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Apr 30, 2014 05:25 AM

Staying in Hostels, Eating Inexpensively-Florence and Rome

My son and 4 of his friends are doing the European post-graduation thing, and I am at a loss as to places to recommend that they eat. He has been to Italy once before with me, and unlike most of the friends he will be traveling with, my son has a very sophisticated and adult palate. He definitely does not want to eat in those very touristy spots where the menu is printed in 5 languages.

I would love to give him recommendations for great restaurants that won't break the bank. They will be in Italy towards the end of June. TIA

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  1. Approximate budget? and will there be any cooking facilities at the hostels?

    12 Replies
    1. re: lisaonthecape

      We're still working out the budget, and I am actually trying to figure out what makes sense. We don't want him to pinching pennies at every turn, but we also don't want him dining at the Ritz, so to speak. Not having been in Italy for 4 years, and not having had to economize there for much longer than that, I actually wonder what the right amount is to budget for food. If you have an idea of that too, I'd appreciate it.

      1. re: roxlet

        I should probably give you some context: I have never lived in Italy, but have travelled there for 25 years, so I would certainly defer to the experts on the board living in either city. For a budget (and assuming no cooking facilities), I would recommend at least 75 Euro per day for food. I have two teenaged boys, now 16 & 19, so I am quite familiar with how boys that age can eat. You can certainly balance the budget, saving sometimes with street food and fresh fruit from the markets in exchange for a more expensive dinner, and you may find it easier to have a larger lunch with pizza in the evening (certainly in Rome, not so much in Florence). Breakfasts are pretty easy--typically espresso or cappuccino and a cornetto, maybe buy a piece of fruit or two. Lunches and dinners can vary widely.

        In Florence, look at the following (in no particular order): Il Due Frattelini, , All'Antico Vinaio, Trattoria da Mario, da Sergio (Trattoria Sergio Gozzi), Casalinga, Nerbone @ Mercato Centrale, Cantinetta Verrazano, 'Ino, Zeb, Il Tranvai, Il Santo Bevitore, Osteria Vini e Vecchi Sapori, Trattoria Ruggero, Coquinarius. None of these will break the bank.

        In Rome: certainly not fine dining, but how can you beat 4 Euro for lunch at Pastificio or 13 Euro at L'Asino D'oro? Also I Porchettoni, Osteria Bonelli, the newly-opened Supplizio, Pizzarium (depending on your choice of toppings), Panificio Bonci, the Trionfale Market.

        I would highly recommend some research on Katie Parla's website, (look for budget dining in Rome), Elizabeth Minchilli's apps for both Florence and Rome, Rome Digest as good sources for ideas.

        This should get you started, at least.

        1. re: lisaonthecape

          May i very carefully suggest that i doubt 5 18-19 year old guys without families will go in search of good food? Of course i do not know him and do not want to offend anyone, but this comment is based on observing young tourist groups in rome - the priorities seem to be more about socializing with other young people over a beer or other drinks (at the hostel or campo dei fiori, for example) and eat panini, pizza and pasta whereever they happen to be and find something cheap.
          That said I doubt the 13 euro lunch at l'asino d'oro will even count as an appetizer for an 18 yo guy - i find it just right for me, letting me work the afternoon without weighing me down. Supplizio is great but it is the most expensive street food around - the suppli are 3 euro each and other things are not cheaper. Pizzarium and panificio bonci, watching which toppings you get, are great choices. Porchettoni as well. Roscioli forno and forno campo dei fiori are cheap and good lunch pizza by the slice choices. Pinsere is great, too.

          Here are some examples of prices in regular places (no particular recommended venue) if you are on a budget - breakfast cappuccino 1 euro, pastry 1 euro, fresh orange juice 2-3 euros. Lunch: panini or pizza by the slice for around 5 euros (watch the cans of soda with meals, they are expensive), sit down fix menu lunch at touristier trattoria (in trastevere, in the center, etc) 10-15 euros. Dinner: sit down pizza and a beer 10-15 euros. Some fritti, a pasta, a secondo in a trattoria 20-30 euros. A great dinner alternative on a budget is the aperitivo, freni e frizioni in trastevere (and many more in the area offer similar things, too) is the center of socializing it seems, i think last i saw a glass of anything and a plate from the buffet ran 6 euros. Of course the quality in these places is not a priority.
          So i would say 50 euros a day, not including alcohol and other nightly entertainment, would feed an 18 yo enough quantity-wise, though not necessarily at a very high quality always - with somedays cheaper other days can be made into really nice eating days.

          1. re: vinoroma

            I would think that what you're saying about the guys being in search of good food would probably apply to my son's friends, but not to him. He will be dragging his friends to all kinds of places to eat, and if they don't want to go, he'll go by himself! So, including alcohol, would 75 euro a day be sufficient? I think it will likely be wine and beer with the occasional Aperol spritz thrown in for good measure.

            1. re: roxlet

              Yes, i think €75 is sufficient/generous.

              1. re: roxlet

                Hi rox,

                I think you and Hande (vinoroma) have nailed the budget and the conceptual framework.

                Two places near the Campo de' Fiori might work:

                Hostaria Farnese is a homey place on the alley between the Campo and the Piazza Farnese. It's family run. The food is simple and well prepared. Very light on the wallet.

                Ditirambo, just off the Campo on the opposite side, is a little more upscale. You, your husband and the athlete would like this modest place. His friends, too. The pastas are homemade, the fish expertly grilled. Check the specials board for octopus.

                Boys will be boys so I'm pretty sure they'll discover Scholar's Lounge (near the Piazza Venezia). It's an authentic Irish pub with a good selection of beers/ales, good music, crummy food and a lot of flat screens to catch sporting events. Abbey Theatre near Piazza Navona is very similar. The Abbey, however, is directly across from one of the better gelato shops in town. The Abbey is also a mere 20 yards from Baffetto, a very decent pizzeria (dinner only).

                L'Antica Birreria Peroni (Via di San Marcello) has lots of food, lots of beer. Very inexpensive. I haven't been in a while.

                Pizzeria La Montecarlo (Vicolo Savelli) is a reliable pizza joint. It may be dinner only.

                Cantina Lucifero, off the Campo on Pellegrino, is great for small plates. The tomino al forno and the steak tartar are favorites. Fondue is a house speciality.

                Lots more but this should give you a start.

                1. re: steve h.

                  Thanks, steveh. I think you get how my son is used to eating! These will be very helpful along with the other suggestions!

                  1. re: roxlet

                    these young men might like Flavio al Velavevodetto in Testaccio - it serves the classic roman pasta and meat dishes in what I would consider to be very large portions and reasonable prices - quality is good enough that we would return. They have an outdoor space and are very friendly. Sort of cool in that it is built into Monte Testaccio, - you can see the layered pots the hill is made of through the dining room wall.

                2. re: roxlet

                  Will his pals have that (hugely) generous budget?

                  May there be an element of "Do we really have to be dragged along to somewhere smart when we'd rather just have more beer and another pizza with these girls we've just met"?

                  1. re: Robin Joy

                    Nothing wrong with pizza and beer! It just shouldn't be ALL pizza and beer, lol!

                3. re: vinoroma

                  Thinking back about the quantity of food at L'Asino D'Oro, you're quite right. That was perhaps the only lunch I had in Rome where I was pleasantly satisfied but not stuffed to the gills. It would never be enough food for my sons, who have been known to have two plates of pasta at lunch, much to the amusement of the servers.

          2. For Florence:

            Panini will be their friend. Try:

            Il Vinaino di Parte Guelfa, on a tiny side street, owned by two brothers, standing/counter room only, Via Val di Lamona 6. In nice weather there's also usually a juice/smoothie stand in the piazza outside. Mortadella, pecorino and artichokes recommended.

            Il Cernacchino, via Condotta 38r, one block north of Piazza Signoria. Owned by two sisters (there's a theme here), seasonal food and soups in bread bowls, crostini, etc.

            Forno Sartoni, Via de' Cerchi 34R, between the duomo and Piazza Signoria. Fresh foccaccia, sandwiches, pizza, all kinds of sweets. Take a number to be served.

            Pizza will be key too:

            Pizza Man, multiple locations:

            Pizzeria O'Vesuvio, a couple blocks south of the Duomo:

            Also crucial - the apericena. Places like Kitsch in Piazza Beccaria or off Piazza San Marco are famous for offering a huge buffet spread in exchange included in the price of a cocktail. Every poor student's dream in Firenze. Get there at 7pm on the dot or you may not find a seat or food left.

            Avoid all cheap kebab places with one NOTABLE exception. Amon on Via Palazzuolo 26-28/r - owned and run by an Egyptian woman, the chicken at this place is at the top of my list of things I miss from living in Florence. Seriously. Falafel, bread made in house, delicious coconut cake. Extremely cheap (like 4 euros for a sandwich) and crazy good.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Bugsey34

              Great! Very helpful! Thanks so much.

            2. I keep meaning to tell you about these two places that stand out in my memory - both are totally for the budget conscious (as we were) but incredibly good:

              In Rome, Campo de Fiori (which steve h. knows & loves so well)- Aristocampo - fantastic panini, with a selection of a dozen or so scrumptious ingredients – succulent crispy-skinned roast pork, marinated artichokes, teeny-tiny mushrooms – cipriale – smaller than the tip of your pinkie, sautéed spinach, bitter garlicky kale, sundried tomatoes, pecorino romano, roasted eggplant, zucchini... (this is from a travel log I kept when I was there in 2005).

              In Florence, and this may have been mentioned earlier, but it bears repeating: I Due Fratellini – another fantastic sandwich place, you order from a little doorway and get your sandwich and glass of wine and sit on the curb with everyone else. unfortunately, it doesn't appear their website is working now. but here's the Trip Advisory report:

              5 Replies
              1. re: mariacarmen

                Good call on Aristocampo. Their porchetta, dubbed The Aristocampo on the menu, is pretty tasty. Five guys can easily sit around one of the wooden tables under the tent and feast for little money. Lots of young ladies do the same. Plenty of draft beers to choose from. Pretty far from fine dining but I like it. I believe it opens at 12:30 p.m..

                On a different tack, the place next door used to host a car night (choppers, American iron) once a week. Rumor has it they're under new management so things may have changed.

                1. re: steve h.

                  The young lady factor is a good thing too! Thanks, mc!

                  1. re: roxlet

                    No shortage of young ladies in the Campo. Ground Zero for the college crowd at night. I try get out of Dodge before spring break and stay out until September. I'm old.