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1 week in Tuscany and Rome

Hi all,

Wanted to share a trip report to Italy from our recent trip 9/24 to 10/2. We went to Montepucliano for 6 nights and 1 night in Rome before our flight home.

Before I go over the actual trip details, I’ll get the COVID related information out of the way first. Before our flight we took a PCR test on Wednesday and then an antigen test (rapid) on Friday, the day of our flight, so we knew for sure that we were negative. All the COVID paperwork was easy with United. We simply uploaded everything onto their app including the passenger locator form. We didn’t have to show any paperwork on our flight to Italy, since it was all on the app, but coming back to the US, we did have to show our vaccine cards and negative tests a few times (even though it was also on the app), a picture of the test paperwork on your phone was good enough. We also took 4 binax now tests through eMed (proctored test) with us, to test while we were there. These were very easy to do, took about a total of 25 minutes for the whole process to get the results. In Italy masks were required in all stores, museums, etc. we saw very little cloth masks as well, mostly surgical and KN95s. Also, there seemed to be capacity restrictions for indoor restaurants and stores. We only ate indoors twice but we felt safe since everyone needed a green pass or vaccine card. Overall we felt very safe in Italy because of the low case rate, our itinerary involved things outside and they were following precautions

Now to start our trip, we arrived in Rome around 8am and picked up our car rental through sixt. This was our 2nd time using them in Europe, we found them to be the cheapest option and never had a problem. We then drove to Montepulicano, which was about 2 hour 15 min drive. We stayed at Il Riccio with a room with a terrace. The room had a beautiful view of the valley and it was a great place to have breakfast in the morning. Almost all the restaurants we ate at here were from the RS book and they were all great. On this day we ate at Ai Quattro Venti right on the square. All restaurants have pici pasta, which is common in the area and delicious. The rest of the day we did the RS walk and just hung out around town. For dinner we ate at Osteria del Borgo which wasn’t in the RS book but had excellent food.

The next day we did the heart of Tuscany driving tour which was great to get familiar with the area. We first stopped in Pienza which was a very nice town. We then went to Monticchielo, which was a smaller beautiful hill town with hardly anyone there. We ate lunch at Ristorante Daria, which was delicious. We got the meat and cheese plate, raviolis and pici. Lastly we went to Bagno Vignoni which was a town with hot springs. For dinner this night we went to Osteria Del Conte, where we had the local soup, which was delicious.

The next day we went to Assisi. This forum persuaded us to go here instead of Cortona and it was definitely one of the highlights of the trip. According to RS it sounds like it is usually jam packed with tourists but when we went it was empty. It was a beautiful town to explore. We followed the RS walk in Assisi. We ate at Trattoria Degli Umbri on the square which was good. We got their speciality pasta with lemon and juniper and vegetable cheese pasta which were both unique and delicious. For dinner we ate at La Pentolaccia in Montepulciano. For appetizer we had shredded zucchini with truffle and shredded Parmesan and the other appetizer was a vegetable roll in a puff pastry with tomato sauce. It was a different appetizer than usual but very good. A popular dish in the area is rosemary steak, which we got there, it was good. Continued…

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The next day we went to Orvieto and Civita Di Bagnoregio for the day. The church in Orvieto was stunning, one of the most beautiful churches we have ever seen. We were going to go to a place RS recommended for lunch, but a lot were closed that day, or seemed to have adjusted their hours. Again the town wasn’t that busy at all. Next we headed to Civita Di Bagnoregio. We were very happy to find it practically empty because we couldn’t imagine it being jam packed with tourists in such a small town. It was a very interesting town and crazy how the town was built on the hill.

On Wednesday we did a Tours by Roberto private tour with Roberto. We first went to tour Montalcino, it was great to do with Roberto because he brought everything to life and we thought we learned much more with him rather just by our self. Next we headed to Tornesi winery, which is in RS book, it was high up the mountain with a beautiful view. We met their family who were very nice. This was harvest season so they were in the process of making wine which was cool to see. Also, throughout our time in Tuscany we often saw trucks transporting grapes and seeing vines full of grapes getting ready to be harvested any day. Then we went to a small village called Buonconvento, which was a definitely an off the beaten path town with almost zero tourist and all locals. The village itself is beautiful. I definitely recommend seeing this town. Then we went to Roberto’s farm called Madonna Bella with a view of Siena in a distance. On his farm he makes wine, has fruit and olive trees along with a vegetable garden and grows wheat. His wine and olive oil was delicious and the whole farm was beautiful. For lunch we started with meat and cheese, bruschetta, then had a lasagna with a white sauce and peach tart all made by his brother and each meal matched with his wine. Overall it was a great day, we highly recommend doing a tour with tours by Roberto. For dinner we went Osteria del Borgo again, this time we reserved a table on their beautiful terrace begins the restaurant, which has a view of the valley and the sunset.

On Thursday we decided to stay close to Montepucliano since it was our last day here. In the morning we decided to go to their market which is every Thursday. It was a cool experience to go to this to see the daily life of a local. They had everything you can buy there from clothes, kitchen items and food. They had live chickens/pidgeons you can buy. They must have had 5 food trucks selling meats and cheeses and a couple of other trucks selling fish and vegetables/fruit. We ended up getting a porchetta sandwich, which were surprised how tasty and flavorful it was. Based off of a recommendation of Roberto we went to a beautiful hill town called Montefollonico, which was beautiful and had a fantastic view of Montepucliano. It’s a very small town but we definitely recommended visiting it. We went to Ristorante 13 Gobbi, a recommendation from Roberto as well, which had great food. They had a unique dish where they put the fresh pasta in a big Parmesan cheese wheel before serving it to you. In the afternoon we went on a tour of De’Ricci Cantine which was very interesting and they had good wine of course. In the RS book, I think it says you can walk right in, but we had to make a reservation. We called only an hour prior and were able to get in though. That night we went to the very popular restaurant called Osteria dell’Acquacheta, which is known for their Florentine steak. We definitely recommend eating inside the restaurant to get the real experience. Our hotel was unable to make reservations over the phone so we made reservations in person when we got in town. Continued…

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The last day we stayed in Rome and just walked around, we went here 5 years ago so it was nice just to take everything in. For lunch we went to Roscioli and both got their Carbonara which was delicious. They also make their own bread which we thought was amazing! It was nice to have salt back in the bread compared to Tuscany. In the afternoon we went to Bar Farnese where we went to breakfast everyday 5 years ago and the same person was working there! It’s a cool old school cafe with excellent expresso and cappuccino. For dinner we ate at Costanza. We ate outside but inside is pretty cool to check out, it’s old Roman theatre remains. We didn’t go into any of the sights in Rome since we had done that previously, but lines did look very long due to COVID checks. We stayed at Hotel Smeraldo, which was really nice. Basic rooms, but it looks like they are actually renovating rooms when we were there, and they have a rooftop bar, which was beautiful for a cocktail before dinner. It was a little loud at night, but that could have just been a noisy neighbor. We would definitely stay there again, the location was perfect and the front desk staff went above and beyond for the short time we were there.

Overall it was an amazing trip and we think it was a once in a lifetime opportunity to be there with so little tourists. We only made reservations for dinner a few nights, otherwise we were fine getting a table outside close to when they opened. It was nice to stay at one home base and be able to explore other hill towns and slow down and relax, instead of running around, checking in/out, etc. If anyone has any questions, let me know.

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7434 posts

Great report, Adam. It sounds like you had a wonderful trip. And that your tour with Roberto paid off not only for your time with him, but also in tips for other places and restaurants.

I too really enjoy the Hotel Smeraldo - I had an “old-style” room when we were there a few years ago; my brother and sister-in-law had a new one so it was fun to see the difference.

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2312 posts

Adam, what a wonderful and informative trip report, and what a terrific 1-week trip! You really illustrated the value of staying in just one town and lodging for various nights, then exploring the area, as opposed to changing lodging often. Your way sounds relaxed. Your mention of various beautiful small towns that are not well-known, and so many great restaurants and even recommended dishes, will be helpful to many people on this forum, I think.
I also had a stay at the Hotel Smeraldo planned for April 2020, but alas …
I wonder, in the places you visited, could you tell if many restaurants, inns or shops had been forced to close up shop because of so little tourism during the pandemic, or were things pretty much back to normal?

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2543 posts

What a great trip report! Thanks so much! Great to read a report by folks who find dining an integral part of travel as we do.

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71 posts

Larry - for the most part it seemed like everything was back to normal with restaurants being busy and stores open. We felt like the restaurants were doing even better now since they have so much outdoor seating. We did notice 2 places in RS book, I forgot the names of the restaurants, that were unfortunately closed.

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It sounds like you had a Covid test but I am not seeing that as a requirement right now. Am I missing something?

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178 posts

Thanks for the great report! We'll be in Tuscany in April - taking friends who have never been (to Tuscany, Italy, or even Europe) and are excited to show them the places we love. We're also staying at il Riccio in Montepulciano for a night and I'm excited to look up some of the restaurants you mention!