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Desserts, Family Fun, Firenze, Florence, Gelato, Italy, Tuscany

Three Scoops: Gelato in Florence

October 6, 2016

After a long day of touring, or in the middle of a long day of touring, or just because you’re in Italy, in the beautiful city of Florence, you’ll want gelato. Even if it’s wintertime. Avoid the places with the big puffy gelato displays and colors not often seen in nature. Look for signs that say gelateria artigianale, naturale, or biologico.  Go for gelaterias that keep the ice cream in stainless containers—covered stainless containers are even better.


Covered stainless steel containers keep gelato fresh and flavorful. Daily flavors will be listed on signs along with prices.

All the available flavors will be written on a sign and you already know what fragola (aka strawberry) looks like. We love that you can choose two or more flavors even for small cones or cups, so experiment with any flavor combination you fancy. Go wild! If someone behind the counter asks, “Panna?” Just say “Si” and your cono will be topped with delicious fresh whipped cream, often at no extra charge. Feel free to indulge.


To make your gelato even more satisfying, say yes to panna montata– fresh whipped cream often offered gratis– free!

In Florence, some say Perche No! can’t be beat. This is one of the oldest gelaterias in the city, serving it forth since 1939. It is good, really good, so if you’re in the city center you should definitely stop in for a cone.


Many of the best gelaterias have lines, but they go quickly. It is worth waiting at places like La Carraia.

Often touted as the best in town, La Carraia , with two shops in Florence, is branching out and opening a store in Rome, too. We like their gelateria on the Altro Arno just over the bridge of the same name. This is a line worth standing on– and there is always a line. They also have scrumptious looking cakes and other tempting confections but we single-mindedly stick to the gelato.


You can choose at least two flavors even on small cones.


It’s hard not to be happy with a cone in your hand.

Our little apartment’s location by the Duomo caused us to walk by Edoardo daily. We don’t resist temptation often or easily so had ample opportunity to sample their delicious gelato. Just grab a number by the door and peruse the list of daily flavors while you inhale the intoxicating aroma of their handmade cones. Don’t worry–the line goes quickly.


Grab a number and enjoy the heady aroma of fresh baked cones while you wait at Edoardo.


This is what delicious looks like. Chocolate with chili (cioccolato con peperoncino) and cinnamon (cannella) are two of my favorite flavors.

Grom was the first of the “all natural” gelato we enjoyed many years ago and it’s still delicious. The company began in Torino and now you’ll find them in cities across Italy, including Florence, and around the world from New York to Jakarta. They even have an outpost in Los Angeles now.


Grom is in cities throughout Italy and worldwide.

Gelato preferences are personal, of course, so go explore. Find your favorites and please share your discoveries with us.




Architecture, Art, Churches, Family Fun, Firenze, Florence, History, Italy, Museums, Tuscany

Il Grande Museo del’Opera del Duomo: All About Florence’s Famous Duomo

October 3, 2016

Florence’s Il Grande Museo del’Opera del Duomo has nothing at all to do with opera. Instead, it is all about the work, or opera, involved in building, preserving and maintaining one of the most recognizable Renaissance buildings in the world—Florence’s Duomo, also known as the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore.


A spectacular view of Brunelleschi’s dome from Caffe La Terrazza.

If you’ve ever wanted to see how Brunelleschi’s magnificent dome was constructed, learn what the other options were for the Duomo’s facade, or see the remarkable art treasures once housed in the cathedral, this is the place to come.


Welcome to the recently reopened and reimagined Museo del’Opera del Duomo.


Soaring galleries give visitors a new perspective on the superb sculpture on display at the museum.

Re-opened in October 2015 after years of restoration and reconstruction, the Museo dell’ Opera del Duomo has an exquisite collection of sculpture, paintings and other masterworks displayed on three floors in 6,000 square meters of exhibit space, all designed to showcase the art to its best visual and historical advantage.


A visitor gets an up close look at a statue in the museum.

Most of the works were at one time in, or outside the Duomo.


These sculptures once graced niches in Giotto’s bell tower.

Some of the treasures to be found include the original North Doors created by Lorenzo Ghiberti for the Baptistry of San Giovanni along with the Doors of Paradise by Lorenzo and Vittorio Ghiberti. Replicas now hang on the Baptistry.


Ghiberti’s stunning Doors of Paradise and North Door once graced the Baptistry of San Giovanni but can now be found inside the museum.


Detail of door.

In all, the museum boasts 750 works of art covering 720 years of history.


Arnolfo di Cambio’s stunning Christ with the Soul of Mary


This exquisite silver alter features scenes from the life of John the Baptist and was created by Lorenzo Ghiberti, Betto di Geri, Bernardo Cennini, Antonio di Salvi, Francesco and Leonardo di Giovanni, Antonio del Pollaiolo and Andrea del Verrocchio.

Michelangelo’s poignant pieta, sculpture by Donatello including his magnificent Mary Magdalene as Penitent, and works by Andrea Pisano, Antonio Pollaiolo, Arnolfo di Cambio and other highly regarded Medieval and Renaissance artists are on display.


Michelangelo sculpted this pieta for his own tomb. He later destroyed it. It was reconstructed and acquired by Cosimo de Medici In 1671 and placed in the Duomo in 1722. It was the next to last sculpture Michelangelo ever created.


Donatello’s Mary Magdalene as Penitent draws many visitors.


Sacred items and iconography are part of the museum’s extensive collection.

img_2108In the Cappella Musicale, or music gallery, you will hear enchanting sacred music, and find works by Luca della Robbia and others, as well as rare illuminated music books.


Beautiful music fills this gallery where rare illustrated books, sacred objects and art treasures are displayed.

img_2164Brunelleschi’s dome, still considered a marvel of engineering, remains one of Florence’s most iconic monuments.


Models of Brunelleschi’s dome show how it was built and why it remains an engineering marvel.

In addition to the art treasures, the museum contains original building materials, equipment and tools, dating back to the Duomo’s 15th century construction.


Wooden pulleys, ropes and other original construction equipment used to build the Duomo can be seen at the museum.


Original 15th century tools and equipment used to build the Duomo are displayed near a continuously running film that explores the design and construction.

Also featured are drawings and models of the dome and Giotto’s bell tower, which was begun in 1334, after Giotto’s death. An outdoor terrace offers splendid views of the dome.


Brunelleschi’s wooden model of the dome fascinates visitors.


A detailed model of the bell tower designed by Giotto is on display near beautiful stained glass windows created by notables including Ghiberti, Donatello, Paolo Uccelli and Andrea del Castagno.

Visitors to the museum will learn about the history of this spectacular cathedral, designed by Arnolfo di Cambio and dedicated in 1412. The name Santa Maria del Fiore means St. Mary of the Flowers or Virgin of the Flowers. Once the largest church in all of Europe, today it is third in size, after St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome and London’s St. Paul’s Cathedral.

img_2134A film called Courage to Dare about Florence during the Renaissance and the creation and construction of the Duomo runs continuously in the museum.


A number of possibilities considered for the Duomo’s facade are on display, including this one.

Combination tickets can be purchased for the Duomo Museum, the Baptistery, the bell tower and the Crypt of Santa Reparta, named for the 7th century church that once stood on the site of the Duomo. There is no charge to enter the Duomo, but paid tickets are required for visitors who wish to climb the more than 400 steps to the top of the bell tower.


The Baptistry of San Giovanni always draws crowds. Tickets are required to enter.

Appropriate clothing is essential for entry. In other words, no shorts, short skirts or skimpy, shoulder baring tops on women or men. Bulky bags and backpacks must be checked. Visit for information on ticket prices, hours and tours.


Admission to the Duomo is free but take care to dress appropriately or you will be denied entry.

On our visit, we also had free access to a photographic exhibition called Opera di Viva by Michele Pecchioli, which paid tribute to the hundreds of men and women who have worked to preserve the artistic integrity and cultural heritage of the building and the art works within for more than 700 years.


Michele Pecchioli’s photographs pay tribute to the men and women who restore and preserve the art and cultural heritage of Florence’s iconic Duomo.

img_2560The photos feature the restorers, artists, employees and security guards who play a role in safeguarding these treasurers and ensuring public access to the works for years to come. Note: This was a temporary exhibition and may now longer be available for viewing.


A close up of a security guard charged with safeguarding the priceless treasures at the Duomo and its museum.

When the sun begins to set in Florence, head over to Piazzale Michelangelo for another perspective on the Duomo —and enjoy the gorgeous vista across the Arno over the city.


Some of the most spectacular views of Florence can be had from the Piazzale Michelangelo. Don’t miss a visit to the beautiful San Miniato al Monte across the street. It’s the oldest church in Florence, after the Baptistry.


Florence’s Duomo viewed from Piazzale Michelangelo.


The department store La Rinescente has a terrace restaurant with fine views of the Duomo, as well as drinks and light fare.

If you crave an aperitivo with your sunset and Duomo views, go to La Rinascente, the department store on Piazza Repubblica. Go directly up to La Terrazza on the top floor and you’ll find a little rooftop café/bar with great views of the city and the iconic dome. It gets crowded so get there early or be prepared to wait.



Sensational sunset view over the Piazza della Repubblica from Caffe La Terrazza.

Cin Cin!



Desserts, Dining, Firenze, Florence, Italy, Pizzerias, Restaurants, Tuscany, Wine bars

Florentine Favorites: Where to Eat

September 28, 2016

Many visitors to Florence seem to be on a quest, trying to squeeze in as much culture as they can in a few short days. Don’t overlook the culinary component of travel. Take a deep breath and spend some real time in this glorious city if you can, and take time out for some superb dining while you’re here.

A quick 10- minute walk from our apartment near the Duomo over the Ponte Santa Trinita brought us to Il Santo Bevitore’s welcoming doors. It seemed like everyone inside was having a great time. We did, too, and put it at the top of our list of Florentine favorites.


Il Santo Bevitore on the Altro Arno is one of our absolute Florentine favorites.

The comfortable dining rooms (there is a large one, pictured above, and a smaller one just beyond it) are lively and full of happy diners enjoying the excellent cuisine. The atmosphere is casual and warm with just the right amount of buzz.


You can request an English menu or practice your language skills with the Italian one.

The food is absolutely delicious and the service is attentive and friendly. Some stand outs were the porcini risotto, the pigeon, rombo, and the veal.


This simple pear and pecorino salad was a perfect starter.


We always say, “si” to a sformatino– a light, savory custard just right as a first course..


Il Santo Bevitore’s veal was perfectly prepared.

You can’t go wrong with the pastas, meat or fish—whatever you choose is going to be good. Save room for dessert though.  The chestnut torte and yogurt mousse were both terrific.


The succulent pigeon is a game bird lover’s delight.


Fresh fish (rombo in this case), lardons, and potatoes were elegantly plated and beautifully prepared.


Save room for dessert. This yogurt mousse was spectacular.

We would’ve eaten at Il Santo Bevitore every night, but felt the need to explore some of Florence’s other delightful dining options. Remember, reservations here are a must. Il Santo Bevitore is open for lunch and dinner.

img_3068Try Cucina Torcicoda for lunch or dinner. They have a restaurant, a casual trattoria, and a pizzeria– all in the same building.  When you book in, and you must reserve, let them know which you prefer. They’ll be very different dining experiences but all delicious.


Torcicoda’s elegant and tranquil dining room.


Torcicoda’s wine list features fine selections from all over Italy.

We had an excellent dinner in the restaurant. The food was superb and the service attentive.


This exquisite pork dish was rich and flavorful. The chestnuts gave it a great contrasting texture and crunch.


Memories of this sensational truffle- topped tenderloin make my mouth water.

The casual trattoria has a different menu from the restaurant’s and it looked good, though we didn’t have time to try it.


We’ll try the casual trattoria next time.

We ate lunch at Torcicoda’s pizzeria and sampled four different pies. We were especially pleased with the ones topped with fresh buffala mozzarella cheese– gooey and delicious but with a crisp, thin crust–just the way we like our pizza.


The pizzeria was packed day and night, so be sure to reserve.


Fresh buffala mozzarella, available on a number of Torcicoda’s pies, upped the yum factor.


Pizza bianca with sausage and broccoli rabe was another hit.

The pizzeria also has a good-sized outdoor dining area which is open rain or shine. It’s fun to watch the parade of tourists passing by on their way to the beautiful Santa Croce across the piazza, as you enjoy your meal.

img_3368We walked past Konnubio one afternoon at lunchtime and it looked so inviting we decided to go back for dinner.  It was a good choice. The restaurant is casual and lively but the noise level is not over the top.


Diners were just beginning to arrive when we took this photo. Every table was taken in both dining rooms when we left.

The food was beautifully plated and everything we tried was delicious.


Seared tuna with fresh asparagus was pleasing to the palate and the eye.


Tender lamb with caper berries was outstanding.


Konnubio has an extensive wine list and knowledgeable, helpful waitstaff.

You should reserve a table as we saw only one walk in party seated, while others were turned away. See if you can sit in the main dining room at one of the tables with the big comfy chairs instead of the side dining room, if you can.


Cantinetta Antinori is owned and operated by the Antinori wine family The restaurant is located in the beautiful Antinori family palazzo right in the center of Florence. We’ve had many delicious lunches here as well as a very good dinner.


Enjoy fresh baked bread and Tuscan olive oil from Antinori’s estate while you peruse the extensive wine list.


Thinly sliced artichokes with parmesan cheese was a winner.

The food is typical Florentine cuisine and oriented to the seasons.


Crispy potatoes topped with filet of white fish, sundried tomatoes, and capers was full of flavor and texture.


The hearty stewed beef on a bed of polenta is typical Florentine fare.

They have an extensive wine by the glass (or half glass) program so you can sample many of Antinori’s broad line at reasonable prices. It’s fun to try wines you may not see at home.

img_2002Cantinetta Antinori is very popular with local business people especially at lunch, so book a table.


We had a good lunch at Trattoria 13 Gobbi Via Porcellana 9/r tel 055 284015. We discovered this cute little place tucked away on a small side street on one of our meandering walks through this beautiful city.


The dining room is charming and features plenty of vintage posters, advertisements and more to catch your eye.


The flavorful vegetable soup was presented in this lovely copper pot.

We plan to give dinner a try there next time.


Trattoria Cibreo is another one of our lunchtime favorites. We go to the trattoria at Via di Macci 122R, instead of Signore Picchi’s very popular but pricier restaurant, Ristorante Cibreo. The food is terrific and the menu seasonal. Be aware that they don’t serve pasta and they take no reservations at the trattoria. They open for lunch at 12:45 pm and you need to be there early to get a table. People will be lined up and waiting for the doors to open. The trattoria is closed Sundays and Mondays. There’s a tripe truck parked nearby that the always has a line. Snack while you wait?


While not to my taste, this tripe truck does a great business.

Here are a few other Florentine restaurants we’ve enjoyed over the years: Omero is a wonderful classic Florentine restaurant way up above the town with great views. The food is delicious, the service is attentive and this well-known eatery is extremely popular. Be sure to book in for lunch or dinner.

Il Latini is the place for multi- course and enormous meals. There wasn’t a menu when we went for lunch–they just kept bringing food to the table. It was all good and there was plenty, served family style. The key word here is “basta”! Enough! Tell them how many courses you want before they start bringing it—especially if you don’t want the meat courses.

Del Fagioli means the beans, literally. This is a good, casual family place close to the Uffizi. The owner seemed to know at least half the patrons when we had dinner there some time ago. Corso Tintori 47r telephone for a reservation—they were turning people away. 055244285

There are so many wonderful restaurants, trattorias and pizzerias in Florence you’re bound to find some to fit your taste and budget.  Please share your favorites with us @traveltawk. Buon appetito!








Chocolate, Desserts, Dining, Family Fun, Firenze, Florence, Italy, Markets, Pizzarias, Restaurants, Shopping, Tuscany, Wine bars

Florence’s Fantastic Mercato Centrale

September 22, 2016

Craving a cappucino and a cornetto? Need a bouquet of fresh flowers or picnic provisions? How about fresh pasta to enjoy at home? Or maybe you’re just in the mood for pizza and a beer? Florence’s Central Market or Mercato Centrale Firenze  is Florence’s answer to foodie heaven.  Housed in a historic building originally erected in 1847, and open from 10 a.m. to midnight, this is the place to go.

mercato caentrale nov 2015 - 8

Pick up picnic provisions like salami, cheeses, prosciutto and more at Florence’s Mercato Centrale.

mercato caentrale nov 2015 - 6

Fresh pastas and delicious sauces to go with them make a tasty and quick meal that’s easy to prepare in your vacation rental.

The market on the ground floor is fun to explore with every kind of seasonal produce, pastas, sauces, meats, cheeses, and flowers. Anything you could want that’s fresh and in season is right here.

mercato caentrale nov 2015 - 3

The Mercato Centrale has a bounty of seasonal produce, herbs and fresh flowers.

Upstairs at the Mercato Centrale is one of our favorite stops for for lunch, though you can also have breakfast, snacks, sweets, drinks and dinner here.

mercato caentrale nov 2015 - 16

Neapolitan-style pizza is done right at La Pizzeria Sud.

Go get some terrific Neapolitan style pizza at Pizzeria Sud. You can take your slices to one of the communal tables or go upstairs for table service. We opted for the former and enjoyed the hustle and bustle of the place.

mercato caentrale nov 2015 - 14

Lunch is ready!

There are lots of tasty options– pasta, panini, cheese and meat platters, fish, pizza, even burgers and fried chicken to choose from. There is also a coffee bar, wine, beer, pastries, gelato and delicious desserts–something to please most any palate.

mercato caentrale nov 2015 - 17

Choose your favorite foods from the array of vendors upstairs at the market and grab a seat at the communal tables. Mangia!

Everything on offer here from the hamburgers made from Chianina beef at La Toraia di Enrico Lagorio, the pasta from Raimondo Mendolia, Maurizio e Poala Rosellini’s fresh fish, the bufala mozzarella, beautiful baked goods, chocolates and gelato are all of the highest quality.

mercato caentrale nov 2015 - 20

A great selection of fresh or aged cheeses to eat now or enjoy later are readily available.

mercato caentrale nov 2015 - 11

If you’re looking to really splash out, try these fragrant truffles.

mercato caentrale nov 2015 - 12

If your tastes run more to fried foods, you’re in luck.

We even sampled the trippa fritta—fried tripe, a Florentine favorite, though not to my taste.

mercato caentrale nov 2015 - 15

Trippa fritta is a Florentine favorite.

After lunch (or dinner), you’ll probably want coffee and something sweet. Please remember that no self-respecting Italian would even consider ordering a cappuccino, latte or similar milky coffee drink after breakfast hours. Stick to the espresso. Ask for a caffe lungo if you miss your American coffee. Desserts are in abundance here and include gelato, pastries, cookies, and cannoli, which are stuffed while you wait—as they should be. Crushed pistachios on the ends are optional.

mercato caentrale nov 2015 - 19

These confections look almost too good to eat. Almost…

Upstairs is also where you’ll find Eataly which features Italian grocery items, household goods, personal care items and my favorite Florentine soaps from Nesti Dante. You’ll also find a wine shop specializing in Chianti Classico selections, a cooking school, a bancomat (ATM)  and public restrooms which are in short supply in many cities like Florence.

mercato caentrale nov 2015 - 18

If you’re looking for Italian wines, particularly those from the Chianti Classico region, you’ve come to the right place.

mercato caentrale nov 2015 - 13

Students pay rapt attention at the Lorenzo de Medici Cooking School upstairs at the Mercato Centrale.

If you feel the need for yet more shopping, there are also stalls outside the building on the surrounding streets with scarfs, leather items, and souvenirs—all the typical Florentine goods you’d expect to find.

mercato caentrale nov 2015 - 10

Shoppers can find everything from dry pasta to Pinocchio at the market and stalls outside.

Buon appetito and happy shopping!

Dining, Italy, Restaurants, Tuscany

Tuscan Tables: Where to Eat In and Around Panzano

August 2, 2016


Finding great places to enjoy the local cuisine can be part of the adventure when you’re traveling, but sometimes it’s nice to have at least a couple of dining recommendations. Here are a few of our “go to” restaurants in and around Panzano in Chianti:


One of our all time favorites for an elegant and delicious dinner and/or lunch in the countryside near Panzano is La Locanda di Pietracupa in San Donato in Poggio.  The restaurant’s dining room is understated and polished but it’s the cuisine here that really shines. Credit for the inventive, refined rifts on Tuscan cuisine go to the two young couples who own the restaurant. They take fresh, local ingredients and give them a delightful and sophisticated twist. In the autumn, enjoy lighter than air ravioli stuffed with pumpkin, while summer brings tagliolini topped with delicate zucchini blossoms and truffle. The filet of beef may be wrapped in a paper thin sheet of lardo or accompanied by a rhubarb sauce, depending on the season. The Fritto della Locanda, their version of fritto misto, comes with chicken, rabbit and seasonal vegetables fried in the lightest batter possible.   Everything is spectacular here but save room for dessert—those are too delicious to miss. La Locanda di Pietracupa has a lovely outdoor terrace for warm weather dining and has four rooms available for rent upstairs over the restaurant. Be sure and book in—it is very popular. We’ve met people from Florence who’ve driven down just to dine here. For more information about the menu, the rooms and cooking classes visit or


Many of our favorite restaurants feature outdoor terraces for warm weather dining. Here is Osteria Alla Piazza’s, which in summertime will be very busy for lunch and dinner.

There is a bend in the road between Panzano and San Donato where you’ll find a tiny hamlet called La Piazza. The hamlet has little more than a few stone houses and a terrific restaurant called Osteria Alla Piazza This area favorite has several appealing small dining rooms and an expansive terrace for warm weather dining.


Tagliolini with fresh truffles is a seasonal favorite.

Osteria Alla Piazza changes their menu regularly to capture the freshest seasonal ingredients at their peak. During an autumn visit a few years back we feasted on the porcini—presented beforehand in a big basket for our appraisal, and served in every course we ordered. With great anticipation, we returned just a few days later to further satisfy our craving for these meaty mushrooms only to be told, “funghi finito”—no more, all gone, season’s over!


The elegantly prepared guinea fowl was superbly satisfying.


The beef tenderloin–filetto all’ aceto balsamico was a standout at Osteria Alla Piazza.


Save room for dessert. This panna cotta with strawberries was delicious.

Several dinners we enjoyed earlier this summer confirmed that the kitchen at Osteria Alla Piazza is still clearly committed to providing diners with the season’s best. Don’t miss the tantalizing tagliolini with truffles, the melt in your mouth filet of beef with cippolini (tiny onions), or the fritto misto, which someone in our party seemed to order everywhere we went. The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner and reservations are strongly suggested. For current menu and reservation information visit or email


Passing through Lucarelli on the road from Panzano to Radda, you’ll find Osteria Le Panzanelle — a local favorite—and one of ours, too. It’s always busy and always good. Friends who live in nearby Radda in Chianti complained it was getting harder for area residents to get a table during the busy summer months, so reservations are a must.


Osteria La Panzanelle is a local favorite– and for good reason.

At Le Panzanelle you’ll find classic Tuscan cooking in a casual, lively setting. Begin with platter of local charcuterie, the Affettati Toscani—a nice big plate of prosciutto and delicious Tuscan salami. The involtini di melanzane, which is sliced eggplant rolled around cheese and baked with a tomato sauce and capers is also a tasty starter.


A heaping platter of prosciutto and local salami is a great way to start a meal at La Panzanelle.


The eggplant is hearty and big enough to share.

There are plenty of terrific pastas to choose from—you can’t go wrong here. For the main course they offer an enormous Bistecca alla Fiorentina for two, roasted rabbit with capers and anchovies, hearty cinghiale con olive (wild boar with olives), scottadito di angello (lamb chops) and other Tuscan specialties like peposo—a delicious slow cooked beef dish.


You’ll find delicious Tuscan classics at Le Panzanelle.


Simple scottodito–lamb chops with a translation meaning “burn your fingers.”


Hearty meat dishes are popular in most Tuscan restaurants. Le Panzanelle’s kitchen turns out a superb selection.

We’ve eaten here many times over the years and have tried most things on the menu. We’ve always been delighted with our meals and service is always friendly. It’s just a short 10 to 15 minute drive from Panzano and well worth it. Unlike many local restaurants, which close in November and reopen in late spring, Le Panzanelle is open nearly year round except for their vacation closing sometime in January/February. Visit for more.


For fabulous food and amazing views go to Ristoro di Lamole in the tiny hamlet of Lamole. You’ll drive up a beautiful winding road in the hills near Greve, passing orchards, vineyards and country homes, and when you reach the top—the friendly staff at Ristoro di Lamole will be waiting with a warm welcome.


Fillipo will be sure you’re well looked after at Ristoro di Lamole.

Be sure to reserve a table on the terrace so you can enjoy the stunning countryside views along with their innovative and sophisticated take on Tuscan cookery.


Enjoy the spectacular views from Ristoro di Lamole’s terrace.

House made burrata makes a great starter and the ravioli with pear and pecorino should not be missed.


The creamy burrata was served with locally sourced mushrooms.


Meat courses like the tender pork filet and rabbit are outstanding and the fritto misto was perfect. Everything we ate– from the antipasti to dessert– reflected a refined sensibility and was absolutely delicious.


Pasta with truffles was perfectly prepared at Ristoro di Lamole.


Pastas range from the delicate truffle enhanced, to hearty fare like this papparadelle with wild boar.


The filet of pork reflects the kitchen’s sophisticated take on classic Tuscan cuisine.

The Lamole Lamole wine from this area is just one of the more than 300 bottles on Ristoro di Lamole’s extensive wine list. Open for lunch and dinner. Visit for more information.


Oltre il Gardino is a family-run restaurant right off Panzano’s main square, the Piazza Bucciarelli. We ate here for the first time on our recent trip and were very pleased with their solid, classic Tuscan cookery.




Ravioli with spinach, pecorino and sage was a hit.


The papparadelle with wild boar was a favorite, too.

The menu focuses on Italian comfort food and includes favorites like bruschetta al pomodoro, ribolita (tomato soup with bread), house made pastas like papparadelle with cinghiale (wild boar) and tagliatelle with pigeon.The ubiquitous Bistecca alla Fiorentina, peposa, and other typical dishes, were all well prepared.


Tender fried chicken is representative of the comfort food served at Oltre il Gardino.

The dining room in the converted farmhouse is cozy and well appointed. Every table was taken the night we were there, mostly by Italian diners, and everyone seemed to be having a good time. Even though it was a full house, service was attentive.


In the warm weather, the restaurant opens their summer bar—an expansive terrace with beautiful views overlooking the Conca del Ora, the shell of gold. Lunch, aperativi and dinner are served on the terrace. For menus and more visit


La Cantinetta di Sassolini is off the Piazza Ricasoli at #2, in the old part of Panzano up the hill from the main square near the church of Santa Maria Assunta.



The dining room at La Cantinetta di Sassolino.

The menu centers on typical Tuscan dishes. Dinners can begin with assorted local cheeses like pecorino, a sheep’s milk cheese often served with jam, crespelle—delicate crepes stuffed with vegetables, which happened to be asparagus on this occasion, and one of our favorites, sformata, a light savory custard of seasonal vegetables.


A delicate savory sformata was sensational at Sassolino.

Next up are pastas, which are often sauced with game or meat here. Main courses like tagliata di manzo- sliced beefsteak, roasted meats, lamb chops, or chicken fricassee are served in ample portions.


It’s perfectly fine to share a pasta course. Just say, “Uno per due, per favore.”


Tagliata di manzo makes a great Sunday supper.

The dining room is lovely and boasts a large fireplace, which is a welcome addition in the colder months. The restaurant also has a terrace for outdoor dining in the summer. Note: Enter through the doors on Via Giovanni di Verrazano, though you can park in the piazza if there’s space.


Service is warm and welcoming at La Cantinetta Sassolino in Panzano.

We didn’t have a chance to return to Il Vescovino on our visit to Panzano this summer, but would recommend it based on earlier visits. The menu features Tuscan favorites; beginning with antipasti of Tuscan salami and prosciutto, chicken liver pate, olives and fennel. Pastas include local specialties like pici, which is a thick hand made spaghetti, and tagliatelle with funghi or papperadelle with a ragu. Grilled chicken, braised beef, Bistecca Fiorentina (from Dario Cecchini’s macelleria), porchetta and tagliata di manzo—the grilled, sliced steak popular in Italy, round out the menu. The restaurant has gorgeous views from inside and out on the terrace, which looks over the vineyards below. Il Vescovino is at via Ciampolo da Panzano, 9, 50022 Panzano, Greve in Chianti, Italy +393383648446.


Dinners at Dario Cecchini’s restaurants are multi course, family style affairs. Bring your appetite!

In an earlier post on Panzano we mentioned Dario Cecchini, the uber popular butcher from Panzano with a worldwide following. We would be remiss not to include his terrific restaurants here again: Solociccia, which is Tuscan slang for “only meat” and features cuts from all parts of the cow; Solociccino, a mini version of Solociccia open for lunch only; Officina della Bistecca showcases sensational steaks including the famous Bistecca alla Fiorentina; and Dario DOC—just for lunch from Monday through Saturday and the only Dario restaurant where reservations aren’t needed. All of the restaurants serve family style, multi course, prix fix meals, and while famous for top quality meat, vegetarian options are available. Visit for more on the macelleria, restaurants and butchery classes.


“Tuscan butter” (center) and other delicious meat products on display at Antica Macelleria Cecchini in Panzano.

Panzano and environs are very popular travel destinations, particularly in the summertime. Avoid disappointment and make reservations. These are some of our favorite places to dine in and around Panzano. We’d love to hear about yours, so please leave comments.

Mangia bene!





Dining, Family Fun, Italy, Restaurants, Tuscany, Wineries

Picture Perfect Panzano in Chianti

July 22, 2016

Panzano in Chianti is right in the heart of Chianti’s wine growing region and has been one of our favorite Tuscan getaways for many years. The small town is located midway between Florence and Siena, on the Chiantigiana/Highway 222, making it the perfect location from which to embark on day trips to these beautiful Tuscan cities.  Other popular destinations like San Gimignano, Volterra and Pisa are also within easy driving distance, as are lovely nearby towns like Radda, Greve and Castellina in Chianti.


Steps lead down to reception at Villa Pecille in Panzano.

We always rent from Sammie Daniels, founder of Stay Italia   In Panzano, we’ve stayed at Casa La Rota and Villa Pecille numerous times. Both are located on vineyard property owned by the family behind Fontodi Winery and are situated on the Conca del Ora, some of the most gorgeous countryside in Tuscany. Casa La Rota is surrounded by vineyards and is a five-minute drive into town. Villa Pecille overlooks the Conca del Ora and is a short walk into the village of Panzano.


La Rota is surrounded by Fontodi’s beautiful vineyards.


Casa La Rota.

All the apartments at La Rota and Villa Pecille are fully furnished and equipped with just about everything anyone could need to feel at home. Some have fireplaces. The two properties offer a range of accommodations suitable for two to eight people and both have swimming pools, ample outdoor areas for relaxing, and laundry facilities.


One of the terraces at Villa Pecille.


The pool at Villa Pecille.


Both La Rota and Villa Pecille have lots of lovely outdoor spaces to enjoy.

Sammie, who is American, is an expert on the area having been here since 1985 when she opened a B & B in nearby Greve. She went on to remodel and manage the Vignamaggio Hotel, which was the setting for Much Ado About Nothing starring Kenneth Branaugh and Emma Thompson in 1993. In 1995, Sammie moved to Fontodi and opened Casa La Rota and has been there ever since. Sammie can assist guests with restaurant recommendations (I’ll share my favorites in another post), wine tastings, even organizing dinners prepared in your villa.


Our spacious, fully equipped kitchen at Villa Pecille’s La Loggia.


La Loggia’s beautiful dining room is perfect for entertaining.

Sammie also has other properties in the area and several apartments in Florence. Detailed information on all of the villas and apartments is available at


The Piazza Bucciarelli is at the center of village life in Panzano in Chianti.

While not a large town, Panzano has its own market every Sunday morning in the main square— Piazza Bucciarelli—until about 1 p.m. The market is a great place to pick up fresh produce, fabulous cheeses, hot roast chicken, pasta and sauces, clothing, and household goods.


You can purchase Mr. Moreno’s superb selection of cheeses at Greve’s Saturday Market or in Panzano on Sunday mornings.


Clothing, accessories, shoes and more are available at Panzano’s Sunday Market.

The stores in town including the Coop (supermarket), pharmacy, and smaller shops near the main square and on Via Giovanni de Verrazzano, the road that leads up the hill to Santa Maria Assunta, are also open on Sundays but only until 1 p.m. There is also a much bigger weekly market in nearby Greve on Saturday mornings.


Fresh seasonal produce is at the heart of the market.

The town of Panzano is home to perhaps the most famous butcher in the world—the colorful, Dante- reciting Dario Cecchini  His Antica Macelleria Cecchini is technically a butcher shop but really so much more. Walk into his macelleria on a Sunday morning and it’s like there’s a party going on. He has a great spread of complimentary appetizers including his famous “Tuscan butter” (lardo), salamis, cheeses, olive oil, bread and wine.


Dario Cecchini may be the best known butcher in the world.

In addition to superb meats ready for your grill or oven, it is possible to purchase prepared dishes like porchetta—a delicious roast pork dish, polpetti—giant meatballs, and other local specialties for a picnic or easy meal at home. Service is friendly and English is spoken—Dario’s wife is a Californian. The ever-accommodating Dario is often willing to pose for photographs for international visitors who make the pilgrimage to Panzano to see him.


The very personable Dario Cecchini with our son this summer (top), and many years ago during one of our first holidays in Panzano.

Dario also has several restaurants: Solociccia, which is Tuscan slang for “only meat” and features cuts of beef from top to tail; Solociccino is a mini version of Solociccia and open for lunch only; Officina della Bistecca showcases sensational steaks including the famous Bistecca Fiorentina; and Dario DOC—which serves lunch from Monday through Saturday and is the only Dario restaurant where reservations are not required. All of the restaurants serve family style, multi course, prix fix meals, and while famous for top quality meat, vegetarian options are offered.


Complimentary meats, cheeses, bread, wine and Dario’s famous “Tuscan butter” are a tasty treat for visitors to the macelleria.

The butcher shop and restaurants draw people from around the globe-a lot of people. Dario’s Sunday lunches are especially popular so book in advance if you’d like to partake in these multi course extravaganzas. In the warm weather diners are served outside on long communal tables. We’ve met interesting people from all over the world at these delicious, leisurely meals. Dario also offers classes/workshops in butchery, which must be reserved in advance. All the details for the shop, restaurants and classes are at


This sculpture welcomes visitors to Il Molino di Grace’s tasting room outside Panzano.

Wine tasting is a popular Tuscan past time and Panzano is a marvelous place to indulge in this pleasure. There are three wine bars or enoteca on or across from the main piazza—Enoteca Baldi at 25 Piazza Bucciarelli, Misticoteca at 13 Piazza Bucciarelli, and the newest, Il Cardo at 50 Piazza Bucciarelli. These are all about a three-minute walk (or less) from one another.


Enoteca Baldi is popular with locals and visitors alike. Bring your beverage outside and enjoy it on the Piazza if you like.

Enoteca Baldi and Il Cardo offer a selection of light foods to accompany your wine.  Misticoteca, whose delightful owner Misty always has a warm welcome for visitors, has olive oils, specialty foods and gift items available for purchase. There almost always seems to be a crowd there.


Misticoteca was a popular place to watch the Giro d’Italia but this enoteca always draws a crowd.

We were fortunate to have our recent visit coincide with the Giro d’Italia—a major bicycle race—and its attendant 15 Giorni di Rosa or 15 Days of Pink—an exhaustive calendar of public events ranging from bicycle themed films, musical concerts, theatrical performances, free lectures, and of course, wine tastings.


The Bar Dante Alighieri in Radda is perfect for a coffee, light meal or a drink.


Shopkeepers in Radda were thinking pink for the Giro d’Italia.

The events were held in Radda, where the race would begin; Castellina in Chianti, San Donato, Panzano, through which the race passed; and Greve, where the race would end.


Greve welcomed racers and bicycling enthusiasts for the Giro d’Italia.

The day before the race, Unione Viticoltori de Panzano in Chianti presented Vino al Vino Miniatura, a smaller version of the wine tasting event the group hosts every September. All members of the organization had their wines available for tasting.


Panzano’s vintners presented Vino al Vino in Minaturo the day before the big race.

Wineries represented at that festive Saturday afternoon event included Fontodi, Il Molino di Grace, Casaloste, La Massa, Cennatoio, Fattoria la Quercia, Tenuta degli Dei and Castello dei Rampolla, among other local producers, 20 in total by my count. A souvenir glass and the opportunity to taste all of the delicious wines on offer cost just 10 Euro. There was live music in the Piazza Bucciarelli as well as local art on display to keep participants entertained while they sipped.


Great wines, music and a beautiful day brought people to Panzano’s Piazza Bucciarelli.

We visited Fontodi and Il Molino di Grace for wine tastings on this visit, and have toured and tasted at many others over the years. Visit for a list of local wineries, touring/tasting/direct sales availability, and other information.


A visit to Fontodi– one of the region’s premier wine producers.


The delightful and knowledgable Rina Lapini prepares to pour Fontodi’s flagship Flaccianello for visitors.

Contact wineries directly to make arrangements for private tours and wine tastings prior to arriving in Tuscany. Some are open to the public and some are not. Some offer complimentary tastings and some charge a fee.


Doors on Via Giovanni de Verrazzano, the main street off Piazza Bucciarelli leading up the hill to Santa Maria Assunta.

Panzano is also a fine place to have custom shoes, belts and hand bags made by local leather artisan Carlo Fagiani; visit a gallery that specializes in local artists’ work (we enjoyed a photography exhibition by Jeferson Silva Castellari and purchased one of his photographs on canvas); pick up antique or modern hardware; stop into a beautiful church– Santa Maria Assunta, which has a painting of the Annunciation attributed to Ghirlandaio and a 14th century Madonna from Botticini; or just relax with a coffee at our favorite bar, Caffe la Curva (it’s called Bar of the Curve because that’s where it is), or stop by for gelato and apperitivi later in the day.


Order custom made shoes, belts and handbags at Carlo Fagiani in Panzano.


Caffe la Curva is a great place to start the day with a cappuccino and cornetto or end it with an apperitivo.


Panzano’s bucolic beauty beckons us back again and again.

However you chose to spend your time in this beautiful place, enjoy la dolce vita in Italia and perhaps you’ll understand why we’ve returned to Panzano in Chianti again and again.




Art, Family Fun, Florence, History, Italy, Museums

Scarpe Diem: Florence’s Salvatore Ferragamo Museum

June 24, 2016

IMG_2791Descend the staircase in the stunning Palazzo Spini Feroni, which houses the flagship Ferragamo store and serves as company headquarters, and you’ll be greeted by walls of Salvatore Ferragamo’s strikingly beautiful shoes, artfully displayed, of course. Though they play a major role in the Museo Salvatore Ferragamo, a marvelous small museum on Florence’s posh Via Tornabuono, there’s much more to see than fabulous footwear.


Ferragamo’s shoes may themselves be considered works of art.

The Museum tells the story of the man, who grew up outside of Naples, the eleventh of 14 children and became “shoemaker to the stars”; the company, which became synonymous with beautiful and comfortable shoes that were widely imitated; and the city of Florence itself.


Visitors can learn about Florence’s fascinating history at the museum.

Stunning masterworks of 17th and 18th century Florentine art, a look at the palazzo’s chapel with frescoes by Bernardino Poccetti, artful fashion, and company’s history are all part of the museum experience


There is much more to see than shoes at the Museo Salvatore Ferragamo.

IMG_2800In addition to the innovatively designed shoes for which the company is known, the signed lasts created for Marilyn Monroe, Rita Hayworth, Sophia Loren and so many other movie stars and well-known names, past and present, are on view along with Ferragamo’s leather working tools.


Wooden lasts created for movie stars, royalty and other recognizable names hang on the museum’s walls.

The company’s history is cleverly presented in photographs displayed on racks like tourist post cards.


These “picture postcards” give visitors a glimpse of the company’s past.


Video and still photos tell the story of Salvatore Ferragamo and the company he created.

Beautiful sculpture, noteworthy paintings, historic books, documents, and more from the family’s extensive collection compete for visitors’ attention. Classical music such as Corelli’s Le Sonata per Violino, Violone e Cimbalo plays in various gallery spaces, adding to the ambiance.IMG_2824


IMG_2807Along with the permanent collection, the museum hosts rotating exhibitions. The current show, Across Art and Fashion poses the question, “Is fashion art?” and examines the relationship between the two.

IMG_7570The famous building, constructed in 1289, is itself part of the museum. Among other things, the Palazzo Spini Feroni was once home to the City Council when Florence was the capital of Italy. Salvatore Ferragamo purchased the Palazzo in 1938, after returning from America, and it has served as Ferragamo’s headquarters since that time.


During it’s long and colorful history, the Palazzo Spini Feroni was home to Florence’s City Council, a hotel and art galleries before becoming Ferragamo’s headquarters.


Salvatore Ferragamo’s widow, Wanda, was instrumental in creating the museum.

Through the efforts of Ferragamo’s widow and family members, Museo Salvatore Ferragamo was founded in 1995 after an exhibition at Florence’s Palazzo Strozzi went on tour, hosted by New York’s Guggenheim Museum, the County Museum of Los Angeles, London’s Victoria & Albert Museum, and Sogetsu Kai Foundation in Tokyo among others. The traveling exhibition became the basis of the permanent collection at the museum.


Phone or email for private guided tours.

Private guided tours can be arranged on the first Saturday of each moth at 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. by emailing or by calling +39 055 3562466. The museum also hosts special events. Check the website for details.


















Architecture, Art, Churches, Family Fun, Italy, Tuscany

Pitstop in Pisa

June 22, 2016

If you’ve never been and you’re in the area, it’s worth a stop to see Pisa’s famous Leaning Tower and the Campo dei Miracoli or Square of Miracles.  The Tower, or Torre, which was begun in 1173 and not completed until 1399 almost 200 years later, is one of the most recognizable and visited sites in Italy.


Go ahead– it’s why you’re here!

It’s easy to reach Pisa from Florence by car or train. We stopped on our way back to Panzano from Lucca. Park in one of the signed lots close to the piazza. There is a bit of an “element” looking to take advantage of tourists near the Campo dei Miracoli so it’s worth putting your car in an attended, paid lot. If you’ve arrived by train, take the LAM Rossa bus from the station in the direction of San Jacapo and get off at Torre.


Site map of the Campo dei Miracoli shows where everything is located.

If you’re feeling energetic, you can climb the 251 steps to the top of the Tower, for a fee. Children under the age of 8 are not allowed up into the Tower for safety reasons and children between the ages of 8 and 18 must have an adult accompany them. Opening hours and ticket prices are available at, the official tourism website for Pisa.


Part of the fun is watching everyone else take their photos.

Take the requisite photos, enjoy watching others take theirs, and then visit Il Duomo, Pisa’s cathedral. It is really beautiful and has the holy doors or porta santa open for the Catholic Church’s Jubilee Year of Mercy. Inside, in addition to the spectacular architecture, you’ll find art treasures like 700-year-old depictions from the bible, works by Ghirlandaio, the tomb of the Holy Roman Emperor Henry VII, a beautiful mosaic by Cimabue, and a carved pulpit by Giovanni Pisano. Photos are not allowed inside.


Take the time to come inside. There is no charge to enter Pisa’s magnificent Il Duomo.

The Baptistery, though not as spectacular inside as the duomo, is also worth seeing if time allows. The Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, which contains many of the artworks formerly housed in Il Duomo, the Baptistery and the Camposanto (cemetery) is also located on the Square of Miracles.


Construction on the Baptistry began in 1152 and is the best known work of Pisan architect Diotisalvi.

Entrance to the Cathedral is free but you must collect an entry coupon at the ticket office on the square. For tickets and admission information for the Baptistry, Museum and Camposanto or to purchase tickets online go to



Art, Churches, Dining, Family Fun, History, Italy, Tuscany

Day Tripping– Lovely Lucca

June 22, 2016

The lively and lovely small city of Lucca is the birthplace of Giacomo Puccini and a wonderful place to spend one day or several. We’ve had a few day trips from our home base in Panzano in Chianti ( more on that in another post) and keep promising ourselves to spend more time here.


Lucca is a popular destination for visitors to Tuscany and easy to reach by car or train from Florence.

You cannot drive inside the walled city. You must park in one of the lots outside. Be sure to look for the pay station if you park in any area with blue lines. White lines mean free parking, but blue lines require payment. We were so excited to get a spot near the Porta Santa Maria that we didn’t even notice we were in a pay zone and came back to find a parking ticket on our windshield. Note—if you get a parking ticket, pay it while you are still in Italy at any Post Office. You can do so with cash or credit card and you’ll avoid paying your car rental company the fee they charge to provide the Italian government with your information plus you’ll avoid the hassle of paying via wire transfer/foreign currency once you return home.


Bicycling is a popular means of getting around in Lucca– inside the city walls and on top of them.

Once you get inside the walls, Porte San Pietro is the main gate–find an Info Point—Porta Santa Maria or Porta San Donato both have them. Pick up a tourism map which has several itineraries for exploring the town. Itineraries are in Italian, English and German and include opening times, closing days, and other important information for the major sites such as museums and churches.


Visitors and locals alike stroll or bicycle around Lucca’s famous medieval walls. Bicycle rentals are readily available.

Lots of people go to Lucca to “walk the wall” or ride bicycles around the city on the top of its ancient fortifications—Passaggiata delle Mura. The medieval walls built in 1544 replaced earlier Roman ones and extend 4,195 meters around the perimeter of Lucca. There are plenty of bicycle rental places just inside the walls, particularly near the Porta Santa Maria. It was a blustery, rainy day when we were there a few weeks ago, so we put this on our list for next time.


Now a place for picnics and soccer practice, the grassy area around the walls was once a moat.


If you have time for a delicious and leisurely lunch (or dinner), go to la Buca di Sant’Antonio, Via della Cervia 3, 55100 Lucca +39058355881 The restaurant specializes in traditional cuisine of the area and the food is delicious.We’ve had several memorable meals here.You must reserve a table because the restaurant is quite popular.


Put Buca di Sant’ Antonio on your list of delightful restaurants in Lucca.


Maccheroni lucchesi al sugo di coniglio– housemade pasta with rabbit sauce– as delicious as it looks.


Puntarella alla Romana– a crisp, bitter salad topped with anchovies widely regarded as a Roman specialty.


Petto di faraona all’ uva moscato– guinea fowl in a wonderful moscato wine sauce with crispy pancetta. Yum!

The Church of St. Michele in Foro is one of Lucca’s “must visit” sites. It was built on the site of the Roman forum in the 11th and 12th centuries and is still the center of city life. The church has works by Luca della Robbia and Fillipino Lippi, among others.


This beautiful church is worth seeing both for its architecture and the wonderful art inside.


San Michele in Forno.

Piazza San Martino is home to Lucca’s duomo of the same name. Built in the Gothic Romanesque style, this beautiful church contains some important artworks by Ghirlandaio, Tintoretto and Fra Bartolomeo as well as the Holy Face of Lucca, a wooden Christ on a crucifix attributed to Nicodemus, as legend has it.


The anfiteatro is another of Lucca’s attractions. Built in the second century AD, the amphitheater’s former arena is now home to many shops and restaurants built into the ancient Roman walls, which are interesting to see from both inside and outside.



This Roman amphitheater once hosted games and gladiators. Now it’s a popular dining and shopping destination.

The Torre delle Ore, or clock tower, dates back to 1390. It is the tallest tower in town and has 207 wooden steps that ambitious visitors are welcome to climb.  In its early days, the time was announced by bells alone but a clock face was added in 1752.


Hardy souls who climb the tower can see the hand-wound clock mechanism from the 18th century. It’s still working!

Lucca has a Puccini Museum, of course, which is at Corte San Lorenzo 9 (near the Piazza Citadella)– the composer’s birthplace. The museum features furnishings, artworks, pianos, musical scores and other personal belongings including letters and notes from and to Puccini.

Shopping seems to be a popular past time in Lucca and there is no shortage of brand names from which to choose.


Lucca has plenty of stores to keep shoppers happy.


This giant sewing machine is a clever advertisement for the Milanese menswear maker.

Lucca is perfectly suited to those who like to wander, and we do, but after awhile we needed a break and stopped in for a gelato at De’Coltelli, 10 Via San Paolina, . Definitely seek this one out for their terrific artisanal gelato offered with complimentary panna (thick, sweetened whipped cream), which just adds to the deliciousness!


Panna is offered free as a thank you to gelato lovers here.

If it’s a drink or coffee you crave, pop in to The Dark Side—a cool little bar at 24 Via San Frediano at the corner of Via Angillara near the Church of San Frediano.


Come over to the Dark Side. You’ll be glad you did.


Step inside San Frediano for the beautiful baptismal font and works by Sienese sculptor Jacapo della Quercia, Matteo Civitali, and Amico Aspertini. The stunning facade features a golden mosiac depicting the Ascension.

Although we had come in for a quick coffee, we stayed for more than a half hour. The bartender was really friendly and he gave us tastes of some popular aperitivos along with descriptions of everything we sampled.


Our knowledgable and friendly bartender at the Dark Side.

The Dark Side’s complementary snacks, served with drinks, looked abundant and delicious, but we were off to Pisa.









Beaches, Hotels, Italy, Restaurants, Sicily, Wineries

Menfi and Points West: Planeta Estate La Foresteria

June 2, 2015

A giant golden sun welcomes visitors to Menfi, Sicily.

You won’t find much in the guidebooks about Menfi and there is a reason for this. It is a small, unremarkable and not especially attractive town in the Southwest of Sicily but there are several excellent reasons to put it on your itinerary. The first and foremost is that is the Planeta family, known for their highly regarded wines, has a very lovely, small hotel called La Foresteria located just a few kilometers outside of town. This peaceful oasis is between Menfi and Porto Palo, a small seaside community with beautiful, pristine beaches–more on that later.



Planeta’s La Foresteria is surrounded by beautiful countryside which leads to the sea.

La Foresteria has simple, well-appointed and comfortable rooms. Our’s, named Timo (thyme), had a large bed, small sitting area, ample closet space and a bathroom with a double shower and very nice toiletries. The room also had a mini fridge and a safe. Depending on location, each of the 14 rooms has either a patio or balcony with views out over the vineyards and fields to the sea—very tranquil.  Besides birdsong, the only other sounds you’re likely to hear are distant tractors working the land.  It is a very peaceful place.


We had a typical room at La Foresteria– large, comfortable, simple but well appointed.


Rooms have views from their terraces or patios across the fields and on to the sea.

There is a gorgeous infinity pool if you’re up for a swim or for just lounging around and enjoying a sunset cocktail. The hotel has plenty of comfortable public spaces to relax and read, chat or enjoy the peace and quiet. There is also a small gym on the property.

The inviting pool at La Planeta's La Foresteria, near Menfi, Sicily.

The inviting pool at La Planeta’s La Foresteria, near Menfi, Sicily.



La Foresteria’s pool is the perfect place to enjoy the sunset and a cocktail.

During the summer season through September, La Foresteria has a private beach club for guests. Friends have given it good reviews and really enjoyed the onsite massage service and lunch. Both of our visits have been in October, after the beach club was closed. The weather was still perfect though, and the hotel provided us with beach chairs, towels and umbrellas to use at the nearby beaches. The beaches in Porto Palo are among the cleanest and most pristine in all of Europe and proudly sport the blue flags awarded by the Foundation for Environmental Education proclaiming this. We practically had the beach to ourselves and the water was crystal clear and gloriously warm. Take some time off from touring to relax by the sea.


The area near Menfi is known for its beautiful and pristine beaches.

Another reason to stay at La Foresteria is the incredible cuisine prepared by Chef Angelo Pumilia. He takes full advantage of the fresh seafood and abundant vegetables from the area. The menu, which changes seasonally, features classic Sicilian dishes and while we were there, a number of crudos—raw fish dishes that were all excellent, along with artfully prepared pasta and meat courses.


Dinner is served on the terrace during warmer months. Here Chef Angelo welcomes us back to La Foresteria.

Everything we ate, and we each had three courses most nights, was superb. During our two stays (12 nights) we sampled most items on the menu– swordfish, prawns, mullet, chick pea soup, linguine with sardines, ricotta and mint ravioli, different lamb, beef and pork preparations– all were delicious– but Chef Angelo’s couscous was especially outstanding.


Chef Angelo’s spectacular couscous includes both raw and cooked fish.


The local seafood is prominently featured on the menu…



…and artfully prepared and presented.

Guests may choose from several prix fix options or order a la carte. Whichever choice you make, save room for his sublime desserts. The olive oil ice cream and the Cerasuolo di Vittoria (wine) ice cream were my favorites.


Cerasuolo ice cream makes a perfect dessert.

As expected, the reasonably priced wine list is heavily populated with Planeta labels and vintages but other producers’ wines are available as well. La Foresteria’s knowledgeable staff will gladly guide you.


Planeta wines dominate the wine list, naturally, but other producers are represented as well.

Breakfast is a lovely affair with a bountiful buffet featuring fresh fruits, cheeses, hams, hard cooked eggs, pastries, cakes, juices, coffee drinks, and tea– all enjoyed on the expansive terrace.


Guests choose their breakfast favorites. Coffee drinks are made to order and served at the table.


This table doubles as the communal dining table for dinner during cooler weather.

Both breakfast and dinner were served outside on the patio on our last visit—a fine way to enjoy the great views and warm weather. On our first stay, only breakfast was available on the patio. Dinner was served inside at a large communal table, which was very convivial, and a great way to meet other guests—from Italy, France, Belgium, England, Japan and New Zealand.


Guests enjoy breakfast and beautiful views on La Foresteria’s terrace.

While guests have priority for dining room seating, in the morning you should let the front desk staff know if you plan to dine at La Foresteria. I would also recommend booking if you plan to enjoy dinner the evening you arrive. You wouldn’t want to miss out on Chef Angelo’s outstanding cuisine!


The talented and personable Chef Angelo Pumilia presides over La Foresteria’s kitchen.

If you’d like to learn more about Sicilian cuisine, the hotel offers cooking classes with Chef Angelo. Our schedule couldn’t accommodate a full class so we opted for a “Chat with the Chef” one evening for an hour before dinner. We enjoyed a wonderful conversation in the kitchen with Chef amid the hustle and bustle of the evening’s dinner preparation. The front desk will arrange either of these options for you as well as a visit to Planteta’s nearby wine estate. We had an informative tour, terrific wine tasting and a delicious lunch with Chiara Planeta.   It was a memorable afternoon, which ended with a relaxing dip in the pool and a well-deserved nap.


A quiet moment at Da Vittoria, before the lunch crowd.

If you choose to dine off property, try Da Vittoria This local favorite is less than a 10- minute drive from La Foresteria and is right on the beach. The restaurant specializes in seafood and whole fish dishes in particular. We enjoyed some wonderful pasta dishes including shrimp and pistachios, a red mullet pasta and other equally good seafood pasta combos. Our least favorite was the house pasta combination. The grilled fish was simply prepared but so fresh and delicious —the swordfish in particular.


The excellent shrimp and pistachio pasta at Da Vittoria.


Simple but delicious fishcakes made from local catch.


Mandrossa’s Fiano was a perfect accompaniment to our lunch.

The portions are huge at Da Vittoria. Do not be shy about sharing—just say, “Uno per duo, per favore!” We had several lunches and dinners here and enjoyed the food, the view and the people watching each time. Even though the restaurant is quite large it fills up, so do book in for lunch or dinner.

Next up, day trips to consider.