Subject: Re: Re: Vence, France; eating in Venice; Tuscany; Rome
John and Susan - What a wonderful trip you have planned! You'll be visiting some of our favorite places. Wandering through Provence and Tuscany...that lovely phrase brings to mind some wonderful days. You asked about favorite markets in Provence. We were there in December, and the ones we enjoyed the most were in St. Remy, and Aix. Each day we'd find a market, pick out some delicious items for lunch, and then stop in a beautiful area, wherever we were exploring that day, and enjoy our goodies in the open air. One day in the colorful seaside village of Villefranche sur Mer, another on the blustery summit of Bonnieux, looking down on the tiled roofs of the town as the wind whistled through the huge cedar (I think that's what they were..) trees, another by the Roman ruins of Glanum... Aix was a favorite because of the lovely setting - gorgeous squares, architecture, fountains; and the beautiful flower market in the Place de l'Hotel de Ville. San Remy, with it's elegant setting and many choices of olives and nuts, has a good selection of small items like honey, herbs, soap, etc., that make great gifts. Both towns have a small brocante and antique market along with the produce and flowers. We brought home a lovely old watercolor of the fascinating perched village of Eze from the Aix market. We, too, stayed in Vence. It is a great base for visiting the Riviera, and inland as well. Some favorite activities were driving through the Gorges du Loup, stopping at the little villages such as Tourettes sur Loup, watching the hang-gliders circle down into the valley below us, looking across the gorge to the town of Gourdon, crowned with a chateau. Another day we drove along the breathtaking curves of the corniche roads above the sea, stopping at Eze, Villefranche sur Mer, Monaco, and other towns that caught our eye. In Florence, we second the recommendation for the Mercato Centrale. Join the men of the town on their lunch break for a bowl of steaming hot pasta con olive, or white bean soup. One of them might break out into O Sole Mio , to the applause of the group, as happened when we were there. Another local favorite is Da Mario, a trattoria in the San Lorenzo neighborhood (Via della Rosina, 2r) that's only open for lunch - and is always packed. They serve classics such as ribollita, fantastic pasta, or bisteca Fiorentina, and everything's delicious and cheap. Our splurge meal in Tuscany was in the tiny hamlet of Montefollonico, near Montepulciano, at Locanda la Costa. We enjoyed a superb 5 course meal, with local wines, while sitting on the terrace watching the sun set over the rolling hills and patchwork valley of the Val de Chiana. A memorable setting and meal.

Happy Travels- Anne in Virginia