italian for beginners

I’m going to Italy for two weeks. I leave this weekend. First stop: Venice. Hitting Cinque Terra, driving through Tuscany (so going the “Under the Tuscan Sun” route by way of Cortona and Arezzo) to Florence, then rounding it off in Rome. Wine, leather, cobblestone, and sunflowers… all that with a gorgeous blond by my side. Neither of us speak a lick of Italian. But lick an Italian… well that’s a whole ‘nother story and certainly one worth exploring. Rawwrrr.

I’ve been to Italy before. I went to Venice, Florence, Rome, Naples, Sorrento, Positano, and spent way too much time bored in Capri. Dear sweet readers, I’ve been to Italy, so I know anywhere I go, the food is great. I’m turning to you to ask if you know of any amazing amazing over the top places/restaurants/bars/views “must sees.” On my last trip, my favorite thing was lunch at a hole-in-the-wall unsuspecting, communal seating, restaurant in Florence for lunch. Sostanza I believe. Not at all touristy. When I travel, I avoid the touristy bits and prefer instead the smaller streets where I’m left to believe I’ve discovered something new. God I love to travel… it’s full of possibilities. I’m very excited.



  1. Which areas are you planning to visit this time? To round out your list, I would recommend Pisa and Cinque Terre. I'll be happy to share some great spots in both, if you are going that way.

  2. Sounds like a great trip. I've always wanted to go to Italy. One day I'll make it there. Maybe you could keep a travel journal so we all know where the cool spots are…ok that's selfish.
    Have fun! =)

  3. You mentioned Naples & Capri; did you make it down to Pompeii, as well? If not, it's an absolute must-see, although in late-August it will be stifling.

  4. oh my, do i have recos for you. i'm sure moey will too. we'll discuss tonight. where are you going?

  5. OOH! I totally want to go to Italy. The one time I was going to go, my hubby came home earlier than expected and I didn't get to fly over. Pooh. I want to learn to mangle Italian like I can already mangle French & Spanish. And see the church in Ravenna with the cool mosaics. And eat in little holes in the walls that serve squid that was swimming that very morning. Etc. Etc. Have a wonderful time, and I can't wait to see the great pictures you'll undoubtedly take!!

  6. Definitely go to Cinque Terre! If you hike up on the trails between the five small fishing towns, you can catch some breath-taking views – I took some of my favorite photographs there. Have fun!

  7. Where to start…Rent a car. Smell a sunflower.

    Montepulciano…Spend a day there. Great wine and art.

    Sienna…The Horsies race is comin' soon. Don't miss it. Unmatched anywhere else in the world.

    Il Borro…Ferragamo's place (yes, that Ferragamo). I had a house there for 2 weeks last summer. Simply amazing. AND, they'll custom make any footwear for you. A must see/buy for you.

    Montereggione…mui romantico

    I can provide you with restaurants if you would like as well.

  8. Enjoy the trip!!!! I am sure Linus is going to miss you….make sure you buy him some extra Wee Wee pads before you leave. That way whoever is watching him doesn't have to run to the store to buy Luvs.

  9. Have a wonderful time and may you come back rejuvenated and with a spirit so imbued with euphoria that it will carry you through NY's winter and to next year's vacation destination before subsiding. It just occurred to me that your book should be translated into another language. I can easily imagine the French and Italians being even greater fans than us.

  10. Stephanie, I used to live just outside Rome in Ladispoli (many year s ago)… I was also in Rome about five years ago. There's a fantastico gelatterria right near the Fontana di Trevi. I can't remember the name, but the awning is hunter green and you can see the fountain. Have the hazelnut gelatto. Trust me, you will not regret it.

    I wish I were going to Italy, but we couldn't swing it this year. Maybe next. I've yet to go to Tuscany, but it's next on my list.

  11. Bologna.. best food i've ever eaten at some place near the train station. Great city. You must visit
    Also you gotta get to Sicily, nothing like that in the summertime, should rename the island Sexily, plus gonna be ah huge party there Sept 4th, when Italy plays Norway in first world cup qualify match. Will the Azzurri redeem themselves?

  12. of all the places in Italy, none equalled the raw and untouched beauty of Puglia.. it is still my favorite place on earth. I would go there in a heartbeat. Incidentally, Puglian Primitivo is also quite lovely!

  13. Please, please, please take me with you! I know just enough Italian to get you licked first. And I love, love, LOVE Tuscany. If you have any pity in your soul, TAKE ME WITH YOU. :>)

    Buon viaggio!

  14. PS–Forgot the recommendation:

    1. Sienna is a definite must-see. Very lovely and any place you eat is … well, you know.

    2. Perugia. Funky, non-touristy hill town in central Umbria.

    3. Assisi. VERY touristy, but the mural of Giotto's Life of St. Francis is worth the hassle.

  15. Dining in Italian cities in August is tricky, because the entire country goes on vacation and most of what's left is just tourist traps.

    In Rome, there's a restaurant just north of the Piazza Navona called La Campana. All the tourist books list it, but the menu is handwritten in Italian which keeps most of the obnoxious tourists away. It's said to be the oldest restaurant in Rome. The food is authentic and unfussy, but on Fridays and Saturdays be sure to call ahead for a reservation. For a snack, get pizza bianca from the Forno in the Campo de' Fiori. Cappucino (only with breakfast) at the Tazza d'Oro just off the Piazza della Rotonda.

    In Florence you should definitely cruise the markets for food. There's the Mercato Centrale in San Lorenzo and the farmer's market on Piazza Ghiberti in Santa Croce. You won't get a sit-down meal, but you'll find some of the very best produce, cheeses, and salume in the world. I'd say you should go to Cibreo (which is admittedly a "destination" restaurant and therefore very touristy), but I'm almost positive it's closed in August. Outside the Mercato Centrale there's also a famous streetcart selling authentic panini al lampredotto — tripe sandwiches — if you're up for a real adventure.

    I'm impossibly jealous of your travel plans. Keep your eyes open for bargain '97 chiantis and gelaterie filled with natives, and take lots of pictures for us.

  16. Florence:

    1. Spend some time "over the briges" from the city center. there's a small restaurant off the the left in an alley once you cross the Ponte Vecchio and head toward the Pitti Palace/Boboli gardens. I lived near Santo Spirito, not usually touristy. La Dolce Vita is a good locals bar, very chi-chi though. Franco's near Santo Spirito has the best dinner, ask around for directions because it's COMPLETELY locals, they have no sign, they have no set hours, and no one speaks English. But the food is great and you can order just by pointing and smiling.

    2. Eat lunch at Antico Noe, best sandwiches ever.

    3. Go to Aqua el 2 for dinner one night. Or Quatre Lione

    4. Cinque Terre:

    Spend the night in Vernazza, it's the prettiest of all five towns and you can barter for private rooms. in august in should be cheaper too.

  17. Have lots and lots of fun!!! Take lots and lots of pictures for those of us like me who like to live vicariously through you :)

  18. The place to eat dinner in Florence is Cibreo. If the main restaurant is booked, ask them to seat you across in the street in the cafe. They will let you order off the main spot's menu, and if anything the atmosphere is even better. Order a good bottle of Tuscan wine but nothing extravagant. I’d suggest Fontodi.

    Both restauarnts owned by the scottish Gardners, Beccofino and Baldovino, are excellent. In terms of atomosphere, they may be a bit too reminiscent of New York, however, to provide that "I'm trying something really different" feeling. But the food is amazing.

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