Eating and Cooking in Italy
May 28, 2011 7:16 AM   Subscribe

Tutto bene! Traveling to Italy in September/October and looking for advice.

My sweetie and I are saving up for our first big trip together (and the first big trip for each of us in a long long time). We want to go to Italy and are very interested in agrotourismo, slow food, ... um, food :)

Historical sights and general history are of interest to us, but really we want to relax, see beautiful art, and make and eat good food. I have found some interesting cooking classes, but am wondering if people have ideas for places to stay/eat/learn to cook. We're not big drinkers at all, but have no opposition to staying at vinyards if good food accompanies the wine.

The cities that I have looked at so far are Florence, Sienna, and some of the places in Cinque Terre.

Also, we're a visibly queer/lesbian couple, and I am wondering if other people have had positive experiences being affectionate in public, or if we should be more cautious.

Thanks so much!
posted by anya32 to Travel & Transportation (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
no recommendation on accommodations but please plan at least a day trip to Bologna!!! its an incredible city, the centro storico is rich with late medieval/early Renaissance architecture and the region is famous of some of Italy's most wonderful cuisine. have a great time!!
posted by supermedusa at 11:27 AM on May 28, 2011

Best answer: I doubt you'll have a problem. In Tuscany, there is an abundance of exactly what you're looking for. You can find cooking classes and market tours through companies like In Tavola (in Florence). Definitely take a walk around the Mercato Centrale if you're in Florence, too. Maybe instead of Siena, consider San Gimignano, which has those neat towers and therefore great views. Beware, though, tons of wild boar stuff. For some reason I'm thinking Siena is more touristy and you might like the smaller towns like San Gimignano or Lucca maybe. Cinque Terre really is incredible - I wouldn't miss that. There really are tons of options, sorry I don't have direct experience to share. If I were going back to Italy, though, I'd see if I could stop by the Castle of Porciano, which is about an hour outside Florence. Scenery is amazing. I took cooking classes from Martha Corsi years ago through a school program and she's wonderful.
posted by belau at 8:41 PM on May 28, 2011

There have been several cases of same-sex couples being harrassed or even physically abused here recently, at different locations asound the country. Doesn't appear to be a local/regional thing. You and your sweetie would probably be wise to avoid any behaviour in public likely to raise eyebrows - or fists. It's sad, but it's happening. Apart from that, hope you really enjoy your stay!
posted by aqsakal at 1:13 AM on May 29, 2011

I was there in Sept. of 2009, and loved it- spent a day in Cinque Terre and a day in FLorence and loved both; and Florence could easily have eaten a few more days. Happy to talk at nauseating length about both, if you like...
posted by COBRA! at 7:07 PM on May 30, 2011

Response by poster: I would love it, COBRA! I have been reading, reading, reading reviews and information, but there is so much information (and so many options, it seems), I feel overwhelmed (in a good way)!
posted by anya32 at 6:03 AM on May 31, 2011

Best answer: OK... just trying to do a brain dump on what was cool/not cool for me when I was in the same area a couple of years ago...

1. Cinque Terre: on the downside, it was the most blatantly tourist-y thing I saw in Italy. But that didn't matter AT ALL. The physical beauty of the place was astounding, and it was actually kind of refreshing to briefly see a bunch of other people who were also fish somewhat out of water. We drove up through La Spezia (and just the climb out of La Spezia was gorgeous), parked in a garage, and started walking up the coast. Really, really highly recommended, especially on a nice day. And, at least the way we did it, no advance planning was required- we just drove up and got started.

2. Florence: was a mindbender, but an awesome one. We took the train into town and walked everywhere; it was an eminently walkable city. We'd gotten Uffizi tickets online ahead of time; that saved us a bit of line-waiting, but the truth is that the lines at the Uffizi (and everywhere else) weren't really that bad during the late-September stretch when we were there. For us, at least, trying to pack as much Florence as we could into one day, it was mostly a matter of being flexible; we did a lot of go-look-at-the-duomo-then-check-the-guidebooks-to-see-what's-nearby. The good news is that Florence is tightly-packed enough that, really, everything's within walking distance of everything else. And just wandering the streets gives you an awesome historical feeling.

3. Lucca: you didn't mention it in your list of places you want to see, but I highly recommend seeing Lucca! It's less crowded than Florence, which is nice, and it still has a complete set of city walls! And the old city inside the walls is totally rad to walk around in and see things.

4. Cooking: for food in general, Tuscany lived up to its reputation for us. We were staying in a rented house, so we did a bunch of cooking; even going to a run-of-the-mill grocery store in Pescia, we were blown away by the quality of the ingredients. We also bought fancier ingredients at a little shop in Lucca one night and cooked up a hell of a meal. Don't have much to add about cooking classes, but there's definitely cooking fun to be had.

5. Driving: are you driving? We had a car, and needed it to get to our house, which was up in the hills. But driving was pretty hard-core- I actually had nightmares about it for a few nights while I was there. And we had seriously bad trouble with our rental car. So if you can go train, do it whenever possible. On the other hand, driving's certainly possible.

6. Being an American in Italy: I can't speak to what it'd be like for a visibly lesbian couple, but I know that being part of two sets of straight couples, we felt like we were getting vaguely hostile stares all the time (not so much in Florence or Lucca, but very often in the countryside) just for being Americans (or at least visibly Not Italian). My gut tells me you might face some additional stares, but it's just my gut. FWIW, most people were actually pretty nice and helpful (well, except for the cabbie and car rental guy who colluded to screw us), but there definitely was a cultural divide.

7. Winery- Oh, and yeah. We toured one winery (Fubbiano), and it was totally worth it, just for the education on kick-ass olive oils, and the cheese/wine pairings they hit us with. And shipping back bottles of wine made for easy gifts for people back home.

Here's a FLickr set of my pics for the trip... hope this is helpful. If there's anything more I can tell you, please let me know.... I know our trip was really helped by having a bunch of information up front.
posted by COBRA! at 9:08 AM on June 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

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