Hidden gems and secret places

So the honeymoon is set for September/October in Italy! The itinerary includes Rome, Siena and Florence. Aside from the prerequisite "must sees" in each city, any recommendations for little hidden gems off of the beaten path would be appreciated i.e. a romantic cafe or dinner spot, or a particularly romantic spot to take in the views while having some wine?
Thanks so much!

Posted by Agnes
Alexandria, VA, USA
616 posts

When I think back on all my trips, most of the the hidden gems I found on trips were the result of letting myself wander around, going off course and getting lost, and being open to un-planned possibilities. They weren't in any guidebook and I couldn't have asked about them beforehand. I think that's the best advice I could give (even if it doesn't seem to answer your query directly) - leave some time completely unplanned, and the wonder will undoubtedly follow. Read this article and you'll see what I mean... http://frugaltraveler.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/04/09/going-off-the-itinerary-and-finding-lifelong-memories/?ref=travel

Posted by George
Canada
817 posts

Jane, I think it's pretty hard, but I guess not impossible, to find "little hidden gems" in high-traffic cities. I have been to Venice twice and the only time it wasn't chock-a-block tourists was at 6:30 in the morning, or what locals refer to as, Venetian time. By 9:00am the city becomes over-whelmed by people staying in Venice along with the gad zillion buses bringing in day visitors. Romantic is relative when you're sitting in your gondola, in a canal traffic jam. Hopefully, some commenters will come along and tell you about a great place to stop for lunch, for an afternoon espresso, or a great dinner. But beware, if they thought it was great so do 10,000 others. Here's mine for Florence - we had a terrific meal and evening at a place called Sostanza. And I agree with Agnes, just above.

Posted by karren
oklahoma city, ok, usa
206 posts

I can give you suggestions in Siena. One of my favorite places in the world. Send me a private message and I will send them to you. If I post them for all of the rsteves website to see, they won't be special anymore. :-) I am in OKC by the way. My prefered way to get to Italy is to fly Delta. They have a nonstop flight from Atlanta to Zurich. I then get on the train down into Italy.

Posted by Alyson
Chicago, IL, USA
410 posts

On the recommendation of a local, we had lunch at Osteria Il Grattacielo in Siena. The address is: Via Pontani 8, 53100 Siena, Italy. It's tiny, the food is great and you'd never know it was there if you weren't looking for it. In Rome, we loved visiting the Tempietto, a small building with an huge influence on the history of architecture by Bramante. It's in the Trastevere neighborhood. In Florence we enjoyed eating at the food stall da Nerbone, which is located inside Mercato Centrale. Go earlythe food is authentic and cheap. The museum of San Marco in florence feels so romantic to me, where Fra Angelo painted little frescos inside of monk's cells.

Posted by Jane
Dallas, TX, United States
76 posts

Thank you Agnes!I agree completely!
Thank you so much George, Karren and H.S., very helpful advice!

Posted by Tim
Knoxville, TN, USA
3064 posts

You want little romantic hidden gems off the beaten path with a view...head to Venice!

Posted by Roberto
Fremont, CA, USA
3314 posts

Yep, if you want a place off the beaten path with no tourists whatsoever, Venice is the place, especially San Marco.

Posted by Michael
Seattle, WA, USA
5737 posts

Here's another vote for Venice. You can easily get away from the crowds in Venice, as you can see from these photos I took: Uncrowded Venice

Posted by Jane
Dallas, TX, United States
76 posts

This is all great but the trip has already been booked and the flights and hotel have been paid for. Since we used airline miles to book flights and because of the severely limited flight options as well as the ridiculously high "fees" that a "partner" (BA) of the airline that our miles are with (AA), we will fly into Rome and out of Florence. Believe me, many hours were spent trying to research all of the options in and out of many cities in Europe and this plan was the best we could come up with. Venice will have to wait for an anniversary trip! Memories will still be made and "special places" will still be found...in Rome, Florence and Siena....

Posted by Michael
Seattle, WA, USA
5737 posts

George is massively exaggerating the crowds in Venice, as can be seen by my photos, most of which were taken mid-day in May 2011. But since Venice isn't an option for you, Jane, I won't waste more time rebutting him. For Florence, go up to Fiesole (an easy bus ride described by Rick in his Florence and Italy books). Go to Ristorante La Reggia Degli Etruschi. Killer views of Florence from there. And good food.

Posted by Marcus
Kansas City, United States
206 posts

Jane, the best piece of advice I can give you is to head out early. I'm a photographer so when I travel I try and get up really early to capture dawn. Its amazing how different a city is right when its waking up. One of the best experiences I ever had was to go to the Rialto Market just as the sun was coming up. Same with walking through Florence. I plan to do the same thing in Rome in a few weeks. I've found some great gems by asking my hotelier, just specify that you're looking for something non-touristy. Also don't be bashful about speaking befriending a local in a bar. Locals are often very willing to find an opportunity to practice their English. Best of all, just walk and get lost. Just carry a good map to find yourself again - Siena is especially good for that. You'll wander into those great non-touristy neighborhoods. If you want a truly awesome hole in the wall, approach a blue collar worker and ask where they eat, they'll point you to a great little restaurant or bar with large portions for an incredibly cheap price. Learning just a few words of Italian will do you wonders. Have fun!

Posted by Janet
Colorado, USA
506 posts

In Florence, we enjoyed Trattoria 4 Leoni and, even further afield, the Enoteca Bar "Fuori Porta," where we enjoyed conversing with a couple from Paris who were seated at the next table. The bar just below Piazzale Michelangelo on Viale Poggi might be a neat place for views at sunset and after. (We were there in the daytime.)

Posted by Jane
Dallas, TX, United States
76 posts

Thank you, everyone! I appreciate it very much!

Posted by Zoe
Toledo, Ohio, US
2460 posts

Florence: museum San Marco and the town of Fiesole; views of Florence from Piazzale Michelangelo, especiay late afternoon. Rome: make a reservation for Galleria Borghese, then take a walk through the park to the Pincio (good signage along the way) for views of Rome, then walk down the footpath to Piazza del Popolo. The little side streets off Piazza Navona are lovely (there are lots of wine bars/restaurants in Via del Governo Vecchio). Take a nighttime walk through the historic center, or anytime along the Tevere. Trastevere, across the river, is great for walking with lots of excellent restaurants. Siena: any walk will do. If you have time for a sidetrip, Arezzo is very nice. Montalcino is a sweet little town not far from Florence with great wine.

Posted by Sheron
Alta Loma, CA, USA
1191 posts

Jane, We loved Ristorante Guidoriccio in Siena (rated #10 out of 344 restaurants on Trip Advisor). The owners of the agriturismo where we stayed in Siena recommended it and we had a fantastic dinner there. It's very romantic and priced reasonably. It's just off Piazza del Campo and you could easily walk by it & not give it another glance but once you're inside the atmosphere is nice; it's in an old wine cellar with stone walls and arches, etc...very rustic and "old world" feeling. Have a great trip.

Posted by Lisa
Boston, MA, USA
1 posts

We are going on a similar trip. we will also be stopping in Pisa, San Gimignano, Lucca, Vinci, Siena- look some of these places up - Rick also has shows on dvd for all of these towns...Good Luck!

Posted by Laurel
Rome, Italy
2198 posts

A short distance from Siena is Monteriggioni: very serene, carina, and small, with intact walls. You can climb up on the ramparts for great views. Rome: Villa Torlonia, Palazzo Braschi, Palazzo Colonna (Saturdays only) for sightseeing. See more here Beyond il Colosseo. Dinner: Osteria della Forchetta in Prati. Tiny, great seafood, no English spoken. Or QuarantaQuattro just of Via XX Settembre not far from the American Embassy. Inventive, modern Italian, English-speaking owner Sergio will make you happy. Make reservations for either place.

Posted by Jane
Dallas, TX, United States
76 posts

Thank you, these are all wonderful suggestions!

Posted by Shay
Little Rock, AR, USA
58 posts

We loved the Vespa tour in Florence. You are out of town on the small country roads with the wind in your hair (under your helmet, of course). I recommend 1 Vespa per couple -- it's fun, romantic, and easy to snap pictures while the other one drives.

Posted by Jane
Dallas, TX, United States
76 posts

How fun, Shay!! I love that idea...so you're with a group of Vespa riders, or just doing your own thing?

Posted by Lexma
Denver
536 posts

In Florence, you could take a bottle of wine and some glasses up to Piazzale Michelangelo (you can walk up) for wine and fabulous views of the city; others will be there, because the views are great. Del Fagioli is a nice little restaurant, probably not so romantic. I think Rick Steves mentions it, but nevertheless, each time we've been there, we've seen lots of locals (including the owners of our B&B). In Rome, go to Trastevere and wander around, especially on the back streets. Not so many tourists, interesting churches and other sights. We went to Antico Arco in Rome to celebrate a special birthday; it was, indeed, a special meal as well.

Posted by Sarah
Calgary, Ab, Canada
48 posts

I also like the Trastevere in Rome. We did Ricks walk in the evening and went for dinner around 9. it's not off the beaten path, but it's sure beautiful and does get away from the regular touristy places of the forum and Vatican.

Posted by Kristen
Chicago
268 posts

Congratulations Jane! I have found many places off the beaten path in Rome and Florence but, since they are off the beaten path, don't remember where they are!!! Just like everyone else has suggested, put away the map, let yourself wander and you will find many beautiful spots. One suggestion I do have is the Borghese Museum in Rome (not truly off the beaten path but not a lot of people choose to do this on a first rip). It is located in a huge, beautiful park, great for roaming around. Also, they only let a certain amount of people into the museum at a time so you can enjoy things without a huge crowd. And I am not a huge art person, but the Bernini sculptures are amazing.

Posted by Jim
Dallas, Texas, USA
495 posts

Kristen has a wonderful suggestion, only thing I would change is take a picnic basket with some wine and cheese and whatever, blanket ....and after the B. Gallery go into the park , weather permitting, etc.