies?

        I have recently realized (better late than never) that people who don't live in Italy often mean stores or shops when they say "markets," while here in Italy, market means a place with stalls, usually outdoors or in a large structure. All markets are good sources of picnic supplies and are often surrounded by shops. And really any decent "alimentari" shop will do fine. Go to the one near where you're staying.

        5. Great, non-touristy gelato places?

        Discussed at length here.

        1. Hi everyone - this trip is actually getting much closer, and things are coming together. As it turns out, I'll be with my parents in Rome, and also driving through Volterra on the way there, and then in Florence for a night.

          In Rome, largely based on suggestions from this board, so far we have booked at Roscioli, Armando al Pantheon, and we're planning to grab slices for lunch at Pizzarium after seeing the Vatican one day. Plus, we're going to try to get reservations at Il Gabriello, which my parents have heard good things about.

          Last piece of the Rome puzzle would be a dinner in Trastavere. Any suggestions there would be appreciated - thank you!

          In Florence, I'll be there just one night, and I was thinking Cipolla Rossa. Interested in the reaction from the board.

          Again, thanks very much!