February 1998


Eating in Italy...Driving California...Gay Travel

I'm planning a spring trip to Italy. What are the happening restaurants in Milan and Florence?
-- J.B., Shaker Heights, Ohio

Two of the most talked-about spots in Milan are the low-key, high-style Al Pont de Ferr (55 Ripa di Porta Ticinese; 39-2/8940-6277; dinner for two $70) and Le Bandiere (15 Via Palermo; 39-2/8646-1646; dinner for two $100), a favorite of intellectuals and beau monde types. In Florence, people are flocking to Caffè Concerto (7 Lungarno Colombo; 39-55/677-377; dinner for two $90), a tropical greenhouse awash in jazz on the banks of the Arno, as well as face-lifted and just reopened Buca Lapi (1 Via del Trebbio; 39-55/213-768; dinner for two $75), the city's oldest trattoria, beneath the magnificent Palazzo Antinori. Wherever you go, dress to be seen.

My wife and I want to drive from Los Angeles to Las Vegas in a stylish convertible. Where can we rent one?Where should we stay on the way?
-- S.K., Seattle, Wash.

Several L.A. companies specialize in renting convertibles and classic cars. Sunbelt (800/314-4555) offers Miatas from $89 per day and Budget of Beverly Hills (800/227-7117) has a Ferrari 355 Spider for a mere $1,000 a day. A third agency, Beverly Hills Rent-A-Car (800/479-5996), also has a 1965 Ford Mustang and a 1969 Cadillac (both $349 a day). En route to Las Vegas, detour over to the Furnace Creek Inn (800/236-7916 or 760/786-2345, fax 760/786-2423; doubles from $215) in Death Valley. A romantic Spanish-style ranch surrounded by palm trees, it has a below-sea-level golf course.

Can you recommend a hotel in Saigon?
-- M.C., Newark, Del.

Which side of the city do you want?Old Saigon can be found at the Majestic (84-8/ 829-5514, fax 84-8/829-5510; doubles from $130), with its French colonial architecture and open-air bar. Or check out the Continental (84-8/829-9201, fax 84-8/824-1772; doubles from $89), which Graham Greene immortalized in The Quiet American. Too bad the Continental Shelf -- the terrace bar where journalists used to gather -- is now closed. To see the city's emerging modern side, head to the Saigon Prince (84-8/822-2999, fax 84-8/ 824-1888; doubles from $190). Opened in 1995, it has an indoor plunge pool, Hong Kong-- trained masseurs, and a lounge with private karaoke rooms. Another option: the towering New World Hotel (84-8/822-8888, fax 84-8/823-0710; doubles from $185), with Vietnamese, Chinese, and Western restaurants.

How can I find companies that run tours for gays and lesbians?-- L.S., Wayne, Pa.

The feisty Out & About newsletter has been covering gay travel for five years ($49 for 10 issues; 800/929-2268). Subscribers receive quarterly calendar sections (also posted at www.outandabout.com) that detail tours, cruises, and events. The newsletter produces an annual tour roundup as well, with a directory of operators. Or pick up either of the Out & About Gay Travel Guides (one's on U.S. resorts and warm-weather vacations, the other on U.S. cities; both are published by Hyperion). They tell all about the different operators and their destinations, group sizes, price ranges, and cancellation records, as well as how old their clientele tends to be.

Fax your travel queries to 800/926-1748, E-mail them to , or mail them to: Ask T&L, 1120 Avenue of the Americas, 10th floor, New York, NY 10036. We regret that questions can be answered only in the column.