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Italy suggestions

Hitting the road? Ask questions about dining out anywhere, and post your trip reports here!

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Re: Italy suggestions

Postby Ken B » Wed Jan 02, 2013 4:25 pm

I'm 99% certain this is the place, and we did have a kitchen, albeit a small one, in our apartment.

http://www.agriturismobibbiani.it/eng/default.htm

The only reason I said 99% is that there is also a Bibbiano, and both names are somewhat common anyway. But it is super close to Florence, maybe 40 minutes or so by car, and we made day trips as far as Lucca and Sienna with plenty of time to spend in each city, plus even shorter trips to some of the principal Chianti towns, like Greve, Radda, Gaiole and Castellina. You could easily make it to Livorno or other coastal destinations (Elba which is more of a place Italians go, since it is not really on most international tourists agenda - but it is supposed to have a beautiful State or National natural preserve there) if it were seasonally appropriate.

We actually found it through an agriturismo agency, but I couldn't tell you which one, if it even still exists.
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Re: Italy suggestions

Postby Deb Hall » Wed Jan 02, 2013 11:01 pm

Thanks, Ken- I'll check it out. :D
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Re: Italy suggestions

Postby Gayle DeM » Wed Jan 02, 2013 11:51 pm

I am in total agreement with Ken B. Lucca is an amazing medieval walled city. I think the cathedral in Sienna is the most beautiful I have ever seen. I love Tuscany and the Piedmont. I think Rome is over rated. Venice (depending on the season) can smell! I keep going back to Florence again, and again, and again! Pisa is also most interesting. While I am not familiar with most of the Chianti villages mentioned. I hae enjoyed Castellina.
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Re: Italy suggestions

Postby Ken B » Thu Jan 03, 2013 12:35 am

Well...somewhere in a shoebox I have a small stash of business cards from Florence and also our travels throughout Chianti, but cannot find it right now under the piles of legos and other post Christmas detritus. Here's what I found based on my memory:

Cibreo. World class and old school, like Taillevent or La Tour D'Argent. Absolutely worth it if you want the over the top, multiple course, once in a lifetime experience. Favio Picchi is kind of renowned for being a bit of a nut, and when we went, he was on a very traditional almost Renaissance-era Medici inspired menu, but it was great. What's also awesome is that he operates a trattoria right next door to the main restaurant, that serves a significant portion of the restaurant menu a la carte, and without the fancy service. So you can experience the food for a lot less money and investment of time. The one place I would not miss.

http://www.edizioniteatrodelsalecibreof ... 2&Itemid=2

The following three places are pretty traditional, straightforward Trattoria/Osteria, but we had very good meals at all three. Scroll through the galleries on their sites and you'll get the idea.

http://www.ilcantinonedifirenze.it/
http://www.illatini.com/?lang=en
http://www.trattorialemossacce.it/

A couple of wine bars I highly recommend:

Le Volpe L'Uva is right near the entrance to the Medici Gardens at the Piti Palace, so you'll likely be near there anyway. It would be an ideal lunch spot. Their selection of wines will basically be almost entirely stuff you are unlikely to see here (and all awesome), paired with very simple wine-friendly food (cheese and charcuterie plates).

http://www.levolpieluva.com/Le_volpi/Prima_en.html

Les Barriques is a larger enoteca with attached restaurant, south of the river, in an area more frequented by locals than tourists. Worth it for the excuse to explore a little further afield, but walkable from the area around the Duomo, where you will likely stay as that is where most of the hotels are located.

http://www.enotecalebarrique.com/php/index.php?lang=en

The Cantineta Antinori is not inexpensive, but it is near the shopping/high fashion district, so you may find yourself nearby. The food there is very good, and best of all they glass pour most of their wines, including the high end Super Tuscans like Solaia and Tignanello which would only set you back something like $100 a bottle or more over here, so you can try these amazing wines without investing in the whole bottle.

http://www.cantinetta-antinori.com/sezi ... p?IdSez1=1

The Mercato Centrale is super near the Duomo and is a really fun food experience. I would highly recommend stocking up there before leaving the city, the nearest thing to our agriturismo was basically the Italian equivalent of a Kroger - which is nothing to complain about - but had we known we would have gotten some really cool stuff at the mercato and then hauled it out with us. On the smaller outlying towns, there are still markets, but they are only on specific days of the week, so if you do not plan ahead, it will be the Italian Kroger for you.

Outside of Florence I don't have any specific recommendations. In Castellina we found a great restaurant on the main piazza, and an equally great wine shop with a tasting bar nearby. But that was just us driving into town and finding what was open, which in some of the Chianti towns isn't much. Maybe it was the romanticism of the whole trip, but I don't recall having a bad meal or glass of wine, and I am a total snob. Lucca is a little bigger, doing some research ahead of time would probably be a good idea (Lonely Planet and Frommer's have never steered me wrong), especially if you walk the walls of the old city, which is beautiful and worth it, but could take up a chunk of your trip there.
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Re: Italy suggestions

Postby Ken B » Thu Jan 03, 2013 12:39 am

Okay, I need to back track here. ACTUALLY I'm 99% this is the place we stayed:

http://www.tenutadibibbiano.com/agritourism.html
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Re: Italy suggestions

Postby Deb Hall » Fri Jan 04, 2013 7:29 pm

Thanks, Ken!! As always you are a wealth of info. I've already reached out to Cibreo and we are planning to go to either their fine dining restaurant or the Trattoria. :D I'll start focusing on other food once we've firmed up the other arrangements.

All,
We have found a number of small houses/ farmhouses in the Siena area for weekly rent - surprisingly less expensive than my experience with European hotels. We much prefer having our own kitchen and a private terrace- the extra space is a major bonus. The two we like best so far are both in the Castellina in Chianti area- thanks to Ken and Gayle's recommendation we immediately gravitated toward this area. One of them is a recently renovated 1400's stone farmhouse that has been renovated into apartments and a villa; it happens to have been lived in by Galileo :!: for a number of years. How cool is that? :D

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Re: Italy suggestions

Postby Linda C » Sat Jan 12, 2013 11:38 pm

In Rome, take a walking tour of the Vatican and Coloseum/Palatine Hill. You'll get past the crowds that way and get so much more out of it.We stayed ad castelo di Spaltenna in Gaiole in Chianti. I actually enjoyed Siena better than Florence. The church was breathtaking.Also, the wide piazzas were pedestrian friendly and it was easy to navigate. Florence was a little busier and not as quaint. Loved seeing Catherine's preserved head in the older church! Italy's countryside Tuscan area is poorly served by public transport, you need to drive! Also remember that there are cheap and easy flights within Europe. We took Easy Jet from Paris to Slovenia very cheaply.
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Re: Italy suggestions

Postby Ken B » Thu Jan 24, 2013 4:05 pm

Deb-

I know you have other fish to fry as I post this, but I found my little collection of business cards. So it turns out neither of those places I posted is where we stayed! It is here:

http://www.castellodibibbione.com/

Bibbiani, Bibbiano, Bibbione, you get the confusion...and they're all uin the Chianti hills, with apartmetns and a pool!

Here's the wine shop w/tasting room in Castellina I mentioned we liked:

http://www.enotecalevolte.com/eng/chi.html

This was a little stand in the Mercato Centrale in Florence we liked, it looks like it has changed/expanded a bit:

http://comradechufood.blogspot.com/2012 ... rence.html
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Re: Italy suggestions

Postby Deb Hall » Sun Jan 27, 2013 9:47 pm

Thanks, Ken! You are right- I have other fish to fry and totally missed that you posted this. Thanks for the suggestions - and the happy thoughts. :D


We are booked into an agriturismo in Castellina in Chianti for 5 days- he produces olive oil. We have our own cottage with kitchen. Our first two days are Florence- Cibreo Trattoria is a mandatory- then we travel to Bologna. We are doing a tour of Parma & Modena for the Parmesana, prosciutto and balsamico producers. Still need to decide if we will overnight in Parma or Bolgna. Then on to Castellina in Chianti. :D
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Re: Italy suggestions

Postby Deb Hall » Mon Apr 22, 2013 12:48 pm

Trip is only a little over a month away- here are our latest plans ( I have to share to those who will appreciate :D ):

We are booked at the Hotel David in Florence for two nights. Il Cibreo is planned for Sunday dinner- the rest will likely be wing-it plus suggestions from Ken and Dana McMahan who just returned. Must have gelato here, but no market- we are saving that for once we have our car and close to our kitchen. :D

After two days, we depart to Bologna- we have some great recommendations for this food city. Pasta is definitely in the plan. The following day, we go on a private tour of small producers of Proscuitto de Parma, Parmesana- reggiano and Balsamico de Modena ( with tastings at all plus wine of course). Then we are having lunch in Modena at the oldest deli in Italy ( dating back to 1605) - Salumeria Giusti. They close at lunch and have a restaurant in back- food is supposed to be fabulous! They have only four tables- it came recommended from several sources including Mario Batali. Then we'll shop their retail store for provisions, and drive down to our place in Castellini in Chianti.

Once at our place, we plan day trips to a village market day, Siena, and a winery ( I've forgotten name) with a castle and lunch. One dinner with the other guests at our Agriturismo promises to be great fun. Still not sure other day trips- there are a lot of places to visit in a short drive time. :D
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Re: Italy suggestions

Postby Brad Keeton » Tue Apr 23, 2013 3:11 pm

I just found out I'll be in Varese, Italy for 4 nights relatively soon for a business trip. I should have an evening or two free for dinner, so if anyone has recommendations in that area, I would appreciate it.
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