Restaurants in Italy

The posh Cibreino ranks as one of the city's most famous dining destinations. A few doors away, at its sister location, you can share communal wooden tables but eat the same Tuscan specialties—such as stuffed chicken neck or yellow pepper soup—at half the price.

Roccalbegna is a dramatically set and charming town in the south of Tuscany, and one of the regions well-kept secrets. La Pietra is another. Tiny, family-run with exquisitely-cared-for food.

Our home away from home. This unpretentious trattoria specializing in fish is in the most beautiful countryside of Tuscany. The fish is always fresh (the sea is only 30 minutes away), the spices the tasty and the desserts are the best.

Below the Campo, next to the marketplace, sits this timeless trattoria. I’ve loved this place for 25 years. The whole family—mamma runs the kitchen—cooks super tasty, authentic Tuscan meals. The bruscetta con porcini is to die for, as is the pasta con l’anatra (pasta with duck sauce).

Our dearest Tuscan friend Rosana makes the pasta by hand and many other things by the heart. Luca (the owner) and his family are basically crazy about food: they grow much of their own, raise some of the animals and make their own wine.

This is one of my forever favorites. Just inside the southern gate of Pienza (certainly the most idyllic medieval town in Tuscany) is a small trattoria that serves the world’s best roast suckling pig. The crust crackles, the meat melts in your mouth.

Inside the walls of Siena, just a few hundred yards from its famous Campo, is about as true a Tuscan food experience as you can find. The excellently stocked wine cellar cut into the sandstone was an Etruscan dwelling, and later a medieval chapel.

Now, you’ll ask, why of 2,000 restaurants in Florence, am I choosing one that’s a lengthy walk west along the Arno, completely out of the touristy area? Not only that, but it’s only open for lunch except for Friday night dinner.

Tuscan fish dishes are as simple and as remarkable as the rest of Tuscany’s cuisine. The key with them—even more so than with meats—is freshness.

Halfway up the old volcano called Monte Amiata, hidden at the end of a road of a tiny hamlet, is this revered trattoria with a blazing grill in its middle. It specializes in mountain Tuscan fare with a mania for porcini mushrooms. This is in fact porcini heaven.

This is a sentimental favorite. It was the first place we ate in Tuscany when we came to find a house here 27 years ago.

Centrally located in San Gimignano’s Piazza della Cisterna, Gelateria di Piazza has won awards for its owner’s (Sergio) creations. Taste unique flavors like blackberries and lavender and gorgonzola cheese and walnuts or stick with your tried and true favorites.

Never ever go anywhere near Le Bontà when you’re hungry. It is a dessert lover’s dream and a calorie counter’s nightmare. Not only does it sell excellent gelato, but this shop is wall-to-wall with other treats (tiramisu, chocolate, mille-feuille cake, tarts, mousse, and cream puffs).

Pienza, a small hill-town of 2,000 and counting, holds more than just amazing views. It holds one fantastic gelato shop. Off one of the main roads, Gelateria Toscana is the place to go for flavors like hazelnut, lemon, unique liquor-based flavors like beer, or even cheese flavors.

Nothing tastes better on a hot Siennese afternoon then a delicious gelato. A bit off the path from the touristy haunts (but near the Bascilica di San Francesco), this gelato shop is worth the effort to find.