Sunrise view on Valdichiana and Lake Trasimeno from Locanda's guestrooms
When it comes to ice cream, there is still only one place in Rome. It has been the best since 1900. I love Giolitti not only for the great gelato, but also because it hasn’t changed since I was a little girl. 39/06-699-1243. By Pepi Marchetti Franchi, as told to Elizabeth Minchilli. This appeared in the November/December 2012 issue. Read about Pepi Marchetti Franchi’s favorite neighborhood in Rome.
...hiking along the mountainous coast of the Ligurian Riviera on a hot afternoon, through vineyards with the occasional shade of lemon and olive trees, with the promise of a gnocchi dinner at trail's end in a Mediterranean port--if this is 'roughing it,' then give me more! After sunset, sipping limoncello and looking up at the stars while grandparents play with their grandchildren in the background...
While in Florence in May, my husband and I visited the world-famous Ponte Vecchio. I loved the vibrant colors and varied textures of the bridge and they way things like these shuttered windows and pastel walls came together so well to make the Ponte Vecchio the beauty it is.
Winemaker Renato Ratti recently opened to the public his family’s 18th-century, 13-room villa in the Piedmont countryside. An old cellar stores decades’ worth of Ratti wines. Guided tastings can be arranged upon request, and bottles can be shipped home for guests. The owners may open a restaurant in the next two years. For now, they direct guests to La Luna nel Pozzo, in the nearby village of Neive. The tiny family-run spot serves excellent homemade pastas paired with local wines. The villa’s old tower has been turned into a three-floor deluxe suite with hardwood floors, frescoed walls, and a Turkish bath. Each floor has 360-degree vineyard views. From $185. 39/0140-962-021. This appeared in the March/April 2013 issue.
I fell in love with Venice at Burano. All right, truly I fell in love the moment we stepped out of the train station and saw the vacation postcard in 3D. Funny, to immediately adore a city I had always considered too cliché to want to visit. But I have a perpetual passion for islands, so I wanted our Venice visit to include as many of the outlying islands as I could hop a vaporetto to. Sadly, due to time constraints and a transportation strike, that number ended with four. Burano, reached late in the day as the sun set behind its tower, insisted we stay far longer than we could. It seemed surprised we were there at all; at a time when all the other tourists had left, we were just showing up. The vibrant daylight colors of Burano become richer in the twilight, the water seems stiller, the time even slower. Venice enchants—Burano quietly receives.
Florence is the stuff that fairy tales are made of. Piazzale Michelangelo has the best view of the city, and you can access it by car, bus, or your own incredibly fit calf muscles if you feel like climbing the stairs. This morning was gorgeous, I'd imagine dusk would be equally spectacular.
Here is one of Rome’s best restaurants: Al Moro is very traditional and is well known for the quality of its seasonal ingredients, including porcini mushrooms, wild strawberries, artichokes, and asparagus. 39/06-678-3495. By Pepi Marchetti Franchi, as told to Elizabeth Minchilli. This appeared in the November/December 2012 issue. Read about Pepi Marchetti Franchi’s favorite neighborhood in Rome.
Food in Italy is still largely about seasonality, and never more so than in late fall when the new olive oil (‘olio nuovo’) begins to arrive in the shops. Take a drive into the Tuscan countryside anytime between late October and December and you will see olive groves with nets spread under the trees and pickers hard at work raking the fruit off the branches. Olio nuovo retains its peppery piquancy until the spring, so make sure you taste the ‘extra virgin’ gold while it’s still young. This photo was taken in our olive grove just outside Florence during olive-picking season.
One of the most charming towns we visited during our May trip to Italy was Pienza, situated in Tuscany between Montepulciano and Montalcino (also worth a visit if you're in the area). Pienza is best known for its delicious pecorino cheeses, arguably the best of which is its "sotto cenere," or "under ashes," variety, produced between October and July and seasoned for up to two months to develop its distinctive flavor. Another reason to visit Pienza is its incredible, prototypically-Tuscan postcard views of the rolling hills, cypress trees and rustic estates in the Val d'Orcia surrounding the town. When visiting Pienza, make sure to bring your appetite - between its rich cheeses, delicious meats and bold wines, Pienza is a culinary treat!
I tell all my friends to stay here. It’s a great location, right off Piazza del Popolo. The hotel is not part of a chain. It’s family owned, which is charming. 39/06-361-0841. By Pepi Marchetti Franchi, as told to Elizabeth Minchilli. This appeared in the November/December 2012 issue. Read about Pepi Marchetti Franchi’s favorite neighborhood in Rome.
There are few places that blend dramatic scenery, old-world history, and stellar food culture as beautifully as Sardinia. In early summer, wildflowers color the island, cherries are at their juiciest, and many regions are surprisingly tourist free. Several new small hotels complement the setting. This appeared in the May/June 2012 issue.
This summer Eddy Bourdages, 33, and his mother, Mireille Anderson, 57, made their first trip to Italy. “We wanted to open an authentic Neapolitan wood oven pizzeria, so we went to the source,” says Bourdages. Anderson has owned L’Odyssée Bistro & Steakhouse in Labrador City, in eastern Canada, since 2008. Her son, however, is a computer scientist who quit six years ago to attend culinary school. “I had never made a pizza in my life,” he says. They enrolled in a weeklong pizza boot camp run by the Naples-based Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana (Real Neapolitan Pizza Association), a nonprofit dedicated to promoting Neapolitan pizza traditions. The five students, who ranged in age from 18 to 56, attended lectures on ingredients, visited a flour mill and a mozzarella producer, and spent 28 hours making pizza under the supervision of master pizzaiolos. By day, the apprentices learned how to make the Neapolitan pie’s characteristic thick outer crust. At night, they worked at historic pizzerias throughout the city.Bourdages was assigned to Al 22 (Via Pignasecca 22, 39/ (0) 81-552-2726), located on a street that is famous for its food market. “There were always two pizza masters at the front of the restaurant,” he says. “One stretches, dresses, and places the pizza on a traditional wooden peel being held by the second pizzaiolo, who loads it into the oven and plates it. During service I stretched dough alongside the pizzaiolo. Sometimes I’d get a thumbs-up; sometimes my dough would get restretched.” Bourdages and Anderson also signed on for an extra week of unpaid pizzeria work. “The dough making is the hardest part,” Bourdages says. “You have to know when to stop adding flour. That changes each day, depending on the humidity in the air. The pizzaiolos could stick a finger in the dough and tell it was ready.” The program culminates with a written and practical exam that Bourdages says is like an episode of America’s Got Talent. “Three AVPN members watched us make a margherita pizza (crushed, peeled tomatoes, mozzarella di bufala, basil, olive oil) and a marinara pizza (garlic, oregano, olive oil, and two spoons of tomato sauce). They tasted them and evaluated every bite. It was quite nerve-racking.”Bourdages and Anderson both passed, and celebrated by spending a day in Capri. Their pizzeria, Punchinello’s, will open in early 2013 in Labrador City. “We sourced an oven from Italy. We want people to feel like they’re in a pizzeria in Naples,” he says. “My experience changed my perception of pizza. But after living in a place where people eat pizza three meals a day, it also made me excited to eat sushi.” From $1,720. 39/(0) 81-420-1205. This appeared in the October 2012 issue.
Gabriele Bonci's famous pizza-by-the-slice joint serves some of the best pizza in town. The slow-leavened dough is made from organic, stone ground flour and toppings change throughout the day. Pizzarium also sells excellent bread and supplì (fried rice balls with various fillings). If you dare, get one of every slice. Doing so will certainly push Pizzarium out of the moderate budget range, but it is a worthwhile splurge. Pair your pizza with a craft beer from the fridge. Beware: the tiny place gets crowded at lunch, there are only a couple of benches outside to sit on, and there is no table service.
Ah, Milano—the fashion capital of the world (or of Europe? It is still up for debate). Next to the Duomo you'll find couture houses left and right. A girl can only dream. Dreaming. That is exactly what I was doing while passing through the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. But what I came across, I did not expect. In the middle of the Galleria was a professional ballroom dancing competition. The women were elegant in their colorful, jeweled gowns. And the men—dapper in tuxedos. The music, the ambiance, and the effortless dancing made a lasting impression. Events like these are common on the weekends, so be sure to stop by.
Few things provide tranquility for the soul like fresh air, open space, and ancient Roman ruins? Yep. It's definitely not a staple in every big city park, but leave it to Rome to chose a space as beautiful as Villa Borghese as their center for all things outdoors while being just outside the city walls. Villa Borghese is as breathtaking as it is vast, and the perfect place for a picnic, a stroll, or a run to burn off some pasta. I came here almost every day after work in the fall for a quick run before the sun started setting at 4:30 p.m. Though it was a bit more crowded, I would come here on Saturdays, too, with a good book or a journal for a few hours to find some quiet away from the crowded, touristy center. There are gorgeous ponds, fountains, ruins, piazzas, museums, small fields, trails, great photo ops, and benches everywhere. Not to mention it's just a short walk up from the Spanish steps.
If you find yourself on the Mediterranean Sea or in Italy then be sure you make your way to Cinque Terre. Cinque Terre, or "The Five Lands" (in Italian), is composed of five villages: Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore, which make up the Cinque Terre National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There is little or no "corporate development" here. The place has changed little over the past few hundred years and it is picturesque to say the least with turquoise blue water, dramatic sea cliffs, and terraced hillsides full of grape vines and olive groves. Hiking is the best way to experience Cinque Terre and to get the feel of the five distinct villages. I enjoyed the first hike so much that I decided to do it again a few days later. The vistas are magnificent and I would suggest stopping to spend time in each village to sample their distinct wine, have a snack in one, lunch in another, and gelato at the end. You are in Italy after all! Plan on the hike consuming your day so that you have time to take in the views along the way, spend time in each village, and swim a few times along the way. I also recommend starting in Riomaggiore and ending in Monterosso (and take the train back to whichever village you are residing in during your stay). Plan on a five-hour hike that can be rather strenuous at times. Wear comfortable shoes (not flip-flops) and wear sunblock. You can buy food and water along the way and bail to the train anytime.
According to legend, Rome’s first orange trees—St. Dominic’s gifts to the pope—were planted in Giardino degli Aranci (Garden of the Oranges) in the 13th century. The secluded park provides a panoramic view of the city, from the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica to the Vittorio Emanuele monument. Sit below the aromatic trees and watch the sun set over the Tiber River. This appeared in the May/June 2011 issue.
At the ground-floor wine bar, take in the view of the Grand Canal while enjoying such cicchetti as salumi and cheese. In the upstairs dining room, choose from a menu that features intriguing dishes, including cocoa fusilli with boar ragù. Campo San Giacometto, San Polo 122 39/041-523-2061. This appeared in the March/April 2013 issue.
As it's one of the most popular sights in Venice, you may have to wait (and/or fight) for the perfect spot to view the Bridge of Sighs, but it's so beautiful that it's worth the effort. Part of the Doge's palace, the bridge leads to the prison, and it was said that prisoners 'sighed' as they viewed Venice for the last time before incarceration. The bridge is a must-see when in Venice and the view from inside the palace itself is not to be missed.
I love to go to this restaurant and wine bar for a glass of prosecco and to enjoy the unique view out over the Spanish Steps and the rest of Rome as the sun sets. 39/06-699-341000. By Pepi Marchetti Franchi, as told to Elizabeth Minchilli. This appeared in the November/December 2012 issue. Read about Pepi Marchetti Franchi’s favorite neighborhood in Rome.
Against our middle child's protests that we were going in a ramp that stated “Exit Only,” we rambled into the Roman Forum area after hours. Which is why we found ourselves at the top of a hill, overlooking the city, with only two young Italian families to share the moment of a perfect sunset over matching pink buildings and glowing marble. Sometimes, it pays to be a rebel.
I often take out-of-town guests here for lunch because it feels—and is—so authentic. Whenever I go in, I have ‘my’ table, as do all the other Roman regulars. One of the restaurant’s specialties is the Francovich soup, which is a delicious Tuscan bean soup. 39/06-679-5676. By Pepi Marchetti Franchi, as told to Elizabeth Minchilli. This appeared in the November/December 2012 issue. Read about Pepi Marchetti Franchi’s favorite neighborhood in Rome.
Roman life takes place out in the open, in the big piazzas. Ciampini is the ideal place to sit down over a cappuccino or a glass of wine and watch the spectacle of tourists and locals intermingling. 39/06-687-6606. By Pepi Marchetti Franchi, as told to Elizabeth Minchilli. This appeared in the November/December 2012 issue. Read about Pepi Marchetti Franchi’s favorite neighborhood in Rome.
Yes, it's possible to see the Cinque Terre in a day! I was hoping to hike from village to village, but that trail is closed now because of the recent floods. So i took the very convenient little train that ruins about every half hour from one town to another. I also hiked on a 2.5h long trail that runs over the mountain between Corniglia and Manarola. It was so beautiful. It was perfect. It was such a hot January day i had to take off most of my layers. As much as it's possible to do it in a day, i'll go back as often as possible, because even though i saw all 5 villages, you can never have enough i guess! :)
The café Erba Brusca sits on a plot of land at the city’s edge, where concrete blocks meet grassy meadows. Italian staples such as buttery white polenta and roasted speziata sausage are made with herbs and greens grown on-site. Reserve a table on the garden terrace near the vegetable beds and pond. 39/(0) 02-8738-0711. This appeared in the September, 2012 issue.
Paul says that, with my love of food, you’d never know we saw any sites in Rome. He’s right. I’m more of a food blogger than a tourism blogger. While I think the sites are amazing and educational, I hate how crowded they can get! I totally prefer sitting at a little cafe, watching the people go by, engaging in conversation with locals, and just, relaxing. I learn the most just this way. A few nights before this trip, my mother-in-law and I got into a heated debate about what’s most important to a traveler. I say, “it’s all about the food” and she says, “it’s all about the sites”. I say, “you need food to survive” and she says, “not if you’re in a museum”. I say, “food brings conversation” and she says, “so does the Trevi Fountain”. This debate went on and on for days and before we left we decided to settle on a healthy balance of food and sites. Then, we got to Rome. What’s the first thing we did? We ate, and then we ate some more and, as a result, we learned. We learned about Italian culture, cuisine, and caught a small glimpse of what it’s like to be Roman. Our niece learned how to ask for the check (el conto por favore) and I learned how to confidently walk into a Roman restaurant and ask for a table for 5 (cinque). All without even stepping foot into a museum. Some of our favorite memories are a result of where and what we ate. And what did my mother-in-law have to say after all this? “You’re right Michelle. Maybe it is all about the food”.
There are many excellent restaurants in Florence, but this one was recommended to me by a local, and I'm so glad it was. Alessandro, the chef, recently returned after working in New York City for eight years. Located on a small street near the Duomo, La Cucina del Garga offers so much for a small restaurant: recipes inspired by the chef's father (Garga), art covering the walls, friendly staff, great Tuscan wines, funky menu designs, and reasonable prices. A seemingly simple salad of greens, tomatoes, pine nuts and cheese was the best salad I've ever had. Other great dishes were the fresh twisted penne with pistachios and cherry tomatoes, and creamy pasta with scallops. If possible, make a reservation and ask for the "painted room."
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