I did a six week study abroad in Italy in July-August 2009 (like an architectural pilgramage haha) and did a lot of eating… and a lot of walking. 🙂
Rome: Most of the food in Rome is good. We particularly liked a place across from our hotel (Hotel Derby) called “Trattoria Romana” BUT this is two things – kind of a hole-in-the-wall place, and really out of the way from the main part of Rome. Their food was delicious though, and eating outside was wonderful. There are certainly hundreds of other options other than that, it’ve really out-of-the-way most likely. I will look up my receipts and stubs from there – there is this awesome gelato place in Rome that I was on cloud 9 after… lemon basil gelato? Heaven!
Naples: We stayed here the shortest amount of time, only two days. The area around Naples is known for mozzerella di bufalo, which I did not really care for. BUT pizza in Naples was delicious. BTW, all pizza in Italy is thin-crust… and sometimes sold by the length (have you ever ordered pizza in Whole Foods? Like that)
Florence: I only visited here and didn’t stay – though in a non-food related notw, I DID sleep overnight on a bench in the Piazza Santa Maria Novella, which was a crazy adventure!
Venice: I am going to warn you right now, Venice is one of the most tourist-y parts of Italy I saw. I didn’t particularly care for it, but in order to find good food you’ll need to get away from the tourists and walk through some of Venice’s streets. Better bakeries, gelato, cafes, and shops are to be found on the road less travelled in Venice. Pick up a city map (I think they’re free?) and keep track of where you are AND especially mark down where you’re staying – it is so unbelivably easy to get lost in there.
Cinque Terre: We walked through the trails between almost all the towns in August, and if you are planning to do the same I reccomend bringing supportive shoes (not flip flops), a bottle of water, and wearing a bathing suit underneath your clothes. Once you hit a town, you will want to head straight for the docks to jump in the water. It’s HOT. You wear your bathing suit underneath so that you can also take off your shirt on the trails and not worry about modesty too much… it’s so freaking hot (not really on the Via del Amore, though – wonder if out padlock is still up?) We stayed in La Spezia and ate most of our food there. Cinque Terre food for us was sort of eaten as small snacks between hikes. That area is famous for their pesto, and it’s much easier to find in the smaller cities – Monterosso is somewhat tourist-y and doesn’t have the same quality of handmade-looking pestos and limoncellos, among other things.
Siena: Stayed here for a month. There is tons of good food here, but we did cook at home a lot. There’s a little restruant in the Contrada Civette (If I remember correctly) that was divine, but I need to ruffle through my things to find out if I have the name…
- Learn how to at least order food in Italian if you want to have good service. Italians love it and they are much more patient if they see you trying.
- Steer clear of McDonalds and any other non-Italian fast food joints – food is overpriced and (apparently) not very tasty.
- If you’re staying somewhere for a week or so, think about taking a trip to the grocery store. Not only is it super fun to grocery shop in another country, it saves you a bit of time and money too. Oh, and blood orange juice is delicious.
- Figure out your water preference – naturale (still) or fizziante (sparkling mineral). I liked them both, but when you order water they WILL ask you which you want.
- Usually, a carafe of house wine is delicious, so you don’t need to splurge on bottles at resturants.
- The cost of a carafe of wine = the cost of a carafe of water. No joke. (at least when I went)
Ask me anything you like, I tend to remember better when I have to narrow it down! 🙂