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Just back from Florence, Tuscany, and Rome: my thoughts

Just back from Florence, Tuscany, and Rome: my thoughts

Old May 23rd, 2000, 12:06 PM
  #1  
Lisa Peretz
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Just back from Florence, Tuscany, and Rome: my thoughts

My husband and I got back Sunday night.

Florence:
Hotel Brunelleschi
Piazza Sant'Elisabetta 3 (our room overlooked Via Calzaiuoli)
(055) 290 311
Fax: 055 219 653

Great location. Hotel is on populated shopping street but open onto a quaint courtyard set off the main street. Room was pleasant. Breakfast was great for Italy: Eggs, cereal etc. We flew Sabena from N.Y. and they lost our bags while changing in Brussels. (We got them 1 1/2 days later). Staff at hotel was very helpful.

Ate at Osteria Numero 1 for lunch. I do not recommend it.

Shopped Via Tornabuoni: Not nearly the selection you find on 5th Avenue. But if you do find something you like, it's 1/3 cheaper!

We stopped at the Ponte Vecchio at sunset which was romantic, then had drinks at the Hotel Lungarno Across the Arno) which was pretty chic with a great view of the river. Dinner at Trattoria Camillo also across the Arno. The food was great. So was the wine. Its a trattoria with small, quaint rooms and nice service.

Visited the Galleria dell' Academia (David)
and the Uffizi with advanced reserved tickets. An absolute MUST. Call this number for reservations for both (and more) (055) 294-883.

There's lots to see in the Uffizi. If you want an abridged version, check out what's in each room prior from a guidebook or www.arca.net/Uffizi/barra1.htm

Had lunch at Osteria dei Caffe Italiano
Via Isola delle Stinche 11
(055) 289 368
Great food. Authentic bisto like trattoria that locals frequent. The service was very warm.

Dinner at Trattoria Garga (A MUST)
Via del Moro 48r
(055) 239 8898

Great, small, artsy trattoria with incredible food as well as service. Definitely have the salad.

San Lorenzo market definitely worth seeing. We thought it had better quality things than the Mercato Nuovo.

Florence was pretty populated with tourists and quite contemporary in some respects, but roamantic none the less. I didn't go to Il Latini because I was scared away by posts that made it seem very touristy but it looked cute, and would go if I had more time. Also didn't go to Da Penello but it got a great recommendation from a local.

Tuscany: We stayed at Villa Scacciapensieri a mile or so outside Siena, up a hill. It was really charming and had a beautiful garden and charming grounds. The breakfast was good. The concierge was very helpful. There was free parking.

We drove doem (from Florence) the SS222 "Chiantigiana" and stopped at several wineries for tours/tastings. Most have shops for tastings for drop ins and some offer tours. Call, fax or e-mail in advance. The roads were narrow, curvy and fun but most of all, the views were spectacular-- rolling hills, centuries-old villas, grapes growing everywhere. A magical experience:

Castello di Vicchiomaggio (Cantinetta San Jacoppo)
(055) 854 079.Great wine. Nice woman who didn't really speak english. Its right on the SS222.

Castello di Verrazzano
www.verrazzano.com
Great wine. Reaaly nice english speaking woman who was full of dining recommendations.

Also stopped at little towns along the way (Greve, Panzano, Castellina) Castellina was the most interesting. A beautiful walled village.

Villa Vignamaggio (off SS222 near Greve)
had a tasting room and was unbelievably pretty but they didn't seem to welcome non guests. Its probably a fantastic place to stay. They did, however, send us to lunch 10 minutes further up the scary, twisting hill to the most spectacular terrace restaurant in La Mole. The road only has villas until you get to this one restuarant in the middle of no where. The view was amazing. The service was incredibly friendly and the food was fabulous. A magical find. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND THIS!!!!!

Dinner at Certosa di Maggiano: a 14th century restored monastery. You can also stay here but it was incredibly expensive ($250.00 yes, dollars, for dinner for 2 with a really good bottle of wine) The restaurant is in a courtyard and very formal ans romantic.

We also did a loop starting from Siena to Castello di Brolio, Castello Meleto, Gaiole, Radda, Castellina and back to Siena:

Castello Brolio is a gigantic castle up a long, curving driveway. You can tour the grounds (exterior only) and its very imposing and magnificent. A MUST MUST see if the weather is good. Down the hill is their restsaurant where you can ask directions to their wine tasting facility around the corner. The gentleman there was informative and the wines were impressive.

Went to the Prada outlet. Great prices. A little hard to find.

Lunch and then Tour at Badia e Coltibuoni (A MUST!!!!!)
Phone(0577)749424 Fax(0577)749031
The restaurant is on a pretty terrace with a great view. Service is friendly. The food is great. I really enjoyed the Wild Boar with chocalate sauce. Sounds gross -- but its unreal!!! Tours of the abbey, wine cellar and gargen are 1/2 hour and are given every half hour. Don't miss. They also have a shop at the bottom of their drive to buy wine, ceramics, olive oil. PLEASE DON'T MISS THIS PLACE.

Dinner in Monteriggioni (cute walled-in village 20 min. from Siena by highway) at Il Pozzo. We sat in the garden outside. It was romantic and the food was really good.

Don't miss the town of Montalcino. There's a cool fortress you can climb up if you're not afraid of heights. and the town's actually kind of hip.

Bought some Brunello wine at the beautiful, cypress lined Poggio Antico (2 miles south of Montalcino) (0577) 848044 You can't taste the wines, but they have a direct sales shop. There's a restaurant on the grounds that has fabulous views from the terrace. Book in advance, it looked awesome!!!!!!

Fattoria dei Barbi had a wine tasting shop and offered tours of the cellar. (0577) 849421

Found out that 97 and 95 were great years for grapes. Brought back a lot of wine. I think you're only supposed to bring back 2 or 3 bottles but no one at Kennedy checked. We lugged back 14 bottles but it was worth it.

We spent an afternoon and dinner in Siena and for us that was all we needed. The duomo is exceptional.

ROME:
De la Ville Inter-continental
Via Sistina 67
800 327 0200

GREAT location at the top of the spanish steps next to the Hassler. Very service oriented. A serious hotel. If you want a view, you better request in advance. Expensive but very worth it.

The shopping was unreal: especially JP Tod's, Fendi had a lot of merchandise as did Prada and Gucci. Found a great, upscale shop for men/women called David Cenci on Via Camo Marzio.

Loved lunch at Ristoranre Nino (no shorts on men). Need a reservation. Great food, lots of locals. Via Borgognona 11.

Didn't like Ristorante 34 (dinner). So touristy, even the waiters weren't Italian. And an asian girl selling crap was soliciting. It was offputting.

Loved Enjoy Rome 3 hour Ancient/Old Rome Tour:
Our guide, Scott, was very entertaining and made all the history very fun. Probably way less intense than the Scala Reale (4-5 hour) tours but I would choose it anyday. I would never attempt to conquer all that on my own. Note that the Enjoy Rome tour doesn't go in to the Colosseum so take the Colosseum's 45 minute tour prior (10:15) Then had lunch at Hostaria Nerone (Via Terme di Toto 96 (06) 474 5207 up the stiars and the hill above the Colosseo metro stop) Great little trattoria filled with locals. After lunch met the Enjoy Rome tour at 1:00 in front of the Colosseo metro stop.

Dinner at Quinzi e Gabrielli: skip it unless you want to pay $110.00 for a peice of fish.


eat as much gelati as you can, especially from Giolitti.

Vatican Museum: drive exactly to entrance on Via del Vaticano. It opens at 8:45. NOTE: GET THERE NO LATER THAN 8:00 AM. I AM NOT KIDDING. EVEN THOUGH YOU ARE ON VACATION. EVEN IF YOU'VE NEVER GOTTEN UP THAT EARLY IN YOUR LIFE. LISTEN TO ME AND DO THIS!!!!!!!!

When we got there at 8:00, there were 50 people already in line. when we left at 9:45, there were 7,000 (I'm not exaggerating). The line was 10 deep for the entire 10 minute walk around to St. Peter's. People probably waited 6 hours to get inside.

DO NOT MISS Campo die Fiori market and the restaurants in the Jewish quarter. I almost blew this off but was completely overwhelmed by the quaint, old world atmoshpere and unbelievably good food.

YOU MUST EAT AT DA GIGETTO (fried artichokes) (its next to an excavation site, very cool and the waiter was not to be believed-- so friendly) and YOU MUST have dinner at Vecchia Roma (also in the Jewish quarter near Da Gigetto) at Via della Tribuna di Campitelli 18. (06) 8684604. We ate incredible food here in a romantic setting outside in the square. The owners daughter, a beautiful blond girl, chatted with us and went through the menu pointing out her favorites. We saw her the next day in the airport on out way home -- she was off to Egypt. This is what Rome dining is about.

If you've lasted this long and have any questions or need numbers or faxes, you can
e-mail me.




 
Old May 23rd, 2000, 12:20 PM
  #2  
Jackie
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Dear Lisa,
Thanks for your travel story...though I'll have to read it more carefully later.... How long were you in Florence, Siena area, and Roma? I'm on my way to Italy in July-- I plan to stay near Siena one afternoon, 2 nights and depart early the third morning for a quick 2 hour peak at Pisa. I'm feeling like this will be too short of time in the Tuscany area. We start in Rome for 4 nights, then Florence fore 3 nights, then Siena for 2 nights, and finally Santa Margherita (for Cinqua Terre etc.) for 3 Nights, and last night in Milan for 9:30 a.m flight back. Any comments?
 
Old May 23rd, 2000, 12:39 PM
  #3  
Jim
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Lisa,
Great report and thanks. We're going to Italy in two weeks. On the Enjoy Rome tour, is it offered in the morning. What is the price? What all did you see?
On your suggestions for the Vatican, I was thinking about getting there late in the day when maybe crowds have thinned. What do you think?
 
Old May 23rd, 2000, 12:48 PM
  #4  
Amy
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Hi
Can you tell me where the Prada outlet is that you refer to? I head to Tuscany in Mid June.
 
Old May 23rd, 2000, 01:09 PM
  #5  
lisa peretz
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Jackie, We landed in Florence on a Saturday in time for lunch and left the Avis rental office for Tuscany on Monday morning at 10:00, but we got a lot in. It really felt like longer because we had planned everything prior so as to not waste time. I planned the restaurants in the parts of the city I didn't want to miss, and started early in the morning. Also, we only concentrated on certain works at the uffizi and didn't see the Bargello, Pitti palace or boboli gardens.
3 nights is long enough.

We spent 3 nights outside Siens. Day 1: Florence to Siena on the Chianti Road visiting wineries. Day2: Chianti loop. Day 3: Montalcino and Siena. We felt like we really got a sense of these places but again, we didn't linger at all the musuems. We saw the major sights, ate well, drank well, and shopped well.

We spent 3 nights in Rome (4 is plenty)

It sounds like you only have 1 full day in Chianti so figure out what type of experience you want to have. You could do the wine loop I mentioned and/or part of the SS222 road. Look at a map to see where all the places I mentioned reside. Once you decide which villages/wineries sound good from the forum or guidebooks, inquire about the openings and then it'll all fall into place. I only know about what I did, but I loved every second.
 
Old May 23rd, 2000, 01:24 PM
  #6  
Beth Anderson
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Hi,

to echo the other post: where is the Prada outlet? and... how much was the Brunello di Montalcino wine? it is at least 50 bucks here in the US...

thanks...

Beth
 
Old May 23rd, 2000, 01:27 PM
  #7  
lisa peretz
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Jim, Enjoy Rome's Ancient/Old Rome Tour is only offered at 1:00. It starts across from the clolsseum at the colosseo metro stop. It covers the colosseum from the exterior, the Forum, Palatine Hill, Campodiglio, Trevi Fountain, Pantheon, and the Piazzo Navona. Its a good general tour. It costs 30,000 L each and they accept cash as payment at their offices prior to the tour. The office is a few blocks from the train station (not the nicest area) at Via Varese 39.
(06) 445 1843 After you pick up tickets, you could take the metro to the colosseo but we took a cab and had it wait while I ran in for tickets. Incidentally, the woman said lots of people run in with a waiting cab. It's just a lot easier. They open at 8:30 Mon - fri. Check website for rest of days. The website is : www.enjoyrome.com -- I don't know if the vatican museum lines were due to the jubilee year, the pop'es b-day the preceeding day or what but I think that the people who were waiting a mile down the line probably were still waiting in the afternoon. I don't know if its always like this, but it was last Saturday.
 
Old May 23rd, 2000, 01:39 PM
  #8  
lisa peretz
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The Prada outlet is called I Pelletteria
d'Italia and its about 12 miles/26 minutes from Gaiole. Its past Montevarchi in a town called Levanelle on s69.
Go east on 408, follow signs to Montevarchi. After Montevarchi you come to an intersection where you turn south (right) onto s69. Drive a few miles and look for the 2nd IP Gas station. Across from it a little down the road on your left is the yellow/brown sign for it which is hard to spot. But its behind the Marconi building. It's a grey industrial building with the entrance in the back. Great prices. worth the trip. (o55) 978 9188. Open 9:30 - 1:00 and 1:30 - 6.
I went at 11:30. there was no line, but busloads of tourists had purchased every last keychain by then. The staff where very helpful and spoke english.
 
Old May 23rd, 2000, 02:08 PM
  #9  
Guido
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Lisa: thanks for the report and the info. I'm planning a trip in October, and plan to spend about 9 days in Rome, Florence & Tuscany. Your report is sure to be of help.

 
Old May 23rd, 2000, 02:48 PM
  #10  
mary
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Thanks for the info---- we are leaving in less than three weeks for Florence, Tuscany and Rome--- We also are staying at Villa Scacciapensieri--- how were the rooms-- was it difficult to find??
How was the road out of Florence on the S222 through CHianti -- was it hard to navigate???

I so appreciate all the information about the hotels and the restaurants
Thanks
Mary
 
Old May 24th, 2000, 05:23 AM
  #11  
Dawn
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Lisa,
Great trip report, very helpful (I just printed it out) A couple of questions for you:
1. Did you make reservations for all of your meals? (I try to stay away from restaurants listed in tour books, made that mistake before)
2. How did you carry that many bottles of wine back with you and did you have to check it (fear of breakage, I'm packing a lot of bubble wrap)
3. Was the place that you bought wine in Montacino open for lunch? Would I need reservations for this?
4. Where is Badia e Coltibuoni (town?) 5. Did you make reservations for all of the wineries that you went to (we won't be in Chiatni but near Montepluciano and Moltalcino) Did you just call them up before you left?

Sorry that this was more than a couple but your post was so good and inspiring.
 
Old May 24th, 2000, 06:38 AM
  #12  
lisa peretz
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Mary, I really enjoyed Villa Scacciapensieri. It wasn't too hard to find. We came from the SS222 and if you want, I'll give you exact directions. It's about a mile or two out of Siena, through a rural neighborhood up a hill. The property is very charming. You make a sharp left into the gated property and there's a pebble driveway. Free parking at the bottom. Just in front of the hotel is the most fabulous Italian garden with flowers and lemon trees. Really magical and there's seating out front and in the back. Our room was quaint. On the second floor, it directly overlooked the garden so the view was fabulous. The concierge was really helpful: advance dining reservations, directions ect. I think the gentlemen's name is Bruce. The breakfast was pretty good and the dining room was nice (traditional). It was a good location for us because after driving down from Florence it was easy to getr to and park, unlike Siena itself. Also it made it easy to come and go: we ate dinner in several different places and spent two days touring around Chianti and Montalcino and Siena. It made a great base and was lovely to return to. I only had one complaint: while taking a shower the water completely turned off and we had to call downstairs a few times when we showered. I guess they had a water pressure problem, but it didn't ruin our time there. I spoke to a woman staying in one of the rooms under the front terrace and she loved her room and had no problem with her water.

Pulling out of Avis and finding the Chianti road was a little challenging because there was a piazza not clearly maeked but you just follow the maion road around Florence to the Arno. From there it's so easy. I was impressed at how well marked everything was in Tuscany. Signs everywhere letting you know what road you're on and directing you to the major sights: wineries. Also, Frommer's had great detail about directions. Look at Eyewitness in the Central Tuscany section for the wine loop I mentioned. Starting out from Villa Scacciapensieri, we headed to Brolio, Meleto, towards Gaiole, but then veered off to Montevarchi to the Prada outlet, came back to the loop and had lunch at Badia e Coltibuono and around to Radda, Castellina and to Siena.
We left early in the day.

If you plan to do any of the same things we did, and need more detail, let me know.
 
Old May 24th, 2000, 07:13 AM
  #13  
lisa peretz
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Hey Dawn, I really don't mind writing about my trip. I really loved everything we did. Its smart to ask before. I was glad I did because we didn't miss anything because it was closed or because we couldn't find it.

1) I reserved most meals ahead through the concierge at each hotel. I faxed them a list of stuff and also asked for directions. I got the names through guidebooks (Frommers). Most were the same ones people here recommended. I wanted to be covered, knowing I could always change them. Also, it assured me I could get to all the places I wanted to see knowing we had a meal there. I left some things to chance which is how we found one of the most special lunches at Le Mole.

2) As for wine: my husband and I each had a carry on and wrapped the wine in the tissue paper that came inside the purses I bought. 20/20 I would bring bubble wrap, but it wasn't a problem. A little heavy though. We listed some of the wine on our customs card, the customs guy never asked about wine or looked at our receipts or in our bags.

3) Poggio Antico is 2 miles south of Montalcino on the road to Grossetto. (0577)848-044. This may be the winery number or the restaurant, I'm not sure. Lunch is served between 12:20 - 2:00. We were there too early, but they were setting tables on the terrace. Great view. It seemed like a special place. I would love to eat there. I've heard the food is terrific.

4) The byroad (11.8 miles) that takes you to Badia e Coltibuono is 2 miles east of Radda. It's between Radda and Gaiole in the Chianti region. Do not miss lunch here followed by a tour. Tours start at 2:30 and are every half hour.

I called or faxed the places I wanted to go before I left New York to find out exactly what each winery offered: some only have tastings, some have tours and tastings but are at certain times, some don't take drop-ins, some only accept you if you've called ahead. I'm sure you could call ahead from there. I just did it sooner because I didn't want to be figuring everything out while I was on vacation.
We missed Biondi-Santi near Montalcino because we were short on time that day, but their wines are good: (0577)848087 Fax (0577) 849396

Have fun. Who knew you could taste/drink wine at 9:30 in the morning and love it!!
 
Old May 24th, 2000, 09:17 AM
  #14  
Paula
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I'm glad to see that you recommended the restaurant up the hill from Vignamaggio in the little village of Lamole. I've been doing the same thing. The food is great, the young owner is a sweetheart and the view(especially at sunset) is to die for. Which we almost literally did coming back down that awful road after dark! Pretty scary at night.
 
Old May 24th, 2000, 10:15 AM
  #15  
lisa peretz
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Paula, That was very brave of you to drive down that hill at night. I swear I thought I was going to die going up it on a bright, sunny day. What a special memory.
 
Old May 25th, 2000, 07:12 AM
  #16  
lisa peretz
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I forgot to list the prices of the hotels. The prices are per night for a double room with private bath, tax and breakfast.

Florence: Hotel Brunelleschi
$224.00

Tuscany: Hotel Villa Scacciapensieri $277.00

Rome: De la Ville Inter-Continental
$352.00
 
Old May 30th, 2000, 07:57 AM
  #17  
thptrek
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We are staying at the De la Ville hotel in Rome this coming weekend. Do you have any suggestions about the hotel or things to request. How helpful was the concierge? Thanks.
 
Old May 30th, 2000, 08:08 AM
  #18  
lisa peretz
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The hotel is really lovely and in a great location. Upon checking in, we were given a room that resembled a closet, but were persistent about wanting a better room which we got and were very happy with. My only suggestion is to not settle if you don't loke your room. The staff was very happy to help us and the concierge made all our dining reservations before we arrived as well as giving us directions each morning. The doormen got us taxis whenever we nrrdrd them and always told the driver where we were going. They even returned our rental car to Avis for us. The service is fabulous. Don't miss having pre dinner cocktails on the charming terrace near the dining room on the 3rd floor. Have a great trip. Can't wait to hear your opinions when you return.
 
Old Jun 6th, 2000, 01:59 PM
  #19  
Guido
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Top!
 
Old Jun 6th, 2000, 05:44 PM
  #20  
kam
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Lisa, Did they tell you that the Verrazzano winery is the same family as the bridge in NYC? It's a wonderful part of Italy and thanks for the report.
 

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