Subject: Re: Restaurants, daytrips - Bellagio, Siena, Florence
Hi Johannes

Your original post requested information about restaurants as well as day trip suggestions from Siena &Florence. Here goes..

Without question, our favorite restaurant in Siena is Trattoria La Torre. The location is ideal, on a street just off the Campo, serving typical basic Trattoria fare. No menu - just an offering of 6 different pasta shapes with meat, tomato or cream sauce. The pasta is home-made and the tagliatelle with meat sauce is excellent - our favorite. They also serve several different meats (chicken, lamb, veal, and beef) all roasted together in an oven, the size of mine at home, in the abbreviated kitchen in the front of the restaurant. Wine is offered by colour (red or white) and is served in those old Chianti bottles in a basket. Don't be turned off - the food is delicious, the prices are low and the personality of the waiter/owner is worth the visit alone - one strange character! Whenever we are in Siena for the day, we always eat here and have driven many KM out of our way for that outstanding pasta.

We have eaten as well at Il Campo. It is very touristy because of its superb location right on the Campo but the food was surprisingly good.

If you are interested in wine, there is a delightful enoteca (wine tasting room - actual translation is library) in the Fortezza Medicea in the old walls around Siena. You can sample an extensive selection of wines, priced per glass, in a most pleasant environment.

Wednesday is market day in Siena. I suggest the following: pick up a rotisserie chicken, slices of prosciutto, fresh tomatoes, pecorino cheese, white peaches, fresh picked figs, a piece of torta Nonna and a bottle of Chianti wine. Drive west on S68 from Poggibonsi towards Volterra and enjoy a picnic in the rolling hills of this picturesque landscape.

Although Don & Linda, and probably others, would disagree, Il Latini is one of our favorite places in Florence. Here is the routine: No reservations - begin to line up outside a little after 7:00. While waiting and peering into the window, you will see all the staff having dinner, sipping wine, smoking, drinking coffee while watching the locals &tourists gather outside. At 7:30 precisely, Torello (the owner) will open the doors to the throngs that wait and start to usher everyone in, the farthest tables first, until the place is full. The tables are communal - herein lies it charm. If you are quiet and shy, try another restaurant. If you are somewhat comfortable with strangers, this is the place to be. The tables usually hold 6 and the charm lies in sharing dinner with complete strangers. There is a bottle of wine &water on each table - you are charged a cover (cheap) and you can drink as little or as much as you wish. Our first experience found us having dinner with a young bride &her computer whiz husband from New York who, a few days earlier, had taken a taxi from Rome to the Amalfi coast (how decadent!!). The other couple were from Sicily - either married, business associates or having an affair. They did not speak a word of English. After dinner, we stayed together as a group, wandered the lively streets of Florence and had Gelati at midnight. Somehow, language was not an issue and we enjoyed a truly memorable evening.

Trattoria Sostanza-Troia - Communal tables - excellent food. Unusual omelette preparation and excellent tortellini with meat sauce.

Cibreo - Their motto should be offal isn't awful. This place cooks every part of every animal that currently walks the Tuscan landscape. It is a restaurant for gutsy eaters. You need 3 days notice if you want to order the 'cock's combs'. However the restaurant is very special and has food that is more familiar and the communal tables make it a very different &special experience. There is no menu - a staff member will come and sit at your table and explain everything that is available in detail. Do not confuse this with the Trattoria by the same name (same owners). I think the restaurant is a better choice although more expensive.

Omero - Hard to find (outside town - take a taxi) but worth it. It is in the back of a grocery store. They specialize in excellent 'flattened chicken'.

Da Penello - The most extensive selection of antipasti I have ever see. In the heart of Florence and a great place for lunch.

Alla Murate - Delicious braised Chianti beef cooked in Brunello di Montalcino wine - excellent. The also offer an interesting tasting menu of typical Tuscan specialties.

Rivoire - outrageous drink prices but a 'people watching' location in the Piazza Della Signoria that can't be beat.

Bar Vivoli - the most beautiful selection of gelati to gaze at. - tastes great as well.

Day trips: From Siena or Florence - in no particular order

Volterra - gorgeous Etruscan town. It is an Alabaster centre with numerous craftsmen

Lucca - easy trip from Florence - be sure to rent bikes and the drive on the top of the massive red brick, tree lined wall that encloses the city. Have lunch at Solferino outside town.

Cortona - a doable drive from Siena or Florence - a gem of a hilltop town with outstanding views. Sneakers are a must as it is unbelievably steep with ladderlike alleys. Drive about 10 KM north of town and have bistecca alla florentina at Albergo Ristorante Portole

Arezzo - also doable from Siena or Florence. I am not sure of your dates, but there is an excellent antique market once a month on the first weekend (Saturday only, I think.)

Lucignano - perfect elliptical medieval village and worth a detour. Have lunch at Albergo Osteria Da Toto - recommended by Linda &Don. The food was fabulous and very inexpensive. Just let them suggest what is fresh.

San Gimignano - full of tourists but this is the city of beautiful towers and one of the best preserved medieval towns in Tuscany. The remains of the 14 surviving towers are best viewed from the Rocca.

Colle di Val D'Elsa - need crystal? This is Italy's largest producer of fine glass &crystal. Do no bother with the newer lower town - just wander the upper village and have lunch at Dietro Le Quinte.

Monteriggioni - a beautiful medieval hilltop town completely encircled by high walls and 14 towers. It is worthy of a brief detour especially to eat at Il Pozzo

San Galgano - magnificent Cistercian abbey in a beautiful setting. It is very remote but worth the effort in finding it. The Oratory up the hill is worth the walk

Montalcino - only 41 KM from Siena - situated in the heart of the Crete Senesi. Climb to the top of the Fortezza and view the surreal landscape. Drive south of town and have lunch and Brunello wine at Fattoria dei Barbi or indulge in the most superb meal at the l star Michelin restaurant - Ristorante Poggio Antico. Spend 3 hours eating lunch and then tour their Brunello de Montalcino vineyards. Highly recommended. While in this area, visit Sant' Antimo - one of those 'not to be missed' spots. Beautiful Abbey - Romanesque church with Augustinian monks who tend the church and sing Gregorian chants. It is truly spiritual.

Pienza - a must - fabulous Renaissance town famous for Pecorino (sheep's cheese). This is a delightful town and worth a detour. Great spot to buy the fixings for a picnic lunch. Or take a drive to Montefollonico and have lunch or dinner at La Chuisa - one of the finest restaurants in Tuscany serving typical Tuscan specialties. The food is superb but very expensive.

Montepulciano - one of Tuscany's highest hilltop towns, completely encircled with spectacular views of Umbria &southern Tuscany. The town is crammed with Renaissance style palazzi &churches. Famous for Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, there are many enotecas for tasting. Walk the winding Corso Street and and have coffee at Caffe Polizano with its wonderful art gallery. Visit San Biagio, a high Renaissance church, down the hill from town, and have lunch at La Grotta - highly recommended.

Between Florence &Siena is the heart of Chianti country. If you have the opportunity, there are many small villages in this area that are worth a visit such as Radda, Castellina, Volpaia

Have a wonderful trip. I look forward to hearing about it when you return.

Felice Toronto Ontario

Trattoria La Torre***** Via Salicotto 7-9 Siena (0577) 28 75 48

Il Campo Piazza del Campo 50 Siena (0577) 28 07 25

Fortezza Medicea Vialle Maccari - in the old walls around Siena

Il Latini***** Via dei Palchetti 6R Florence (055) 21 09 16

Trattoria Sostanza-Troia Via del Porcellana 25r Florence (055) 21 26 91

Cibreo***** Via Andrea Del Verrocchio 8r Florence (055) 234 1100

Omero Via Pian de' Giullari 11 Florence (055) 22 00 53

Da Pennello Via Dante Alighieri 4r Florence (055) 29 48 48

Alla Murate Via Ghibellina 52r Florence (055) 24 16 18

Rivoire - Piazza Della Signoria

Bar Vivoli Via Isole delle Stinche 7r Florence

Solferino Via delle Gavine 50 San Macario in Piano (Lucca) (0583) 591 18

Albergo Ristorante Portole Via Umbro Casentinese 36 Cortona (0575) 69 10 08

Albergo Osteria Da Toto Piazza del Tribunale 6 Lucignano (0575) 83 67 63

Dietro Le Quinte Via della Misericordia 14 Colle Val D'Elsa (0577) 92 04 58

Ristorante Il Pozzo Piazza Roma 2 Monteriggioni (0577) 30 41 27

Fattoria dei Barbi Outside Montalcino (0577) 84 93 57

Ristorante Poggio Antico***** Outside Montalcino (0577) 84 92 00

La Chuisa***** Via della Madonnina 88 Montefollonico (0577) 66 94 88

Caffe Polizano Via di Voltaia nel Corso Montepulciano (0578) 75 86 15

La Grotta***** San Biagio - outside Montepulciano (0578) 75 74 79

Ristorante Le Vigne***** Podere Le Vigne Radda in Chianti (0577) 73 86 40

Antica Trattoria La Torre Piazza del Commune 15 Castellina in Chianti (0577) 74 02 36