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summerUWS2008's Profile

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Recommended wineries to visit in or near Montepulciano?

I'm going to quit doing this after this post but I do want to note for people reading that Times article that if people desire a non-touristy experience of the val d'Orcia, going in winter isn't going change the fact that the most oft-mentioned destinations in the val d'Orcia are now thoroughly developed for mass tourism. If you would like a non-tourist, not just not-crowded, experience of Tuscan farm life, stay in an agriturismo away from the towns you have heard of or mentioned in that article, in an agriturismi that cooks dinner for you and serves you home-produced wines, and that is NOT run by an American. One can still be in the area of the val d'Orcia and le Crete to do this, and one can even go in high season and have a non-tourist experience. But if you simply go off-season and behave like a tourist, restaurant hopping to one much-buzzed about restaurant to another, one tourist town destination to another, you will still have the tourist take on "Tuscany", however enjoyable it is to eat all those overly meaty meals with overly rich desserts and drink mass produced wines.

Mar 07, 2010
summerUWS2008 in Italy

Eating and Lodging suggestions for Italy?

I want to comment on that NYTimes article to say that "uncrowded" in Italy is not synonymous with "untouristed", especially when it comes to eating. Many destination restaurants in the val d'Orcia have adopted menus and wines more appealing to foreign tourists, and they don't switch back to native tastes in wintertime. So you are really not off the beaten tourist track. You are just more alone on the beaten track.

Mar 07, 2010
summerUWS2008 in Italy

Eating and Lodging suggestions for Italy?

I don't think lodging should be completely off-topic on the Chowhound Italy board because people interested in food will have their best eating experiences in Italy's countryside by eating at the places they lodge --- either in agriturismi or locandas or alberghi ristoranti (or even in some cases high-end relais).

I think you will have a very poor experience if you post on Fodor's message boards of being steered straight into the one-dimensional sightseeing tourist track and increasingly Slow Travel comes across as some kind of religious cult (Slow Tidings, kumbaya) that evangelizes to "slow down" (meaning, rent apartments). I think it's better to lodge in places with restaurants, not your own kitchen.

I say all this in the interests of helping people who post on Chowhound have a better eating experience in Italy by understanding Italian eating. It really is part of the best of Italy to stay in a place that cooks for you. That is the traditional way Italians travel if they don't have relatives where they go.

You can easily find wonderful agriturismi by doing google searches and looking on Tripadvisor.

I heartily recommend that if you are really motivated to get off the beaten track you investigate le Marche and stay in an agiturismi in the vicinity of Urbino, in the hills of the Montefeltro. HOWEVER, you are going so early in Spring, and le Marche is mountainous, so you need to be prepared for cold. Before you book anywhere, get a guarantee you will have heat.

I can recommend Hotel Nene near Urbino. Beautiful lodgings, fantastic restaurant. Good access to many undiscovered hilltowns, many with truffles (although you will have to settle for preserved in Spring).

The second choice of off--the--beaten track would be Umbria. Were it me, I would include spending some days in Perugia, but you can also investigate using Montefalco as a base so you can drink the local fabulous wine at dinner and not have to drive home. The restaurant Coccorone -- one of the finest in Umbria -- has rooms. I can also recommend I Frantoio Brizi in Montefalco, an olive oil producer. The owners of the B&B there also have a restaurant, but I believe they only serve lunch. You can google both places.

The last place I would go is the val d'Orcia in Tuscany, which even if uncrowded (which it won't be during easter) has generally reoriented itself toward the mass tourist trade.

In Ravello, for 90 euros, you can let charming rooms with balcony views and Vietri tiling at the restaurant Da Salvatore, which I think has a better kitchen than Cumpa Cosimo (unpleasantly hokey, I think), including a memorable house-made limoncello. There is also a well-regarded restaurant at Villa Maria in Ravello-- but I don't know the cost of staying there.

You might prefer to stay at the lower elevation of Amalfi to avoid the risk of fog and mist in Spring, which obscures the views in the higher lodgings. Sorry I have no recommendation for Amalfi or Atrani as to places to both stay and eat.

As jenkalb noted, you are traveling during Easter, which is when Italians like head out for a week in their native beauty spots and enjoy a romantic welcome to Spring, in addition to a lot of Americans packing up the kids and heading over for a vacation. For anything you really want to do, you need to reserve.

Mar 07, 2010
summerUWS2008 in Italy

San Marino

I have to say that I found this recipe for Bustrengo in 2 seconds by googling "san marino recipes"

http://www.deliciousitaly.com/ricetta...

Have you tried using Google?

Mar 04, 2010
summerUWS2008 in Italy

Family of 4 in Rome (Piazza Navona)

My pick would be Armando al Pantheon, right off the piazza della Rotunda. You can google the telephone number and the menu.

Mar 01, 2010
summerUWS2008 in Italy

Cocktails in Rome?

I like after-dinner drinks and my experience of Rome (and elsewhere in Italy) is that they are mainly enjoyed at the same table you just ate your dinner. Restaurants usually have a good selection.

I agree that the best place to enjoy a pre-dinner drink is outdoors, preferably for me in a piazza, the less touristy the better (and cheaper). Although I'm sure hard-liquor cocktails -- even great wines -- are available in Rome at "American bars," I do note that most Romans, like other Italians, tend to favor drinks light in alcohol as apertivi, and I've heard Italian women say they are surprised to see non-Italian women drinking hard liquor cocktails -- not because they disapprove, but I get the impression they think it's bad for the figure or complexion.

Feb 28, 2010
summerUWS2008 in Italy

Old roman food in ROme.... Apicius

Thanks for responding! I wonder how the rest of the food is.

Feb 27, 2010
summerUWS2008 in Italy

Family of 4 in Rome (Piazza Navona)

One place I think you should know about because of your hotel location is a shop for pizza bianca, right near your hotel, that who open 23 hours a day:

Lo Zozzone
Via del Teatro Pace, 32

It might be just the ticket on an evening you don't want a sit down dinner.

I'll second the recommendation for Armando al Pantheon for its good food, location and informal ambience while still being a "dinner out."

Since your kids are already Italian late-night eaters, I think any recommended restaurant will do you, short of the white-tablecloth and crystal experiences you understandably want to avoid. Searching the Rome threads should net you lots of up-to-date pointers convenient to your hotel and plans.

I'm not much of a gelato fan (weird, huh?) but San Crispino has a gelateria right near the Trevi fountain, and many consider their gelato the best to be had in Rome:

http://www.ilgelatodisancrispino.it/dove

Your kids might enjoy comparing it to Tre Scalini's gelato, right in the piazza Navona

Feb 27, 2010
summerUWS2008 in Italy

Family of 4 in Rome (Piazza Navona)

I'm thinking that surely you are going to be out and about at the lunch hour. Have you roughed out a sightseeing itinerary that gives you some indication of where your family is likely to be when the Italian lunch hour arrives? And will you want to break for a nice big Italian lunch -- or were you thinking you'd eat on the go?

Another question: are your children ok with getting their first course at dinnertime between 8-8:30pm? (Pizza for dinner, not lunch, is very popular in Italy and is available earlier.)

I only ask because I think your added information will help people give you recommendations that fit with to any schedule you might have.

Feb 27, 2010
summerUWS2008 in Italy

Old roman food in ROme.... Apicius

And the Italian Wine Merchants website offered this review:

Serving a rich menu of typical Roman food, Hostaria Antica Roma is romantically nestled into ancient ruins built by Emperor Augustus. The owner, Paolo, has a vineyard that produces wine specifically for the restaurant. Adored by the locals, this restaurant is a great place for lunch.

Feb 27, 2010
summerUWS2008 in Italy

Old roman food in ROme.... Apicius

Maureen and crystallyn,

Thought you'd also be interested in these links.

http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note...

http://www.facebook.com/notes.php?id=...

Thanks, mbfant, I was curious. I don't know if the building's history will inspire you, but the owners seemed quite enthusiastic about sharing it.

I'm not sure if you're aware of this, but I only posted a link to its "Apicius" menu. The restaurant does serve other dishes.

http://www.anticaroma.it/menu.html

Was Magna Roma strictly Apicius?

Do you generally not like tasting menus where the cook chooses and not you? I do seem to recall a thread about this not long ago, but I can't remember if you posted in it and if so, what side you came down on.

Feb 27, 2010
summerUWS2008 in Italy

Gastro-cultural walking tours in Rome

Thanks, that's a start!

Feb 25, 2010
summerUWS2008 in Italy

Gastro-cultural walking tours in Rome

What would be helpful is if you would post here the out of date recommendations. Most people using the book will have no other way of knowing, and most users of the book will be using it precisely to organize their eating and shopping to maximum advantage -- so it's a real disappointment to discover you've tracked down a recommended place that isn't what was recommended.

So please give that "handful" of closed or changed-hands places.

Feb 24, 2010
summerUWS2008 in Italy

Lunch in San Gimignano

Sorry, I've never been. You might have to put up a new thread or edit your title to get answers.

Feb 24, 2010
summerUWS2008 in Italy

Old roman food in ROme.... Apicius

I'm puzzled as to why Hostaria Antica Roma on via Appia doens't qualify as serving recipes based on Apicius. Their menu claims they do:

http://www.anticaroma.it/en/anticorom...

Feb 24, 2010
summerUWS2008 in Italy

Recommended wineries to visit in or near Montepulciano?

I don't know if sophisticated people avoid it, but the Contucci Cantine right smack dab at the piazza Grande pours great wines to taste and has a highly atmospheric wine cellar to stroll around.

http://www.contucci.it/azienda.en.php

Feb 24, 2010
summerUWS2008 in Italy

Lunch in San Gimignano

I enjoyed my lunch at Osteria I Quattro Gatti, and you can google the address. Be forewarned it is true osteria-style dining at shared tables with benches in a very small basement, with a terrace in back for nice weather. It has a limited menu of mainly cured and grilled meats and (interestingly) grilled cheeses. Some contorni. No pasta as I recall, but perhaps soup. Classic dolci of panaforte or biscotti. But there is also a pin speck of a wine bar at the entrance.

Vernaccia is not one of my favorite wines, but just be aware that few wineries are open to the public without appointments, although there may be some around San Gimignano that are an exception.

Feb 24, 2010
summerUWS2008 in Italy

Rome - near Piazza San Silvestro

Hi GourmetLight,

You may find your mother doens't really want to eat at all in the evenings, except for a very light snack. That was my experience with my mother in Italy (she's 80plus, but more like 70year old constitutionally). She just couldn't handle the onslaught of food that Italy can be, and I saw no point in trying to make her sit through the typical Italian restaurant supper, which generally includes not just two or three courses, but a long wait for the tab.

Since I have an apartment, I cooked 90 percent of the time, but other times we simply went to the local bars at the apertivo hour, where one can order plates of sliced meats, cheeses and (around here) fried artichokes to go with drinks, as well as getting free nibbles. My mother happens to be a big fan of ice cream, and she joined the Italians in making that her dinner some evenings. We always has a big lunch (where I often ended up finishing her meal as well as mine). I kept fruit and nuts around, etc. in case she wanted something later in the evening. She never did.

Older people just don't burn the same calories.

Have a great trip!

Feb 23, 2010
summerUWS2008 in Italy

Best base in Chianti Region

In my view, a visitor to Italian farm country almost always eats better in a farmhouse than in a restaurant. I suggest you stay in an agriturismo, preferably one that makes its own wine and one that serves you dinner every night. You can usually find them by doing simple google searches, and increasingly you can find reviews on Tripadvisor.

For a completely high-end experience, you can try La Petraia (note that the accommodation price includes breakfast and dinner)

http://www.lapetraia.com/reservations...

http://www.kiwicollection.com/news_ev...

But there are more modest places with lower prices. One place that consistently gets good reviews is Montalbino, which is closer to Montespertoli. It has the added advantage of offering accommodations with private kitchens, in addition to having a restaurant onsite. Your own kitchen is nice for breakfast plus those evening when you too large a lunch to want a dinner.

http://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Revi...

Feb 22, 2010
summerUWS2008 in Italy

Looking to go off the beaten path in Italy

I do think not only Lucca but Gubbio is too far for a day trip from Civitella d"Agliano. But what might work very well is a day trip to Montefalco -- ground zero for the Umbrian red wine Sagrantino, which I think is a greater wine than the Brunello of Tuscany. Lunch at Il Coccorone offers the opportunity to have risotto made with Sagrantino, a unique and fantastic dish, as are other dishes at Il Coccorone that incorporate the wine. (A dessert of biscotti and a "vin santo" of Sagrantino is exquisite.

Sagrantino is a fairly strong wine, better to buy to take back to the villa than drink large quantities at lunch. Before of after lunch, it is possible in the central piazza of tiny Montefalco to taste not only wine but olive oil at small shops (L'Alchemista being the most famous.) The exquisitely small museum in town -- 20 minutes tops -- has extraordinary freschi of St. Francis from nearby Assisi (by Gozzoli).

http://www.coccorone.com/

Feb 22, 2010
summerUWS2008 in Italy

Looking to go off the beaten path in Italy

I agree with jen kalb that staying mainly within in hour's radius is best, and you can use a map-and-driving website like viaMichelin.com or Mappy.com to calculate drive times between your villa and another destination. Be aware that in Toscana in particular, roads are slooooow going. And the sun sets fairly early in March. Driving in the dark in Italy is not always enjoyable.

Also, by staying within an hour of your villa -- which is a very much untouristed but marvelous area of Italy, you won't find yourself back on the tourist track -- which almost inevitably means compromises in food and wine traditions (as much as people don't like hearing it, it's true).

Feb 22, 2010
summerUWS2008 in Italy

Looking to go off the beaten path in Italy

PS: I still recommend you get your hands on Plotkin's Italy for the Gourmet Traveler.

Feb 21, 2010
summerUWS2008 in Italy

Looking to go off the beaten path in Italy

You have fantastic food and wine opportunities very close at hand in that area south of Orivieto. You have the wine of Orvieto, but also Est! Est! Est! (perhaps my favorite Italian white) in nearby gorgeous Montefiascone, right near Lago Bolsena, with not only the historic wine but some of the most beautiful views in that part of Italy (go on a clear, clear day.)

Rather than the full day private tour that would take you all the way to San Gimingnano -- very far and of little gastronomic interest I think -- Here are some other options beyond Montefiascone:

Use your car to take a drive from your villa through Tuscnay's Brunello wine country, going at least as far as Montaclino. You can also sample the great pecorino cheese of that area. You take the autostrada to Chiusi, get off there, head toward Pienza and Montepuliciano, then on up to Montalcino. (That is the most "tourist-y" recommendation I'm giving you, just so you know.) If you really wanted to be unconventional, head on a bit further north into charming Buonconvento and go into the museum there that documents how food and wine has been grown and consumed in Tuscany, from early times through the land reforms of the 20th c.)

http://www.museomezzadria.it/

That would make for a looooong day,so if you'd like something shorter, you can have a great time in the coastal hilltown of Tarquinia (I quite liked the Michelin recommended Arcadia there, right next to the Etruscan museum, but it's not traditional. It does have however have superbly fresh sea food that match wonderfully with local wines.) . Tarquinia has a good outdoor market -- more than one actually, in different corners of the town, whose tall towers will also give you a taste of what it was too far to go to San Gimignano to see. Also in Tarquinia is a more traditional restaurant of Cavatappi, recommended to me by a native, but it was closed for a few renovations when I was there. It is always closed Tuesdays but I don't know if it is open for lunch.

http://www.maremmalaziale.com/cavatap...

If it were me, I would scarcely leave Lazio and southern Umbria. It's a fascinating area. I think near Firenze is way far to go for a cooking class -- but if you're already paid up, no point in undoing it. But if you're still open for one or want a second instead of San Gimignano, these websites might help you locate some:

http://www.cookitaly.it/

http://www.cookitaly.it/adaycooking.htm

http://www.elegantetruria.com/fulvior...

And scroll to the bottom of this website for which days you can find food markets in the province of Viterbo.

http://rome.angloinfo.com/information...

When you are at your villa, I'm sure the locals can give you the very best info about markets and good eating. Lazio has got the best cuisine, I think, of that area, and probably the best overall food, and I would head out to explore more of Lazio than I would Toscana and Umbria.

Edited to add this (just found it doing some web browsing):

http://slowtalk.com/groupee/forums/a/...

Feb 21, 2010
summerUWS2008 in Italy

Looking to go off the beaten path in Italy

While what PBSF is true, I think you are off to a pretty good start. Since you are traveling in March, I think you are best advised to keep out of the Piemonte region (which would otherwise do you pretty well, given your wish list) and head instead to the region of the Emilia-Romagna, where you wouldn't need a car in order to do a food-oriented vacation.

You could base yourself in Parma, Modena or Bologna, all food capitals extraordinaire, all on the train line. The city of Bologna would in some ways be the least "charming" in the "under the Tuscan sun" sense of tourism, but believe me it is completely untourist-y and actually quite lovely with its antique red buildings. And it absolutely a fascination when it comes to food. Best of all about Bologna is that it offers you almost unlimited opportunity to move in all directions in search of good food and fascinating cuisines -- Mantova is nearby, Parma and Modena have their famous cheese, ham and vinegar and a lot more. The Barilla Academy in Parma might do you for cooking classes, and might make a very charming base for 5 days, but you can find classes in Bologna as well, I would be almost certain.

http://www.academiabarilla.com/

Vinyards are hard to get to without a car. Are you thinking of renting one?

Without a car, basing in Bologna, you could take a very long day trip to Siena for wine tasting in its wine shops and wine institute, and or maybe even up to some of the wine producers above Firenze (Florence) around Fiesole. Only a handful of wineries admit the public, so if you are serious about learning about wine, it is often better to go to a good wine bar or wine store (of which Bologna no doubt has many).

Since this is a food board, I don't want to get too much into the logistics of your trip, like whether you already have plane tickets and such. Frommer's message board is often good for people who want to get off the tourist track and pursue more deeply specific interests without spending a fortune.

Also, you should get your hands on Fred Plotkin's Italy for the Gourmet Traveler, which includes really valuable information about markets, food stores and wine stores for hundreds and hundreds of Italian towns and cities.

Feb 21, 2010
summerUWS2008 in Italy

Honeymoon in Tuscany for Chowhound-ers

Lucca is in Tuscany! And I second the recommendation for Buca di Sant'Antonio there.

Glad you got to taste the onion soup at Boccon di Vino. Do you think it has sugar in it?

I'm also glad you got to Buonconvento. I *think* I had lunch at Da Mario, but in truth we just walked into a very friendly looking place (there were several on the main street of Lucca) and enjoyed a nice Sunday lunch, the highlight of which was great piles of garlicky spinach.

Feb 17, 2010
summerUWS2008 in Italy

Good authentic food in Rome

Great to have some back-up on the unpretentious goodness of the Roman food at Sor'Eva (at least as of last tastings) and even the existence of this humble place. I was beginning to wonder if I'd imagined my meal there -- but I do remember it well -- Roman artichokes and a simple home-made pasta with peas.

But it really is a dog-leg off the usual tourist path, even though it's actually not far from quite a few tourist destinations.

Feb 17, 2010
summerUWS2008 in Italy

Good authentic food in Rome

4seasons-- Sor'Eva

for what it's worth, I've recommended this Roman trattoria on Chowhound before, and as far as I know, I'm the only person here who has even eaten there. I had a very satisfying simple lunch in 2004, and in 2008, Susan Spano at the LATimes wrote this about Sor'Eva:

"Touristy restaurants and cafes line Borgo Pio from the Vatican east to the Tiber River, but the area is not known for cuisine. One exception is Sor'Eva, 108 Piazza della Rovere, 68-75-797, a small, no-nonsense trattoria with terrific pasta and other Roman specialties; two courses, about $30."

Might fit your requirements.

Feb 16, 2010
summerUWS2008 in Italy

Good authentic food in Rome

4seasons--There isn't any attempt here to be snobby to you. There is an attempt to explain to you that your posts tend to keep asking for something -- no doubt inadvertantly -- that isn't easily found where you say you are going. You want to lunch on homey Roman food during days you are touring central Rome, and it's still not clear to me whether you are willing to go where celebrities go, or to a big name place, or if you want to keep to a budget. Restaurant recommendations on this board are for good restaurant eating in Rome. The focus is on the food. Since you will doing your own cooking at home, you will have a chance to sample a lot of great delicacies available from places like Volpetti's but not on restaurant menus. If you have a good Roman cookbook, you can accomplish those dishes with authentic ingredients (no small matter in Italian cooking). When you go out to a restaurant, you'll get the best food if you follow recommendations for best restaurants.

When you ask for "several suggestions for real trattorias/hosterias known for Roman food and neighborhood homely feeling/price", people aren't being snobby to you when they try to explain why they cannot seriously recommend any to you.

Feb 16, 2010
summerUWS2008 in Italy

Good authentic food in Rome

I can verify from personal experience that I don't always like the most "authentic" regional Italian dish in a restaurant recommended to me by a local Italian -- sometimes because my palate is not up to it, sometimes because of what you said: Nostalgia or habit trumps good judgment. (I have learned NEVER ask anybody in London for a restaurant recommendation.)

And I also have found where I live it is always worth the few extra euros per plate to pay for better food. In Ligurian food, which is so simple, the margin for error seems really small -- so much so that even the best restaurants here occasionally miss (you just have to live with it), but paying for optimally fresh high quality ingredients is what makes the cuisine admirable.

It occurs to me to add 2 things to my observations in this thread:

One is that Milano is a world away in its Italian restaurant habits. Much more like what we expect to find in English-speaking countries.

The other is that, were a Roman or any Italian to beg me, on his or her way to New York City, to please tell me where he or she could finally taste an authentic, well-made American hamburger with cole slaw on the side -- I honestly don't where I could send them! I have never eaten restaurant cole slaw to match any home-made batch. Most of it is inedible. (Likewise potato salad.) New York City hamburgers are among the worst in America (slowly improving.) With a few exceptions, the best typically American dishes I eat in America are cooked for me by my friends who are good cooks. I can think of many standard American dishes I wouldn't touch in a restaurant -- and when Americans go out to eat in restaurants, they almost never go out for American food, or any food they can cook at home. Duck and sea bass only rarely appear on the family dinner table, yet they are ubiquitous on American restaurant menus.

And one last thought: When I lived in America, when the waiter handed teh menu to me, the first question I asked myself was: "What do I feel like eating tonight?" In Italy, when I'm handed the menu, I first ask the waiter what the cook in the kitchen is feeling like cooking tonight. With rare exception, I go with what the cook feels is right for tonight.

Feb 11, 2010
summerUWS2008 in Italy

Good authentic food in Rome

I appreciate the plight of the "poor tourist," but I think even the poor tourist can and perhaps should learn something about the difference in Italian food culture, and therefore not bring their native habits and wrong expectations to the table.

mbfant has made a career of learning these differences, and I hope she will correct my haphazard observations. I didn't come to Italy to study the food. But I really am struck that Italians don't seem to use restaurants in the way that many Americans (or French) do, that they don't view a menu in the same way (if they look at one at all), they don't share a restaurant meal with friends in the same way, they don't rate the restaurant experience the same way. This may be why the Michelin guides are not necessarily good guides to eating out in Italy.

I think if visitors could begin to rethink their expectations about eating in restaurants in Rome, it would open up new and better avenues of thought for them about eating well here.

Feb 10, 2010
summerUWS2008 in Italy