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September 27, 2011 10:39 AM   Subscribe

Foodie trip to Italy- what restaurants shouldn’t I miss in Rome? What’s the best plan for a day of wine tasting in Florence? Where should we take pasta-making lessons in Bologna, and is there really nothing to do in Milan?

It’s that time again. Previous questions seem to be outdated or cover other cities, so... Over Thanksgiving, my foodie family is trying Italy this year. We’re starting off in Rome, spending a few days in Florence, Bologna, and then 48 hours in Milan. I’d love restaurant recommendations for all these cities- avoiding touristy things whenever possible. So far, I've considered and decided against La Pergola and La Rosetta- I don’t mind booking a few more expensive places, but it doesn’t seem necessary. I like having lunch and dinner planned for every day, and we can figure in about two gelato “snacks,” too. We’d love to do a tour of wineries in Tuscany, for a half or whole day, a day-trip to Parma or Modena for cheese/vinegar tastings or tours, and take a pasta-making class in Bologna- anyone have any experience with any of these? My parents have already said they don’t care to see “The Last Supper” in Milan, but I don’t know what else we’ll do the 2 days we’re there. What other foods/restaurants/bakeries/shops should we not miss?

As always, my sister and I expect be staying out after our parents have gone back to the hotel. We're still both in our mid-20s, both single, and we'd still love some nightlife suggestions for any of the cities above.
posted by IWoudDie4U to Travel & Transportation around Italy (16 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
the food bloggers are your friends on this one. As will chowhound and to a lesser extent eGullet. Keep an eye out for older posts from people with food blogs. Much of the online food fora are dying from bloggification of the food world. For your specific tasting requests you should probably just post over there.

The only specifically Italian food blog I like is Parla Food who is in Rome. She probably has links to other english language italian food blogs.

Florence has a terrible food rep. Virtually impossible to avoid touristy things in the city. Wine tasting in europe will either be very commercial and wines you can get at the local megamart in the US or by appointment. Just pick some wineries you like and send them emails.
posted by JPD at 10:47 AM on September 27, 2011

My mom is friends with the owners of an olive grove just outside of Florence. She's been there two or three times to harvest and press her own oil and then import it back to the States. The wife is American, and I gather they're pretty cool. Bonus: the season they harvest is right around the time you'll be there, hence the name Sagittario. Because of the early harvest, it's very young compared to many other oils, so its flavor is biting and grassy but still amazing. It's not for everyone, but it does mellow, and the experience is pretty great.

I'm not sure if they're harvesting this year, but we might be able to hook you up.

In her rambles, she's also been to visit Dario Cecchini, the "Dante-quoting butcher" from Bill Buford's Heat. They are, of course, capitalizing on it like crazy, but my mom said it was quite the experience -- giant piles of meat piled on a counter, a tiny shop, all that. The pictures she brought back were wonderful.
posted by Madamina at 10:51 AM on September 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: I'm already looking at chowhound boards and food blogs, I was checking here for personal recommendations.

I loved Buford's Heat, and also giant piles of meat, so I'll have to look into that.

Thanks so far yay!
posted by IWoudDie4U at 11:01 AM on September 27, 2011

Seconding the Chowhound Italy board. You may not even need to ask a question. Try looking at some of the recent threads there. There's a great Bologna thread there right now by barberinibee, one of my favorite posters.
posted by vacapinta at 11:02 AM on September 27, 2011

Also check out the slowtrav site. Lots of useful restaurant reviews there.

My favorite restaurant in Rome is Da Francesco - about half locals, inexpensive and amazing pizzas and pastas. I've gone back three times.
posted by kdern at 11:08 AM on September 27, 2011

My favorite restaurant in Florence is Coquinarius on Via dell'Oche, a quiet sidestreet not too far from the Duomo. The pear and cheese ravioli is especially good. It's a small restaurant so you will need to make reservations.

Also don't discount the various aperitivi around Florence! There are some lovely places to go, and it's an experience I would recommend. I particularly love the one at Kitsch - it's a bit out of center, in Piazza Beccaria, but totally worth it.
posted by Fiorentina97 at 11:30 AM on September 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

I actually like Milan. Its a real city. Think of it more like Munich and you'll enjoy it more. Go shopping, etc.
I was checking here for personal recommendations.

I'm think askMeFi is pretty poor at food suggestions. The few people whose advice I rate are actually prolific chowhound posters (vacapinta, kathryn)
posted by JPD at 11:30 AM on September 27, 2011

I have to go to Milan fairly often for appointments and my impression is that there isn't a whole lot to do there other than eat and shop. For shopping, the arcade in behind the Duomo is good, as is Corso Buenos Aires, starting at Porta Venezia metro station. There are also some neat shops in Navigli.

My favourite restaurant is Be Bop. I eat there pretty much every night I'm in Milan, although the fact that their gluten- and dairy-free menu is extensive is probably the main reason. The food is still really delicious though.

You and your sister could have fun with happy hour. Basically you pay a fixed rate, normally 8 or 10 euros and you get a drink (yay fancy cocktails!) and access to a buffet of finger food. There are lots of places along the canals in Navigli, which start near Porta Ticinese.

Airbnb has a lot of places in Italy if you haven't booked accommodation yet.
posted by carolr at 11:33 AM on September 27, 2011

There's a place in Rome that's top of my list if I ever go back. I can't recall the name of the place or where it was exactly. It was set up sort of like a Dim Sum place but only with Pasta. They would walk around with pots of different pasta's that they just cooked and you would let them know if you wanted some. I was worried I would still be hungry at the end of the night cause it was only one ladle per dish and I didn't pick every dish they brought around since I was vegetarian. Turns out most authentic Italian pasta dishes are vegetarian and by the end of the night I couldn't move because I was so full.
I wish I could tell you more. I just recall it begin a hole in the wall down a dark alley. The food was the awesome. I'm sure if you describe it to a local they will know, there was a line to get in there.
But if you are going on a food tour, I highly suggest going further south. The best food in Italy I ever had was in the Naples / Capri area. I never made it to Sicily, but I heard that's where the jackpot is. But I guess it depends on your taste, cause for me, I prefer southern style cooking with lots of herbs and spices.
posted by udon at 11:45 AM on September 27, 2011

My favorite restaurant when I spent a month in Florence was Acqua al Due.
posted by Hermes32 at 12:30 PM on September 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best pasta we had in Rome was at L'Archetto on via dell'Archetto. We had a recommendation from a local and it was delicious.

udon, I'm waiting for you to remember the name of that place!
posted by blurker at 3:27 PM on September 27, 2011

List at Design Sponge for Rome. The cafeteria at MACRO is excellent and the staff eat there--easy to strike up a conversation.

Rome's best gelato is San Crispino.
posted by Ideefixe at 3:49 PM on September 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

pierluigi in rome
posted by 3mendo at 4:39 PM on September 27, 2011

Most of my favorite places in Bologna aren't at all fancy, but nor are they super-traditional local food, either. So if you're looking for the perfect traditional ragù alla bolognese, I'm no help. (Everyone's mother does it differently, anyway, if that's any consolation.)

But! That said, I loved Da Silvio. This was the most expensive of the restaurants I frequented with any regularity, but so very, very good. I don't even have much of a sweet tooth, but I'd always make sure to save room for dessert. They do (or at least did) carts for antipasti and dessert, and have an ever-changing selection of first and second courses. Everything is fantastic. Great wine selection, too.

The other two places I'd recommend require a car, but are totally worth the trip. One is Parco dei Ciliegi, near Gessi in the hills. Eat outdoors, and don't bother with the pasta: order a spread of tigelle and crescentine with all the fixings, and you'll experience a bit of local Emilian (tigelle) and Romagnola (crescentine) cuisine that most tourists don't know about.

The other is in the opposite direction, but is the place I absolutely must return to, no matter how briefly I'm in town or how busy or how low my budget: La Grigliata. It's not easy to find, in an old farmhouse on a side road near Funo di Argelato, but it's worth seeking out. Get whatever you want for a second course, but there is only one real option for the first course: bucatini flambé. If I'm ever offered a last meal, this would be it.

No clue about pasta making classes, alas. I had a mother-in-law. Heh.
posted by Superplin at 8:15 PM on September 27, 2011

You absolutely should not miss the best tiramisu in Rome at Pompii. Two locations. Many flavors. Sublime!
posted by gen at 7:23 AM on September 28, 2011

I'm afraid I'm only able to comment on your last question, but here's my 2 cents..


We spent some 2 days in Milan, and I do agree that there's not much to do.. BUT, climbing up the Duomo was reaally worth it. The beautiful structures on your way up (and on the top itself) are simply breathtaking, and it made the Milan trip for us. Plus of course you'll get a view of the city from there.

The entrance to the top costs about 5EUR (1.5 years ago). Climbing up wasn't on our plans, and I was hesitant at that time (I felt that it was a waste of money, time and sweat as I thought that the Duomo looks the same from below), but I'm really happy that I eventually gave in and went up.

(OK so much for the Duomo)


We planned to see the Last Supper there, but eventually thought that it would be better to take off one day from our planned 3-day Milan trip, and spend it in Switzerland instead. It was another deviation from our plan, but it was worth it!

Milan is near Switzerland, so you might consider putting Milan on the last leg of your trip and depart/leave Europe from a Swiss city.

Our main reason for getting an excuse to make a detour and visit Zurich was to pass through the Alps by train. The travel time was somewhere between 2-4 hours. If you're fascinated with landscapes and views, this is for you. It was a relaxing trip, and I was staring at the window, while our train was winding through the Swiss alps, and all the nice lakes we've passed by.

I see that food is one of the highlights in this trip, so you might as well take the Chocolate train to Switzerland, if it's possible. And while you're already in Swatchland, you may wanna try some specialty Swiss Cheese too.
posted by vastopenspaces at 7:51 AM on October 11, 2011

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