Wednesday, August 3, 2011

NORTHWEST ITALY

(does not include Bergamo Genoa, Lakes Region, Milan, Turin & Varese; does include: Aosta Valley, Liguria, Lombardy, Piedmont, Trentino Alto Aldige & Vernazza)

AOSTA & AOSTA VALLEY
BREUIL-CERVINIA
Hotels
Les Neiges d’Antan – Fraz Cret De Perreres; 011-39-016-694-8775; lesneigesdantan.it.
Restaurants
Ristorante Grand Sometta – Track #6; 011-39-339-545-7257; facebook.com/pages/-Ristorante-Gran-Sometta-/134220829953767; at 9.1K'; tiny cabin called Baita Grand Sometta; inside, cluttered counter where can buy candy or orange soda and/or order such specialties as sottofiletto ai funghi (veal rump roast with mushrooms) or stinco al forno (roasted pork leg); eat on paper plates at handful tables inside; consider trying uova sometta (2 fried eggs, ham, and Fontina cheese) & bombolone (fried-dough ball filled with chocolate cream).
Chalet Etoile (Ulla’s) – Località Plan Maison (Valtournenche); 011-39-016-694-0220; chaletetoile.it/enter_eng.html; on blue piste above Plan Maison, beneath Rocce Nere chair lift; rustic Italian; menu changes daily, but recurring favourite is fish soup (steamy, spicy broth brimming with langoustines and mussels); wine to drink is pinot noir from Cave des Onze Communes in Aosta Valley.
Les Neiges d’Antan – Fraz Cret De Perreres; 011-39-016-694-8775; lesneigesdantan.it.



CAMPANIA
(includes Amalfi Coast)
AMALFI COAST Hotels
Hotel Quattro Passi – 13n Via Amerigo Vespucci (Marina del Cantone); 011-39-081-808-2800; ristorantequattropassi.com; 7 rooms; pretty but not posh.
Taverna del Capitano – 10-11 Piazza delle Sirene (Marina del Cantone); 011-39-081-808-1028; tavernadelcapitano.it; 10 rooms to let, some with water views; restaurant has 2 Michelin stars; on Sorrentine coast.
Restaurants
Lo Scoglio – 58 Via Cava Ruffano (Marina del Cantone); 011-39-08-199-9529; hotelloscoglio.com; family-owned trattoria serves locally inspired Mediterranean fare amid panoramic Nerano Bay views; large windows admit plenty of sunlight into dining room, decorated with white tablecloths, wooden chairs, and tiny glass pendant lights hung from exposed ceiling beams; freshly caught seafood and produce grown on owner’s farm; signature dishes like lobster linguini, dark-chocolate eggplant, and spaghetti with clams and zucchini; local white wine, called Lacrime di Cristo, pairs well with most seafood entrées.
Quattro Passi Ristaurante – 13n Via Amerigo Vespucci (Marina del Cantone); 011-39-081-808-2800; ristorantequattropassi.com; offers cooking classes.
Taverna del Capitano – 10-11 Piazza delle Sirene (Marina del Cantone); 011-39-081-808-1028; tavernadelcapitano.it; 2 Michelin stars; on Sorrentine coast; rooms to let.


LIGURIA
(includes Cinque Terre)
LA SPEZIA
Bars & Nightclubs
Vertigo Bar – Spiaggia Marinella (San Terenzo); 011-39-366-500-9919; most atmospheric bar around and sometimes has live music.
Beaches
Monterosso al Mare – Monterosso Al Mare; gets quite crowded with tourists in summer months, but that doesn’t make it any less gorgeous; faces Ligurian sea; perpetually gentle surf & warm waters; pretty seaside boardwalk tucked behind its sandy golden shore.
Hotels
Hotel Belvedere – 26 Via Giuseppe Garibaldi (Porto Venere); 011-39-187-790-608; belvedereportovenere.it; comfortable, sea-front, 3 star accommodation; 2 minute walk from beach; town center with its numerous bars, restaurants, and shops few minutes on foot; charming guest rooms; enjoy summer holiday in Italy of good food, relaxation, and good food; hotel amenities include panoramic sea-front restaurant; parking facilities.
Hotel San Terenzo – 42 Via Biaggini (San Terenzo); 011-39-0187-972-469; hotelsanterenzo.it; insist on sea-view room; scene outside floor-to-ceiling windows you won’t notice ho-hum décor.
La Mala – 29 Via San Giovanni Battista (Vernazza); 011-39-334-287-5718; lamala.it; comfortable, elegant rooms with breathtaking views; ask for Room 31; hangs halfway between sea and sky; stone's throw from village square, with it's natural stone terrace.
Restaurants
Gianni Franzi – Piazza San Giovanni Battista (Vernazza); 011-39-018-782-1003; giannifranzi.it; authentic, redolent pesto.
Il Senatore – 11 Via Byron (Fiascherino, Cinque Terre); 011-39-0187-967-236; locandailsenatore.com; book table on terrace overlooking sea; fantastic seafood.
Ristorante Della Baia – 111 Lungomare (Porto Venere); 011-39-187-766-203; ristorantedellabaia.com.
Ristorante Elettra – 42 Calata Doria (Porto Venere); 011-39-187-792-215; for fritto misto di pesche and bottle of Vermentino Colli di Lunae.
Shopping
Bajeico – 70 Via Capellini (Porto Venere); 011-39-187-791-054; bajeico.it; pesto store.
Sights & Sites
Castello Doria – 9 Via Giuseppe Garibaldi (Porto Venere, at Regional Natural Park of Portovenere); 011-39-187-794-823 or 011-39-187-794-885; parconaturaleportovenere.it; formidable Genoese military architecture offering magnificent views from ornate terraced gardens; ask someone to point out where now-collapsed Grotta Arpaia (former Byron haunt).
Chiesa di San Lorenzo – Piazzale della Chiesa di San Lorenzo (Porto Venere, upper city, below Castle Doria); 011-39-187-790-684; liguriaguide.com/san-lorenzo-church-portovenere.html; built in 1116 at Genoese bequest by masters Anelami, stone carvers from Val d’Intelvi (adjacent to Lake Maggiore); consecrated while still unfinished by Pope Innocent II in 1130; notable for front’s banda in vertical black and white horizontal stripes (typical of Gothic-Genovese) and black and white tiled floor; contains 15th Century triptych, miraculous scroll of Madonna Bianca and Lebanon cedar trunk from 1204, containing caskets and reliquaries.
Chiesa di San Pietro – Piazza Spallanzani (Porto Venere); 011-39-187-790684; on cliffs overlooking sea and La Spezia Gulf; whole Porto Venere bay is UNESCO World Heritage Site; church hosts dozens couples from around world yearly in marriage; existing building built above temple to Venus, turned in 5th Century to small Christian-Syriac basilica; officially consecrated in 1198; reconstructed by Genoese between 1256-1277; restored during Fascist period (1929-1934); Gothic-Genovese with alternating white and black; original 6th Century floor.

LERICI
Bars
Enoteca Baroni – 18 Via Cavour; 011-39-0187-966-301; for glass of Barolo or Vermentino in shade (or to go).
Hotels
Piccolo Hotel del Lido – 24 Via Biaggini; 011-39-0187-968-159; locandadelido.it; town’s most luxurious option; 12 minimalist rooms with terraces and sun lounges, huge showers, and panoramic sea views.
Restaurants
Bonta Nacoste – 52 Via Cavour; 011-39-0187-965-500; bontanascoste.it; excellent Ligurian specialities, like pesto, mussels, and farinata.
Gelateria Arcobaleno – 20 Piazza Garibaldi; 011-39-348-755-3715; best gelato in area; try Lerici (caramel gelato with toasted pine nuts and chocolate).
Jeri – 20 Via Giuseppe Mazzini; 011-39-0187-967-605; ristorantejeri.it; no menu or English; will bring you house wine carafe and serve you endless trays of seafood.

PORTOFINO (includes Camogli)
Bars & Nightclubs
Terrace – 16 Salita Baratta (at Hotel Splendido); 011-39-018-526-7801; hotelsplendido.com; Bellinis made with peaches grown on property.
Dives
Christ of Abyss (Il Cristo degli Abissi) – San Fruttuoso (Camogli); submerged bronze statue off San Fruttuoso (between Camogli & Portofino); at approximately 17 meters depth; placed near spot where Dario Gonzatti, 1st Italian to use SCUBA gear, died in 1947.
Hotels
Cenobio dei Dogi Hotel – 34 Via Nicolò Cuneo (Camogli); 011-39-018-57241; cenobio.it/en; featured in movie Trip to Italy; dramatically perched along seaside; spectacular views over Paradiso Golfo; seaside room essential; 106 rooms, with overall decoration in rather traditional Italian; despite relatively plain atmosphere inside, exterior is point; seawater swimming pool, for example, really superb as are views it affords; restaurant also makes most of panoramas; food’s not bad; tiny private beach but no sand.
Hotel Da Giovanni – San Fruttuoso (Camogli); 011-39-018-577-0047; dagiovanniristorante.com; featured in movie Trip to Italy; 11 guests can stay total in 4 doubles and/or 3 singles; eccentrically styled rooms; this is not about elegant accommodations; about perhaps most romantic place you can be.
Hotel Splendido – 16 Salita Baratta; 011-39-018-526-7801 or 800-237-1236; hotelsplendido.com; enormously peaceful views over Portofino cove; property consists of 16th Century hillside monastery and extension into surrounding buildings; most rooms have bay views.
Splendido Mare – 2 Via Roma; 011-39-018-526-7802 or 800-237-1236; hotelsplendido.com; enormously peaceful views over Portofino cove; property consists of 16th Century hillside monastery and extension into surrounding buildings; most rooms have bay views.
Restaurants
Ristorante Da Giovanni – San Fruttuoso (Camogli); 011-39-018-577-0047; dagiovanniristorante.com; featured in movie Trip to Italy; specializes in fish dishes; sit outside when weather permits.
Sights
Abbazia di San Fruttuoso – San Fruttuoso (Camogli); 011-39-018-577-2703; fondoambiente.it/cosa-facciamo/Index.aspx?q=abbazia-di-san-fruttuoso-bene-fai; medieval stronghold built by Benedictines of Monte Cassino; protects minuscule fishing village that can be reached only on foot or by water (20-minute boat ride from Portofino, also reachable from Camogli, Santa Margherita Ligure & Rapallo); occasionally hosts temporary exhibitions & contains illustrious Doria family tombs; better visited off-season because of large number tourists in-season.

RAPALLO
Hotels
Excelsior Palace Hotel – 8 Via San Michele di Pagana; 011-39-018-523-0666; thi-hotels.com; facing Rapallo Bay; 1901 property with commanding views and beautiful grounds; excellent restaurant.

SAN MICHELE DI PAGANA
Hotels
Hotel L’Approdo – 160 Via Pagana; 011-39-18-523-4568; approdo.it.
Restaurants
Hotel L’Approdo – 160 Via Pagana; 011-39-18-523-4568; approdo.it.

SANTA MARGHERITA LIGURE
Hotels
Grand Hotel Miramare – 30 Via Milite Ignoto; 011-39-018-528-7013; grandhotelmiramare.it; some rooms have sea views; average restaurant.

VENTIMIGLIA
Sights & Sites
La Mortola (including Giardini Botanici Hanbury) – 43 Corso Monte Carlo; 011-39-01-8422-9507; giardinihanbury.com; 19th Century tea merchant villa with 45-acre botanical garden; perched above sea.



LOMBARDY
BRESCIA (includes Erbusco & Sirmione)
Hotels
L’Albereta – 23 Via Vittorio Emanuele (Erbusco, in Franciacorta, few minutes’ drive from Lake Iseo); 011-39-030-776-0550; albereta.it/en; set among vineyards & botanical garden, this ivy-covered luxury hotel has elegant rooms, some with antique furnishings, all with free Wi-Fi, flat-screen TVs & marble bathrooms; upgraded rooms include balconies, whirlpool tubs &/or fireplaces; suites add sitting areas; some feature 4-poster beds & 1 has retractable roof in bedroom; 3 restaurants & tearoom, plus full-service spa, indoor pool, fitness center & sauna.
Restaurants
Gualtiero Marchesi – 23 Via Vittorio Emanuele (Erbusco); 011-39-030-776-0562; gualtieromarchesi.it; famous chef.Sights & Sites
Scaliger Castle – 34 Piazza Castello (Sirmione); 011-39-030-916-468; roccascaligerasirmione.beniculturali.it; rare example of medieval port fortification, used by Scaliger fleet; small museum with local finds from Roman era & few medieval artifacts.


CREMONA
Sights & Sites
Pinacoteca del Museo Civico – 4 Via Ugolani Dati; 011-39-037-240-7770; musei.comune.cremona.it; note, see Caravaggio’s Saint Francis in Meditation (1606).

MANTOVA (Mantua; includes Runate)
Hotels ●Galleria Museo Palazzo Valenti Gonzaga – 7 Via Pietro Frattini; 011-39-034-8441-9954; valentigonzaga.com; set in restored 17th Century building; stately hotel; 8-minute walk from Basilica of Sant’Andrea, 14-minute walk from both Ducal Palace & Palazzo del Te; frescoes on ceilings & walls, elegant suites offer free Wi-Fi & flat-screen TVs; some suites have fireplaces & whirlpool tubs; amenities include complimentary breakfast & patio garden.
Restaurants
Ristorante dal Pescatore Santini – 15 Località Runate (in Canneto sull’Oglio); 011-39-376-723-001; dalpescatore.com; 48th best in world per Restaurant (magazine) in 2009; 3 Michelin stars; noted for tortelli stuffed with amaretto, mostarda, Parmesan, and pumpkin.
Sights & Sites
Camera degli Sposi (Camera Picta) – 40 Piazza Sordello; 011-39-037-635-2100; guideturistichemantova.it/English/the-ducal-palace; room frescoed with illusionistic paintings by Andrea Mantegna in Ducal Palace; painted between 1465-74; commissioned by Ludovico III Gonzaga; notable for trompe l’oeil details & di sotto in sù ceiling.
Ducale Palace – 40 Piazza Sordello; 011-39-037-635-2100; guideturistichemantova.it/English/the-ducal-palace.
Il Museo Storico dei Vigili del Fuoco – 1 Largo Vigili del Fuoco; 011-39-0376-22771; alfaromeomuseums.com/museums/italy/museo-storico-del-corpo-nazionale-dei-vigili-del-fuoco-mantova; learn about past & autos that saved lots of lives; bikes, boats, cars, choppers & trucks.
Museo della Citta Palazzo di San Sebastiano – 12 Largo XXIV Maggio; 011-39-0376-367-087; museodellacitta.mn.it/index.php/it; may be location in Mantua with Thomas Alexandre Dumas portrait.
Museo Francesco Gonzaga – 55 Piazza Virgiliana; 011-39-0376-320-602; museofrancescogonzaga.it/en.
Museo Tazio Nuvolari – Via Giulio Romano; 011-39-0376-325-691; tazionuvolari.it/en; Nuvolari among most famous race car drivers before war & this small museum is dedicated to Mantova’s favorite son; started his racing career on 2 wheels, but soon switched to Alfa Romeo team, led by Enzo Ferrari; couple of cars, lots of trophies, clothing, awards & personal items.
Palazzo d’Arco – 4 Piazza Carlo D’Arco; 011-39-0376-322-242; comune.mantova.gov.it/index.php/cultura/altri-monumenti/palazzo-d-arco; Neoclassical-style palace that houses museum.
Palazzo Te – 13 Viale Te; 011-39-0376-323-266; palazzote.it; fine example of mannerist style of architecture, acknowledged masterpiece of Giulio Romano.

QUISTELLO
Restaurants
Ambasciata – 33 Via Martiri di Belfiore (south of Mantua); 011-39-376-619-169; ristoranteambasciata.com; very expensive; considered among Italy’s best restaurants; must have vitello tonnato (veal with tuna cream sauce) and/or timballo di lasagne verdi con petto di piccione sauté alla crème de Cassis (green lasagna with pigeon breast in red currant sauce).



PIEDMONT
ALBA & SERRALUNGA D’ALBA
Bars & Nightclubs
Vinoteca Centro Storico – 6 Via Roma; 011-39-017-361-3203; cozy wine bar under town castle; ask for glass of Barolo (local), either Massolino or Pira Luigi; good cheese and meat snacks.
Hotels
Il Boscareto Resort & Spa – 21 Strada Roddino (Serralunga d’Alba); 011-39-017-361-1036; ilboscaretoresort.it; brand-new; modern aesthetic; indoor pool overlooking vineyards.
Palazzo Finati – 8 Via Vernazza (Alba); 011-39-017-336-6324; palazzofinati.it; small luxury hotel.
Relais Monforte – 110 Localita Sant’Anna (Monforte d’Alba, Serralunga d’Alba); 011-39-17-378-7011; relaismonforte.it; golf course and sweeping views.
Restaurants
La Piola – 4 Piazza Risorgimento; 011-39-017-336-6167; lapiola-alba.it; owned by Piazza Duomo; chef from El Bulli; regional fare.
Piazza Duomo – 4 Piazza Risorgimento; 011-39-017-336-6167; piazzaduomoalba.it; Michelin starred; 1 of best meals in Italy; tucked in 2nd-story room up nondescript staircase, behind mysterious purplish doorway off cobbled alley; have to be buzzed up; interior painted bright pink; although expensive-ish, get value for amount paid (lots of amuse-bouches as well as 4 courses).
Trattoria della Posta – 87 Localita Sant’Anna (Monforte d’Alba); 011-39-017-378-120; trattoriadellaposta.it; housed in old country estate outside village; open since 1875; try baked onion filled with cheese, mini ravioli with goat cheese and local sausage, and veal shank with Barolo sauce.
Shopping
Giovanni Rosso Winery – 6 Localita Baudana (Serralunga d’Alba); 011-39-017-361-3340; giovannirosso.com; winery.

ACQUI TERME
Restaurants
I Caffi – 1 Via Verdi; 011-39-014-432-5206; icaffi.it; formal dining room in wood-beamed ceiling; frescoes and silk curtains; impressive classic menu; try tortino di milazzo (sea bass fish cake in saffron sauce) and agnolotti del plin filled with duck; great wine list and by-glass.

BENEVELLO
Hotels
Villa d’Amelia – 1 Fraz. Manera; 011-39-017-352-9225; villadamelia.com; 19th Century farm estate in Le Langhe’s heart in Piedmont; meticulously restored 37-room villa, set amid hazelnut groves with Barolo vineyard hillside views; snowcapped Alps to north; wood-beamed rooms with high-tech appliances; treks through adjacent woods keep appetites whetted; spring and fall best; Suite 207, formerly San Luigi chapel, is best, having mansard wood-beamed ceiling, bare stone walls, and rosette window.

NOVARA
Hotels
Al Sorriso – 18 Via Roma; 011-39-322-983-228; alsorriso.com; Relais & Chateaux property.
Restaurants
Al Sorriso – 18 Via Roma; 011-39-322-983-228; alsorriso.com; 3 Michelin stars.

POLLENZO
Restaurants
Ristorante Guido – 19 Via Fossano; 011-39-017-245-8422; guidoristorante.it; at University of Gastronomic Sciences (Slow-Food institution); showcase for contemporary cuisine; also hotel and museum.

ROCCHETTA TANARO
Restaurants
Trattoria I Bologna – 4 Via Nicola Sardi (Rocchetta Tanaro); 011-39-014-164-4600; trattoriaibologna.it; near Asti; hand-rolled, fresh pasta; impressive cellar; famous for veal tartare and guanciale du cavallo (horse cheeks).

SANTO STEFANO BELBO
Hotels
Il Ristorante di Guido da Costigliole – 39 Localita San Maurizio; 011-39-014-184-1900; relaissanmaurizio.it; luxury spa resort; beautiful pool.
Restaurants
Il Ristorante di Guido da Costigliole – 39 Localita San Maurizio; 011-39-014-184-1900; relaissanmaurizio.it; in old house on hill; renowned for fine food and wine, and lovely setting.



TRENTINO-ALTO ADIGE/SOUTH TYROL
BOLZANO
Sights & Sites
South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology – 43 Via Museo; 011-39-047-198-2576; iceman.it; where Otzi’s relics kept.

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