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Best things to eat, see, do in Italy

Old Jun 1st, 2015, 11:48 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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In Florence, Trattoria Marione and Buca Mario are two very good restaurants, and Il Latini is always a lot of fun.

Arlu, near St Peter's, serves wonderful homemade pasta. Antica Boheme and Al Boschetto [open Sundays] over near Santa Maria Maggiore, are both excellent.
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Old Jun 1st, 2015, 11:53 AM
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Day trip from Florence, 55 min. to Montacatini Centro. Have lunch in the upper town, reached by the old funicular.
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Old Jun 3rd, 2015, 06:01 PM
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Rome - we love Glass for a nice dinner out. Roscioli and Forno for pizza (both are in Campo dei Fiori).

I also love Villa d'Este just outside Rome in Tivoli. If you love fountains, it's heaven.

We did a wonderful Prosecco and Franciacorta tasting at VinoRoma. Also, we would recommend a food tour with Elizabeth Minchilli. We did a private tour but she offers small group tours and we still talk about it.

To spend less time waiting in line, consider a small group tour with Walks of Italy. We used them at the Coliseum and the Vatican Museums. Great tours and worth the money (especially when you factor in skipping the lines).

You can click on my name and find our trip report. Also, consider stopping in Orvieto on your way from Florence to Rome.
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Old Jun 3rd, 2015, 07:23 PM
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Elizabeth Minchilli has some great restaurant recommendations on her website.

Lee Ann
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Old Jun 16th, 2015, 02:43 PM
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Old Jun 16th, 2015, 02:53 PM
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I agree with the recommendation for Elizabeth Minchilli's website. WE used here food app Eat Rome but I think she has ones for Venice and Florence too and i think a book entitled Eat Italy. I found the app easy to use and very reliable in terms of opinions.

On our last trip to Rome we spent a month and I wrote quite a few blog posts on places we enjoyed. You may find them helpful or that the photos give you an idea about some things.

In terms of places that are not on the blog I very much enjoyed Palazzo Colonna but it's only open on a Saturday.

I went to Rome many times before I saw the Vatican Museums and the Sistine chapel so for me this would be missable, after all you will be back. However, we loved the Scavi tour under the main altar at St Peters.

The Borghese Gallery is wonderful but we also liked the Etruscan Museum the Villa Guilia which was empty. If you are a design person a recommend the Mario Praz. But frankly it's all about getting out and walking too.

Hope this helps....
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Old Jun 16th, 2015, 04:36 PM
Join Date: Oct 2013
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We took a tour from Florence with Tuscany Car Tours that was one of our favorite parts of our trip to Florence. It was just the two of us (max of 6 on the tours), and we had stops in Sienna (a must-visit, IMO), San Gimignano, Monterigioni, and a stop on our way back at a vineyard and Chianti wine maker. While it wasn't a food tour, it very much highlighted the best of the region-we had an amazing lunch at a tiny place in Monterigioni, gelato at one of the award winning places in San Gimignano, and an amazing wine tasting/olive oil/balsamic tasting at the vineyard. We would highly recommend it!

In Rome, we LOVED this tiny restaurant called Ditirambo, near the Camp di Fiore. All hand made, amazing waitstaff, best meal we had there.

Our favorite dinner in Venice was at Al Covo. Agree that Murano is not worth the trip, but we adored Burano. Also agree with the idea of getting lost in Venice-it was our favorite part!

We second the recommendation of the San Marco museum in Florence. We sort of stumbled upon it, and it really is very connected with the history of Florence. Amazing to see the quarters where the monks lived.

Enjoy your trip!
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Old Jun 17th, 2015, 03:37 AM
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Thank you for all of the suggestions so far
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Old Jun 17th, 2015, 04:20 AM
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Rome: We loved the restaurant Cul de Sac. It is near Piazza Navona. We also had an excellent dinner at Quinzi e Gabrielli, which is also not too far from Piazza Navona.
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Old Jun 17th, 2015, 04:34 AM
Join Date: Mar 2005
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In a rare burst of energy, I wrote a series of reviews of Venetian restaurants for Trip Advisor after staying there for 10 days in 2010. Maybe some of what I say may help. I especially enjoyed my meals at the first three restaurants mentioned. Many people enjoyed La Zucca; I found it to be mediocre and overrated. I urge you to avoid Ai due Vescovi. My very old review (1993) of it was prompted after reading a more recent one by a woman whose anniversary dinner with her husband was ruined by her experience at this rat hole.


My personal culinary tour of Venice last month included A Beccafico one evening, and I was very happy with what I found and ate there. After a complimentary bruschetta, I had a terrific pappardelle in tomato sauce and arugula with squid and shrimp, followed by sesame-encrusted tuna seared to perfection, all of this beautifully supported by a chianti wisely recommended by my very able and amiable waiter. I finished with a delightful mandarin orange and lemon sorbet. Naturally, I told the waiter how wonderful everything was, and he responded by placing a bottle of lemoncello on my table along with the bottle of another after-dinner drink. The simple message was: "They're all yours." A little later, as I was leaving, I was asked by someone I took to be the owner how I came to dine at A Beccafico. I told him that it was rated among the top Venetian restaurants by the reviewers at He smiled and said a staff member had referenced the website and told him about it and that he'd be taking a look at soon enough. (If he does: "Thanks again for a great meal!"

I ate twice at Osteria Antico Giardinetto within a week during my recent 10-day stay in Venice, and my only regret is that I can't go back there again tonight. Twice I had their superb gilthead sea bream filet with orange sauce and Cointreau. I also had their excellent sauteed clams and mussels with toast one night for an appetizer, and their very fine tagliolini with scallops and asparagus another night for a first course. Both times I had the heavenly panna cotta with strawberries. I was also treated to a complimentary grappa. Larisa, the chef Virgilio's wife and the server for the evenings, was very sweet and attentive. (She even managed to store away the small umbrella I forgot on my first night there and returned it to me a few days later when I dropped in to make another dinner reservation.) The two experiences at Osteria Antico Giardinetto were so good that I photographed Larisa and Virgilio together before I left that second night — because this was a place I wanted to remember.

Ten years ago I had a fabulous meal at La Caravella — fresh marinated fish with toast, green linguine with small clams, sea bass fillet with french fries so thinly cut they melted in my mouth, a lemon ice cream mousse with wild berries, a half- bottle of Gavi, and two grappas. I made a reservation to dine there again, but I became ill later on the trip and never returned.
Last month I finally did, and La Caravella was as good as I remembered it —from the pumpkin ravioli and filet of sole to that lemon mousse with berries, and the wine and grappa. The service is impeccable, the ambience, with a nautical twist, is warm and comfortable. Very highly recommended!


I had a wonderful dinner three weeks ago at Ai Mercanti — lasagna with pigeon, rare tuna in tarragon, a mixed fruit sorbet (banana, kiwi, and lemon), excellent breads (the terrific breads in Italy are all too ignored), a bottle of soave classico, and a grappa. The low-light elegance of the room, which was considerable, was marred by the odd appearance of two large and rather frightening dolls, which were sitting among several bottles of aperitifs and cordials in a well-lit display. When I asked my server about the dolls, he said, rolling his eyes, "The chef likes them." (Given the high quality of the food, I guess it's wise finally to placate their eccentric chef.) The service was excellent at the beginning, but, as is sometimes my experience as a solo diner, it began to break down as the restaurant got busier.

I enjoyed my experience at Da Fiore, with reservations. The maitre d' was welcoming, the service excellent, and the food was fine, though I've found better value for the money elsewhere in Venice. I started with a perfect Grey goose martini (9 euros) and some wonderful baked oysters (30 euros). My main course was not quite there — the steamed bass wrapped in artichokes and accompanied by stewed apples in balsamic vinegar (48 euros) was finally rather bland. My dessert was superb — vanilla gelato in burnt whiskey sauce (15 euros). I had a half-bottle of outstanding red wine (28 euros), so outstanding I wish I remembered its origin. The total bill came to 135 euros, for me alone. (You live once.)


I had a great lunch here two weeks ago when I was in Venice and wandering about the Castello sestiere. Al Mascaron is a lively, authentic, and comfortable place full of locals and, in one room, full of amusing artwork on the walls, including whimsical drawings of fishes. I started with a deceptively simple plate of mozzarella with sliced tomatoes and basil, the kind of essential meal that you dream about when you're flying to Italy and know you'll never get again when you return to the U.S. My second course was a hearty and heartfelt tuna in tomato sauce and pasta that was utterly fresh and completely satisfying. I conveyed my sense of satiated pleasure to my server who I believe was also the owner, a compact, friendly fellow with lion's mane of white hair. He was so appreciative of my enthusiasm that he shook my hand vigorously and gave me a complimentary grappa. He also later gave me the restaurant's card, hoping, I imagine, that I would soon return, which I gladly would've if I'd had another day or two in Venice. For anyone who has a day or two in Venice, you'll do yourself a favor by dropping in at Al Mascaron.

OSTERIA LA BOTTEGA AI PROMESSI SPOSI ​Calle dell'Oca, 4367 Venice, Italy​ (0412412747) No website found
I was very happy to come upon this small restaurant after a long morning jaunt last May through the Cannaregio district. I knew about Osteria La Bottega ai Promessi Sposi, having read positive reviews of it by travelers on the Fodor's online travel forum, and I was not disappointed. I had a signature Venetian dish, its spaghetti with small clams, and it was perfect. I was glad to sit in the room near the bar where locals came in for a glass of wine and a little conversation. (There's a larger adjacent dining room.) The waiter was very prompt with my meal and wine and was quickly accommodating when I later asked if I could have a copy of the day's printed, hand-written menu, a prized souvenir that I put in my travel journal, along with my other ephemera. All in all, I highly recommend this authentic, unpretentious restaurant, for its food, house wine, service, and its pleasing ambience. (Here is another diner’s review: promessi-ai-sposi.html


I just got back from 10 days in Venice, and after eating at several tripadvisor top- rated restaurants in the city, I can clearly say that Osteria La Zucca was the standout disappointment. Given its forgettable ambience, I found the notion of seating times rather pretentious. The abrupt young woman who took my order couldn't have been more charmless. I've seen more animation in a cop giving a traffic ticket. I didn't expect her to break out into smiles or entertain me with jokes, but I would've felt better if I hadn't thought I was intruding on her. (Though perhaps as a solo diner, I was.) My spaghetti with gorgonzola was okay. As for my main course, the chicken I had reminded me of my college days when I was content with the so-called "chicken" I ate at third-rate Chinese restaurants. The rice was equally bland. La Zucca is certainly not the worst restaurant I've ever dined at, but I'm baffled by its high reputation.


AI DUE VESCOVI ​(Believe me, you don’t want to have the phone number or the website; it’s near Piazza San Marco, where it spins its web for innocent victims)
My wife and I "celebrated" our 10th anniversary at Ai Due Vescovi in 1993, on the recommendation of the New York Times, no less, which had just published a positive review of the restaurant in its Sunday travel section. (I know this is an old review, but the nightmare we experienced at this hole is still all too fresh in our minds when the word "Venice" is uttered, and I am encouraged to add my evaluation, however tardy, after reading on Trip Advisor that Ai Due Vescovi hasn't lost its touch when it comes to making naive tourists miserable.) 

What I recall most about Ai Due Vescovi is how, after being given menus and aperitifs, we were largely ignored the rest of the evening. After we ordered our meals, the waiter nodded to us from time to time as he whisked back and forth attending to others. He even deigned on occasion to give us the estimated time of arrival for our food. The criminal neglect only grew worse as the restaurant filled with regular customers the owner and waiter knew and cared far more about. Travel neophytes, we stoically endured the rest of the evening, eating something, I guess, because we did pay the exorbitant bill. 

Bottom line: Avoid Ai Due Vescovi at all costs. And think twice about believing a favorable New York Times restaurant review.
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Old Jun 17th, 2015, 06:20 AM
Join Date: Feb 2004
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You have many good recs here, but I haven't seen the Bargello mentioned in Florence. A wonderful small museum of mostly sculpture.

You will be in Venice during the Biennale. If contemporary art is interesting to you, you might spend a few hours there. If you don't want to make special time for it, try to go in to any of the free venues set up all over Venice, just to get a look inside if not to see the art. If you wanted to just choose one of the two paid paid venues, you might try the Giardini, where you can more easily wonder in and out of the various country's pavillions.

We will be there in the beginning of October, for our third Biennale. Now that we've been exposed, we can't quite stop coming back.

If you don't like contemporary art, ignore all the above.

In Rome, a special treat are artichokes (you will be told here that they aren't in season, but if you can get some, do). A favorite gelato shop of mine is Gelateria al Teatro, at the Tiber end of via Coronari, which is a great walk under any circumstances.

I use Elizabeth Minchilli's apps, too.

In Florence, I would want to eat bistecca Fiorentina.

A very nice cooking day in Florence is with Good Tastes of Tuscany

Disclaimer: I did some work for them many years ago. However, it is a great class. They pick you up and drive you to a beautiful palazzo owned by the family, we you have class, eat, see the villa, and get driven back to Florence. It's a fabulous day.
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Old Jun 17th, 2015, 06:57 AM
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Another vote for Al Covo in Venice. My dinner there was back in 2000 but I still think it was one of my best ever meals over several trips.
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Old Jun 17th, 2015, 09:28 AM
Join Date: Jan 2007
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Our favorite meals (one for each of us) in Venice was squid ink pasta. Many restaurants will have it, it was delicious! We found the gelato to be sadly lacking in Venice as compared to Rome. It was good in Venice just no where as good as it was in Rome. While in Venice at least once just find a table at the water, have a drink and watch Venice pass you by. Tip: if you do take the elevator to the top of the campanile at San Giorgio Magiore, make sure not to be there at the top of the hour. The bells are VERY loud.

This last time in Rome we ate most nights in Trastaverre. The meals were fabulous and very low cost. While in Rome make sure to stop at least twice a day for gelato! It is so good and I imagine that you will be walking a lot. My favorite places that we visited on our last trip were Trajan's Market and the Baths of Caracalla.

Have a great trip!
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