How to eat my way through Italy! (Mainly Florence and Rome but open to suggestions as to where I should go!)

Hello all! I've been in Spain for a month working on my Spanish but I need a change of scenery for a bit. The Tuesday after the coming one (Nov.12th), I'll be travelling to Florence, Italy for 10 days! I'll also be making a trip to Rome, and most likely other closer regions/towns (Lucca, Bologna...).

It's a relatively short trip and I'd love to hear some advice or just your experience of travelling to Italy! In particular, I'd like to hear some advice on how to see as much of Rome as I can in a day or two. I'm less about cathedrals and museums (after staying in Madrid for 3 weeks, I finally let my flatmates push me into the Prado museum like a child forced to eat her broccoli) and more about seeing and participating in what locals do, getting lost in markets and of course the food! (I can handle adventurous, gnarly ingredients including offal). Any suggestions would be much appreciated! Any useful phrases/words to use in the restaurants or on the streets? :)

  • Posted by: Jen0315
  • November 3, 2013


healthierkitchen November 3, 2013
These were some of my son's favorites while he spent the spring semester in Florence: for food and atmospheric wandering in Florence, try to get to the Sant' Ambrogio market, walk up to the top of hill to Piazzale Michelangelo past San Miniato, check out the Santo Spirito area and have pizza at Gusta Pizza and coffee or evening drinks at Gravity on the piazza, have ice cream at La Carraia, roast beef sandwich (or the porchetta or both!) at Nerbone in the Mercato Centrale, sandwiches at al Antico Vinaio. If you want to try the famous bistecca, go to Trattoria Mario (go early and it's cash only, tiny place and you share tables). Best nicer restaurant for old school food Birreria Centrale. This recommendation came from Em-i-lis' sister who lives there and it was excellent. I've been to Florence several times and am embarrassed to say that I thought that seeing the copy of the David in the Piazza della Signoria was sufficient. Until my last trip when I paid the money to see the original in the Galleria dell' Accademia and it was breathtaking. Literally, I gasped when I first caught sight of him. If you are not a museum person, and you can spend for the admission, it's worth it just for David. Likewise, I think the Bargello would be my next choice for someone who doesn't love museums. It's not too big and has a great collection of Donatellos. The Uffizi is amazing, but a real time commitment. I really liked the Boboli and Barditti gardens next to the Pitti Palace, too. For churches in Florence, if you were only going to go inside one, I'd pick Santa Croce which has amazing frescoes, tombs of famous Florentines Michelangelo and Galileo, etc.
Valentina S. November 3, 2013
If I may make some Florence suggestions, I absolutely encourage you to try stuffed focaccia at Bondi. There are so many combos for the stuffings! If you can't quite understand what's going on, just point at what looks good to you. Look it up in the map!

Also, be very careful with Gelato in Florence (or in any big city) as they might sell you junk/small/overpriced ice cream easily. There is an amazing Gelateria in Florence called Mordilatte. Again, do look it up! :)

Another thing to try in Florence is the Lampredotto sandwich, which is one of the four stomachs of a cow, stewed then put in a panino (of which the top part is dipped in the cooking broth) and smeared with salsa verde. Try searching for 'Tripperia delle Cure' or 'Sergio e Pierpaolo'.
pierino November 3, 2013
Yes, please. Bring on the trippa. I love it. I will be cooking some up this week.
Maedl November 3, 2013
With a bit of luck the new olive oil may be available when you are there. Soak up as much of it as you can. Another church off the tourist track in Rome is Santa Prassade, a stone's throw from Santa Maria Maggiore. Santa Prassade has incredible Byzantine mosaics and is worth a visit.
plainhomecook November 3, 2013
Especially agree with Nancy on San Clemente. You look down a sort of well through the centuries, all the way to a temple to Mithras. Not to be missed.
Nancy H. November 3, 2013
If you have your I phone (and who doesn't, these days) your best bet are the apps created by Elizabeth Minchilli (for Rome & Florence) and Katie Parla (Rome alone). Both are long-time residents and passionate about food and drink. But don't knock the museums and churches--San Clemente in Rome is a staggering history lesson with the bottom levels going back to pre-Christian times all the way up to practically modern 12th c. You won't regret it. In Bologna of course you must have tortellini in brodo, widely available all over town, but the meat dishes are also superb and the whole place is a paean to the rich cuisines of the Po valley. Rather than Lucca, however, for a total gastronomic experience, I would go to Modena and have lunch at La Francescana--make a res right away because chef Massimo Bottura is featured in the current food issue of the New Yorker--again, though, I guarantee you won't regret it, even if you have to go all by yourself. You'll be even better looked after. And I hope you realized in the end that the Prado too is worth the trip, if only to see early surrealism in the Breugels.
pierino November 3, 2013
Lucca is in Tuscany whereas Modena is a brief 25 minute train ride from Bologna. I'll leave Lucca to the Rick Steves crowd who feel compelled to combine Venice, Florence, Rome and the Cinque Terre into a single trip---I call it "getting Stevesed".
Another place I forgot to mention in Rome is Da Nerone just up the hill from the Colosseo in via Terme di Tito. The best oxtail (coda di vaccinara) you might ever taste in your life.
pierino November 3, 2013
Rome: for the nasty bits you are going to the right place. Much of Rome's serious cooking is based on offal. I think of "Rome's Kitchen" as being the Testaccio district which is slightly off the tourist maps, down below the Aventine Hill. Metro stop, Piramide. The market scene in Testaccio will make you swoon. Perilli in via Marmoratta is a good place to begin.
One thing that is unique about Rome is that you can taste the different regional cuisines from all over the peninsula. Why? Because legions of cardinals and politicians come and go bringing their own chefs with them. One of my favorites is Da Giuseppe up near Piazza del Popolo for authentic, housemade bolognese style pasta and bollito misto.
Useful phrases? "Fate voi" which means, "you do it" in the sense that whatever is good tonight. Just bring it! You are putting your trust in the establishment. Odds are you won't be disappointed.
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