My wife and I recently returned from two weeks in Italy. Before I went I polled a few friends and scoured Chowhound's International Board. I had any number of wonderful food experiences which I will share below as a public service. I will keep a running file and would appreciate comments and feedback.
In Siena we stayed at the Hotel Olivetta by the Porta Romana where the owners know local wine and wineries extremely well. They will organize tasting and tours.
Siena Restaurants - Tried ourselves
Trattoria Papei, Piazza Del Mercato,6. Good pasta and osso buso. Grilled meats were overly salted.
Tratoria La Torre, Via Salicotto, 7-9. Tiny place around the corner from the tower, great food, show up early, no English, just point and you can't go wrong.
Pasta, osso buso, and grilled meats.
Compagnia dei Vinatteri, Via Delle Terme 79. Businessman's lunch spot with great salads and nice bottles of open wine.
Siena - recommended by others - not tried
Hosteria di Renata Toppi, Via Casato di Sotto 32.
La Sosta di Violante, via di Panteneto, by the Porta Romana.
Near Cinqe Terre we stayed at the Locanda Miranda (see Karen Brown's guide) in Tellaro which has half board. It is all fish and the food is great, but don't go without a car. Downtown Tellaro is charming - all two blocks of it.
Cinqe Terre Restaurants - recommended by others-
Il Gambero Rosso - Vernazza
Billy's near Ria Maggiore - anything fresh or the white anchovies-
In Florence we stayed at the Hotel Silla on the Pitti Palace side of the Arno - superb at $135 per night bus right there.
Florence - restaurants tried ourselves -
Risorante Penello, Via. D. Alighieri 4. Superb antepasto, great steaks, friend vegetables, pasta just so so.
Trattoria il Teatro, Via degli Alfani 47, Wonderful salads including one with octopus.
Sostanza, Via del Porcellana, 25. Funky old place frequented by Ezra Pound and John Stenibeck. You sit at shared tables where the steak and chicken are great.
Tratoria Za Za, Piazza del Mercato Centrale 26. Noisy upscale, crowded place. Long wait but great chops and salads.
Restaurant Le Fonticine, Via Nazionale 79. Homemade pasta was excellent.
Pan e Vino, Via S. Niccolo 70. Behind our hotel. A real sleeper with wonderfully original recepies with a continental flavor and a good selection of wine. My wife had the duck and I the timbalo of eggplant.
Trattoria 13 Gobi, Via Del Porcellana 13. Nice outdoor garden, good wide pasta and lamb. Service awful.
We ate lunch at the large food stall in the market. Good beans and sausage and great wine out of a jug. These guys weren't pushing high end wine so there was no incentive to give you third rate house wine as many of the above places tend to do.
Recommended but not tried -
Cinghali Bianco - full of tourists, but good on my last visit.
Cantente Antinori - businessman's lunch place. upscale but food good on last visit.
Cibreo -everyone raved.
Il Latini - Via del Palchetti, by Marini musueam (which should not be missed) Good steaks.
Da Mario -around corner from Za Za by market - open lunches only - highly touted, but we opted for the market itself.
Out of town : Zibbibo -begun by ex wife of Cebreo owner.
La Tendra Rosa - world class place
ENJOY AND COMMENT -
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