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Archive for the ‘Tuscan restaurants’ Category

Pitigliano View

South of Grosetto, the southern most large city in the Tuscan Province, stands the village of Pitigliano. Though it was not until the 11th Century that written records first mention this village, evidence of both Etruscan and 5th Century Christian presence have been discovered. The commanding position of the village, surrounded by valleys, is a spectacular sight regardless of how you approach the ancient walls.

During the 16th Century, city and state governments in Italy moved their Jewish populations into Ghettos. Many of those Jews who had been closed within the Ghettos of Siena, Florence and other cities began to move to the little-known, quiet, retreat of Pitigliano.

This is not meant to imply that Jews lived an easy life in these times; it was never easy. Despite requirements to wear certain types of clothing to mark themselves “Jew”, the closely knit community made a reasonable life for themselves in the tiny village.

The town’s unique geography includes a maze of spaces within the tufa that were created by prehistoric volcanoes or carved by those who sought shelter.

It is a curious twist of both Italian and Jewish history that this small town became a refuge for those seeking a more peaceful and protected way to life.

Some friends who live near Florence related the story that, during World War II, the non-Jewish residents of Pitigliano hid and protected the Jewish community, literally, under the village. Chambers once used by the ancients became a refuge for those persecuted. Throughout the war the townspeople stood resolute in their determination to protect the innocent.

I must admit to a certain ‘ache’ when I visit Pitigliano. The domination of religions and the persecution of centuries all seem very raw even in the narrow lanes and streets of this lovely Tuscan village. When I have explored the tufa spaces beneath the city, I have felt the presence of those who have gone before. At sunset, when the bells of churches toll there is, for many visitors, a clear sense of the terrible cost exacted from those whose religious beliefs were in conflict with the ‘powers that were’.

IF YOU GO:

The easiest access to Pitigliano if you do not have a car is by train. Trains connect Grosetto with both Rome and Florence and run on a regular basis throughout the day. Once you arrive by train you can take one of the numerous buses which travel to/from the village. Buses leave from directly in front of the train station in Grosetto.

If, however, you have a car, I strongly encourage you to add a day’s visit to this fascinating and historic village.

Bus schedules and details can be found here: RAMA Grosetto

Hotels:

There is one hotel within the city walls, the Albergo Guastini. This is an intimate hotel and its location offers immediate access to the village.

Piazza Petruccioli, 4, 58017 Pitigliano Grosseto, Italy

Tel: +39 0564 61410

Outside of the city walls, there are numerous choices. Most will require a car to visit the city if you choose one of these accommodations.

S.S 74 Maremmana Ovest,

58017 Pitigliano Province of Grosseto, Italy

Tel: +39 0564 616112

Via Valle Orientina, S.R. 74 , 58017 Pitigliano, Province of Grosseto, Italy

Sites to visit:

  • The Orsini Fortress, which achieved its present state in 1545 but represents a reworking of the earlier medieval fortress
  • the town’s walls and gates, the best preserved of which is the Porta Sovana.
  • The Cathedral of San Pietro e Paolo
  • The Jewish Synagogue and Museum

Quiet Corner of Pitigliano

Restaurants

(Note: You might enjoy trying the Bianca di Pitigliano, a local white wine produced from the vineyards surrounding the village.)

Il Tufo Allegro

Vicolo della Costituzione, 5

58017 Pitigliano Italy

Tel: +39.0564.616.192

My favorite. Slow Food, beautifully prepared with lovingly served. Don’t expect fancy. Expect exceptional food.

La Ceccottino*

(no web site)

Via Vignole

58017 Pitigliano

*I have never eaten at this restaurant, though the reviews are consistently good and friends say it is equal to “Il Tufo Allegro”.

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View of Fiesole
Above Florence

Atop a hill to the north of the city of Florence, largely ignored by most visitors to the city, is the Convent of San Francesco. Below that gorgeous renaissance building is the heart of Fiesole, a little known jewel and the birthplace of modern day Florence.

The village was founded by the Etruscans. When the Roman’s conquered the village in the third century BC, they named it Faesulae, hence its modern name. The earliest inhabitants of Florentia, modern day Florence, came from Fiesole.

What most visitors don’t realize is that within a few minutes bus ride from the center of Florence is one of the best archaeological sites in Tuscany.

The Archaeological site includes remains of the Roman temple (built on the foundations of the Etruscan’s temple), a well restored Roman bath complex and an amphitheater capable of holding up to 2000 spectators.

Amphitheater Fiesloe

Beyond the relics in the Etruscan Museum, located on the grounds of the archaeological site, is the Museo Bandini, which offers an amazing collection of 14th to 14th Century works by artists like Taddeo gaddi and Lorenzeo Monaco. The ticket for the archaeological site includes admission to this museum.

There are not many walks in the are of Florence that offer more spectacular views of the city than the Via San Francesco, which leads from the main town square UP the hill to the convent of the same name. If the timing is right, stop by the Erta del Mangia, a lovely restaurant on your right as you climb above the town. The restaurant offers a quiet garden and fairly priced meals.

Courtyard Fiesole
Monastery of Saint Frances

The chapel at the Monastery of San Francesco, sited on what once was the Acropolis of the Etruscans, contains a spectacular early Renaissance altarpiece. The quiet inner courtyard offers a sense of the peaceful seclusion found by the monks who once inhabited the buildings.

Fiesole is truly a little-known jewel above the city. Include a visit when you are in the area and you will not be disappointed.

Some additional details and restaurant recommendations are listed below.

IF YOU GO:

The Number 21 bus leaves from Santa Maria Novella Station on a regular basis. Fares run Euro 3.50 each way for the trip to the main piazza in Fiesole. Easy access to all the sites mentioned in this post from this bus stop.

Tickets for the Archaeological Area and the Museo Bandini are available at the entrance to the site. The entrance is located a few steps from the main square in the village.Cost: Euro 10.00 per person. No discount for children unless EU citizens. Group rate available for groups larger than ten visitors. (Euro 6.00 per person)

Archaeological Site: Via Portigiani, 1 – Fiesole
Open: 9,30am- 7pm (summer) and 9.30am-5pm (winter). Closed on Tuesdays only during the winter.

Museo Bandini: Via Dupré, 1 – Fiesole
Open Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays – in March, 10am-6pm, in April 10-7pm
Call 055.596.1293 to verify opening times

Monastery of Saint Francis: May-Sep 10am-12 noon and 3pm-6pm; Sat, Sun and holidays 3pm-6pm; rest of the year 10am-12 noon and 3pm-5pm; Sat, Sun and hols 3pm-5pm. Closed on Mondays.

Restaurants:

Perseus: On the square in the village. Excellent Tuscan menu, authentic preparations. Beefsteak Florentine? This place is famous for its preparation. Italian’s eat here. Not much more to say.

Hotels:

Hotel Villa Aurora: The entrance to this unassuming three stay hotel is directly off the main square in the village. They offer lovely clean rooms for a fraction of Florence’s costs – the views from the rooms facing west are unforgettable. There is a large terrace for drinks and meals – owned by another business, yet directly next to the hotel. Good value.

Piazza Mino, 39 – 50014 Fiesole (FI)
Tel. 05559363 –

Web Site: Hotel Villa Aurora

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Okay. I admit it. I’m addicted to Ristorante Cafaggi where, for over twenty years, I have enjoyed flavorful, truly Tuscan meals. I was introduced to this well respected restaurant in the late 1980’s by a friend whose family owns a nearby hotel.

Find “truly Tuscan” in Florence?

A recent experience underscores the challenge of finding family owned and operated restaurants in this historic and beautiful city. After a busy morning doing research at the Biblioteca Riccardiana located in the Palazzo Medici-Ricardi, I entered a small nearby cafe for lunch. The woman behind the counter was from a distant land and did not speak either Italian or English . . . nor did anyone else in the place. As extreme as this  may seem, it is unfortunately repeated in many eateries across the city.

Cafaggi Ristorante Florence

Cafaggi, Florence

Cafaggi, in an increasingly world-confused culture, is a reliable retreat for lovingly prepared traditional Tuscan meals.

The family Cafaggi established their restaurant many years ago. Since then, generations have enthusiastically prepared the very best of Tuscan cuisine for locals and visitors alike. Dining room and kitchen have little changed since opening, save for repairs made after five feet of Arno River waters flooded the space in November 1966.

As street noise abated by the minute. staff lingered at tables to describe the day’s specials or to discuss

Tagliatelle con porcini

topics of the day. Dinner this evening included Bruschetta, Tagliatelle with Porcini mushrooms and a succulent breast of chicken accompanied by fresh asparagus. Price? Less than $30.00 including wine and tip. In Florence, an incredibly fair price. By the time I left, all but a few diners remained. Satiated, as always, by luscious food, I returned to my hotel.

The Ristorante is located on the Via Guelfa, not far from the Accademia di Belle Arti and the Piazza San Marco.

I cannot recommend this restaurant highly enough.

In future posts, I will share information for travelers about where to find other fairly priced, traditional Tuscan kitchens in bella Firenze. Join me!

IF YOU GO:

Ristorante Cafaggi

Via Guelfa, 35r

Florence, Italy

TEL: +39 055 294989

Other resources:

Ristorante Cafaggi

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In the course of many years travel across Tuscany, I have created a list of my favorite places to enjoy lunch or dinner. This particular short list focuses on the areas in, or near, San Gimignano, Monteriggione and Barberino Val d’Elsa. Great food, fair prices and consistently good service? Try these if/when you go. Meals enjoyed at these restaurants have always been memorable.

For further details about this area of Italy:

www.private-italy.com

Restaurant Price Points:

*: Euro 15 – Euro 20 per person without alcohol

**: Euro 20 – Euro 30 per person without alcohol

***: Euro 30 – Euro 40 per person without alcohol

****: Euro 40 and above per person without alcohol

– – – – – – –

Hotel La Cisterna, San GimignanoLa Cisterna **

This Ristorante is located in the Hotel La Cisterna, on the Piazza of the same name, in the heart of San Gimignano. Llarge sliding glass windows face the valleys below San Gimignano. For lunch, especially, this is a wonderful place to eat. The food is fairly priced, traditional and the wine list pricing is fair for a city so full of visitors.

I recommend calling to reserve at table prior to your visit. You can also, on the day you arrive in San Gimignano, walk to the hotel and reserve a table for your lunch or dinner. Lunch begins at 12:30PM, dinner at 7:30PM.

IF YOU GO:

Albergo Ristorante La Cisterna

Piazza della Cisterna, 23

53037 San Gimignano (SI) Italy

Tel: 0577 940328

www.hotelcisterna.it

Dorando, Slow Food, San GimignanoDorando ***

When the Slow Food Movement began in Italy, Dorando was one of the first restaurants to deliver on the goal of incredible food, great wine list and time to enjoy the meal. The restaurant is located down a narrow alley, directly off of the Piazza Duomo in San Gimignano. There are no views, as the restaurant is located in the cellars of a 14th Century building.  Lovingly and beautifully restored, you will not miss the view – the food and wine are the focus in this fabulous restaurant.

This is not an inexpensive place – and you should plan at least two hours for a meal, especially dinner. Reservations strongly recommended.

IF YOU GO:

Ristorante Dorando

Vicolo dell’Oro, 2

53037 San Gimignano (SI), Italy

Tel: 333 2786611 (Owner Cell Phone)

www.ristorantedorando.it/

Bel Soggiorno **

Just inside the Porta San Giovanni, the main gate of the town of San Gimignano, is the Hotel Bel Soggiorno. UnbeknowDining Room, Hotel Bel Soggiorno San Gimignanonst to many visitors, the hotel offers one of the finest restaurants, with some of the most gorgeous views, in Tuscany. This is also a lovely hotel, providing clean and comfortable, though not particularly large, rooms. There are a few rooms available that have large terraces. The views across central Tuscany are unforgettable.

The restaurant is located off of the lobby at street level. As you enter the space, the entire valley below San Gimignano spreads before you through huge glass windows. Great place for lunch or dinner. I do highly recommend reservations if you plan dinner.

IF YOU GO:

Ristorante Bel Soggiorno

Via S.Giovanni, 91

53037 SAN GIMIGNANO

Tel: 0577 940375

www.hotelbelsoggiorno.it

View of San Gimignano from above Poggio AlloroPoggio Alloro **

Some Florentine friends introduced me to this restaurant five years ago and I’ve returned many times. The local Florentine beef is outstanding – some of the best in Italy. The wine list is certainly sufficient and the prices are very fair. The view of the towers in San Gimignano from the terrace is one in a million. I can’t recommend this place highly enough for both lunch and dinner. It is the unique combination of perfectly prepared meals, the view and the loving care that the owners give to their farm, that makes this place very special.

Please note: The Poggio (small hill) is located outside the San Gimignano city gate of San Matteo. You will find the Poggio on your right as you drive down away from the Porta (Gate) San Matteo. The sign for the place is not very easy to spot…but just keep looking to your right as you drive away from San Gimignano. If you drive more than ten minutes or so, you have missed the turn into the Poggio. Well worth the effort!

This is an Agriturismo, so you will find vacation apartments and a gift shop along with the restaurant. A wonderful place to enjoy a shaded lunch or dinner with spectacular views of San Gimignano.

IF YOU GO:

Fattoria Poggio Alloro

Via Andrea Mantegna, 23

53037 San Gimignano (SI), Italy

Tel: 0577 950153

www.fattoriapoggioalloro.com/

Restaurant Il Pozzo, Main Square, MOnterggioneIl Pozzo, Monteriggioni **

The village of Monteriggione is located within sight of the Florence-Siena motorway, but you will hardly notice that proximity. This is a true medieval walled town that has little changed since it was built by the Sienese centuries ago.

There is one small piazza and Il Pozzo is located directly on that square. Tables on the terrace offer umbrellas for shade and lunch or dinner at this restaurant is – for good reasons – memorable.

If you wish to eat on the terrace, come early. Lunch begins at 12:30PM.

IF YOU GO:

Ristorante Il Pozzo

Piazza Roma, 20

53035 – Monteriggioni (SI)

Tel: 0577 304 127

www.ilpozzo.net/

Osteria L’Antica Quercia **

A family run, small, restaurant near Barberino Val d”Elsa. Excellent meals, lunch or dinner. Highly recommend especially if you are driving in the area for a day’s exploration. Well worth the stop for a lovely lunch in this area of Tuscany.

The food is incredible and there are few places out in the country that offer the tranquil shade of a terrace with memorable views. Enjoy a flavorful meal at this lovely restaurant.

IF YOU GO:

Osteria L’Antica Quercia

Via di Sant’Appiano, 33

Barberino Val d’Elsa, Italy

Tel: 055 8075281

www.osteriaanticaquercia.it/

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Welcome to the world of Private Italy Tours LTD

The goal of our journeys is to expose travelers to the exceptional heart of this stunning country. Clients have time to explore and relax on their own; in Florence and the hill towns of Tuscany, afloat on the canals and lagoons in Venice, along the narrow streets of villages in Umbria, amidst the Roman ruins in and around Rome, while driving along the spectacular Amalfi Coast, or exploring the beautiful remains of Greek and Roman civilizations in Sicily.

Most importantly you will meet the people of Italy – the true heart of the country. We bring Italy to YOU!

We know you love Italy; come see it through our eyes.

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