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Eating Early in Italy

I would like to know if there are any restaurants in Rome, Florence and Venice that serve an early dinner. Going with some people who like to eat early, around 6pm. Please help. Thanks

Posted by
20718 posts

I am sure there are restaurants open that early but our experience is that the majority of the better, neighborhood restaurants do not open till 7 or later. Does an hour make that much difference?

Posted by
66 posts

Lois:
Are you remembering to take the time difference into consideration? 6pm your time is Midnight in Italy, and 6pm in Italy is only Noon in Rhode Island. I'm guessing that your friends will be able to re-set their body clocks to match Italian restaurant schedules..

Have fun in Italy! We'll be making our first trip in October, so take my advice with a grain of salt. Hopefully someone else can confirm my reply.

Posted by
1737 posts

Just back from Italy in May, and I can tell you, it's really difficult to find a place that opens for dinner before 7PM. It's the culture...so enjoy it!

Ever wonder why the Italians are so much thinner than us? They eat later, and eat lighter, and then walk after dinner!

One suggestion...have your friends stop at a grocery or local cafe and buy a snack around 5PM to hold them over for dinner if they can't wait until 7PM to eat a full meal.

Posted by
7185 posts

We also went looking for dinner around 6:00 pm in Rome, Florence, Venice. Mostly we were met with gasps and looks of astonishment from the restaurant owners when we arrived that early - especially in Florence. Many times they told us to come back later...7:00 or 7:30.

However, there will always be the "tourist" restaurants or snack/sandwich stands that will cater to your hours. Just be aware that the best "real" Italian restaurants may require you to wait until their opening hours.

Posted by
1127 posts

Some bars and cafes are open all day but the actual restaurants won't open until 7pm or later. Adjust to your surrounds and your trip will go a lot easier. Have a snack around 4p - gelato always works for me.

Posted by
160 posts

Thanks all. I have been to Italy on several different time and I could never find a place to eat that early. I guess they will just have to adjust their internal clocks. I personally eat at 7pm my time. Thanks again

Posted by
842 posts

I am going to have to agree with Jayne. We are early eaters too, but every time we go to Italy, we just go the Italian way.........in fact some of the better restaurants don't open until 7;30 or 8.

I am hypoglcemic, so I have to eat every few hours, but when you go to Italy I have found that my body becomes acclimated. If I am going to be involved in a strenous activity before dinner, I will take some bread and cheeze, and snack on that prior to our evening meal.

It is so much fun once you become accustomed to Italy, and it only takes a few days. We got to the point that we never returned to our room before midnight. "When in Rome do as the Romans do." still holds true today.

Posted by
1455 posts

I did find places that opened early but they were very touristy. You might as well eat at a McDonalds if you wish to follow the "American" time of eating at 6.

Tell your companions to follow the Italian way of eating a hearty lunch, grab a snack mid afternoon, and eat during the local time of 7, 8 or even 9 pm.

Not only will you have a much better meal, you'll be able to enjoy the local color too.

I cringe when I see tourists not willing to convert to the locals, and expect the locals to convert to us.

Best of luck, Lois. Hope you can get the friends to live it up a little.

Posted by
3313 posts

In Venice, one of the delights is popping into bars for light snacks called cichetti. Rick Steves has quite a few suggestions.

The best time for these is late afternoon. Bars set out numerous plates of all kinds of snacks and serve with small glasses of wine. Almost any neighborhood off the beaten tourist paths will have several such places. You wander in, look at what's on the counter, point and eat!

We look forward to making an evening meal this way and have bigger plates at lunch.

Apart from that, the other posters here are right. Italian restaurants don't open for sit-down meals until later in the evening.

Posted by
28 posts

There was only one time I ate early in Italy but it was an all night six courses and greek dancing . We started at 6p and ended around 10pm then went clubbing. Italians have there siesta around 12 noon or 1pm and then go back to work later in the day around 2 or 3pm . Dinner usually starts at around 7pm until latest meal I have been seated for was 10pm in Rome fresh pasta and clams yum yum.

Remember you only live once have some fun I ususally would stop and get some fruit to tide me over.

Posted by
221 posts

this may seem silly to some, but I think it is a good topic. the other consideration for us older folks (54) is that when we travel we often start early and after walking and sightseeing for 8-10 hours few of us could rarely wait until 7 or 8 to eat dinner. The snack idea works and if you are in the vicinity of stopping by your hotel, take a nap like they do. You can't pass up the opportunity to see the locals walking with their familes in the evenings, it adds so much to your experience. Just pace yourself and learn to do the siesta. This is difficult though in a big city, if you are far away from your hotel.

Posted by
934 posts

I would solve the problem by having my major meal at noon.There are many fine places where the locals eat that serve inexpensive very good food.Then at night all you need is a snack.

Posted by
422 posts

When I was in Italy in May, I didnt' really have a problem finding some places to eat before 7:00pm. In Rome, I found a cafe open from Breakfast through Dinner so mid to late afternoon I ate there several times at off hours. In Florence, I found a great indoor/outdoor restaurant near the market that I stopped in and ate at as well. In Venice, I had to find somewhere to eat early as I went to an Opera that had open seating so I needed to arrive by 7:00pm.

I didn't feel I was treated badly or like a tourist eating at these off times.

Posted by
72 posts

This topic raises interest points about adapting to local customs and practices.

I recall being in a Rick hotel in Siena in May when a group of what sounded like loud Texans came down to breakfast. I think without exception they ordered "American Coffee", "American Coffee", "American Coffee". I didn't hang around long enough to find out if they were complaining about the lack of bacon and eggs for breakfast.

Posted by
422 posts

Lois, I will check my notes and pm with the restaurants :-)

Posted by
160 posts

Gela,

Do you remember the names of the restaurants and where they are located?

Thanks

Posted by
20718 posts

Chere -- be careful how you define older folks. Didn't realize that at 54 you need your afternoon nap. Missed that when I passed through that decade. Everyone has their particular approach. We find it fairly easy to have a substantial breakfast and hit the sightseeng trail by 900, break for a light picnic lunch around 1300 or 1400, gelato at 1600 -- absolute necessity at our age (65), and then a very leisurely dinner around 1900 to 2000. followed by a brisk walk and little more sightseeing until 2400. We find that time pattern far more enjoyable than our own pattern in the states.

Posted by
422 posts

I am not an Ugly American just because I chose to eat early a few times in Italy. And yes, I assimilate to the culture very well. I eat when I'm hungry or when I have to work around an event. And at 53, I've got a few more countries to explore (31 and counting).

Posted by
10322 posts

Some people have health/medical reasons why they should eat dinner earlier, for example, some medications need to be taken on an empty stomach. Others simply prefer not to finish a dinner at 9pm and try to go to sleep at 11pm. Not everyone who is looking for an earlier dinner is an Ugly American.

Posted by
842 posts

Eric........I totally agree! You have a much better trip when you attempt to assimilate the local culture. (Notice I said "attempt".)

Frank.......I am in my early 60's also, and I do not think of myself as "old". We follow the exact same "flight plan" as you when we are in Italy. In fact, we treat the 1600 Gelato break as a mandatory event, every day.

If that is not enough to keep me going, the Boss always packs a little something that I can munch on. Sometimes we resort to purchasing local foods (breads/cheezes/fruit) and popping open a bottle of Italian wine for some appetizers prior to dinner.

When were were in Rome there was never a night where we made it back to our room prior to midnight. "Age is but a state of mind".

Posted by
842 posts

Point well taken......all of us are creatures of habit.......and sometimes our habits/customs don't allow us to fully appreciate the country that we are in.

I don't think that the story about the "Texans" who had to have their "Coffee Americano" was a slam on Texans, (or people like me that really like their "Coffee Americano"), but was meant to convey the fact that we need to do our best to see the world thru the eyes of others, no matter what age we are.

And yes, you are correct, attempting our best to engage in our host's customs does not always work, but every time we do, we enlarge our view of life, and find out that there is much more than the little "bubble" that we live in.

Posted by
252 posts

Back to the original question from Lois, there will be a number of restaurants open early at the cities you listed, smaller towns, not so much. They will be located at the various piazzas and large squares and will have lots of outdoor seating. Mind you, they ARE tourist restaurants so the authenticity and quality of the food won't be anywhere near what a local would expect.

I would try to talk your travel mates into staying up to try a locals restaurant at the early stage of your trip, that may convince them to eat later in the evening from then on. If that doesn't work, don't worry about it too much as you will still find the food better than any American chain restaurant and you will have a wonderful time nonetheless.

Posted by
221 posts

wow, Lois you really hit a nerve with this one! And my reference to self as 'older' was tongue in cheek fellow travelbugs; when I travel with my kids; 26, 22 and 19-they can't keep up with me!
everybody can benefit from the siesta, doesn't matter the age.

Posted by
84 posts

I honestly don't see what all the fuss is about. As a solo traveler, I often choose to eat at odd hours. No big deal.

Posted by
21 posts

Franks agenda sounds like a good way to adapt to Italian time. As they say when in Rome.......

Posted by
422 posts

Lois, another great experience when you are in Venice is to visit several "Cicchetti Bars". You can grab a few bites early evening that will tide you over or even satisfy your appetite until Breakfast. Rick lists a few of these in his book. I went to Enoteca Cantine del Vino Gia Schiavi near the Accademia Bridge and it was great.

When in Venice.... :-)

Posted by
31 posts

We found that you must settle for pizza, and light entres that may service with cocktails.

Posted by
34 posts

Just got back last week ... try a light snack to tide you over so you can eat at a wonderful place for dinner or a slice of pizza or foccacia or fresh fruit around 4 or 5 will allow your stomach to wait for the good places to open! ENJOY!