I always offer to help our guests plan their trips, and I’m happy when they accept some help. And when my friend Katie accepted my offer, I was thrilled.
Katie had agreed to act as her traveling party’s activities director, and they hit the jackpot when they assigned her to the role. She read everything I sent her, pored over this blog and Rocca di Benano’s Pinterest Board (which is sort of ironic, since she was the one who taught me the wonders of Pinterest), then drafted an itinerary that we worked on together.
Here’s the itinerary Katie has proposed for her group. Although there’s not one agenda that will work for everyone, this is one great way to spend a week at Rocca di Benano.
Read to the end to see just how good Katie is. (Hint: she even researched gelato!)
DAY 1 (Friday) — ARRIVE IN ROME
Francis Surman will meet us at the airport and take us to Hotel la Residenza (€130/night). Take a hop on/hop off double decker bus tour of Rome and/or stroll around the neighborhood. Villa Borghese park, Spanish Steps, and Piazza del Popolo are all within easy walking distance.
DAY 2 (Saturday) — MEANDER FROM ROME TO BENANO
Francis Surman will pick us up at the hotel and take us to Benano, touring along the way, including a stop in Orvieto to pick up the rental car.
DAY 3 (Sunday) — AGRITURISMO PULICARO & LAKE BOLSENA
Brunch and farm tour at Il Pulicaro (10 minutes from Benano), then …
… Lake Bolsena and town of Bolsena (1/2 hour from Benano), then …
Dinner: Either stop on the way back from Bolsena at Ristorante-Pizzeria “L Pignatto” in San Lorenzo Nuovo or make dinner for ourselves eat at the villa.
DAY 4 (Monday) — CIVITA DI BAGNOREGIO & ORVIETO
… on to Orvieto (35 minutes from Civita; 18 from Benano), then …
Dinner: Ristorante Zeppelin in Orvieto
DAY 5 (Tuesday) — TUSCANY
Cross over into Tuscany and take Via Cassia up toward Pienza. Other stops could include Bagno Vignoni (hot springs); Montalcino (Brunello!); Sant’Antimo Abbey (check schedule for Gregorian chants); Monticchiello (maybe lunch on the terrace at La Porta?). Dinner options: in Montepulciano (perhaps A Gambe di Gatto?); in Orvieto on way home if we take the freeway back; or at the villa.
DAY 6 (Wednesday) — FLORENCE
Catch an early train to get to there before 10. Spend the day touring Florence. Either stay for dinner there and take a late train back or eat in Orvieto near the train station (Ristorante Trattoria da Valerio or Trattoria da Dina).
DAY 8 (Friday) — FINAL DAY AT BENANO
Lazy day near Benano, including (maybe):
- a long walk through the vineyards and olive orchards right around the villa;
- walk over to Viceno for a caffè at the bar there and a pottery demonstration;
- last visit to Visit Castel Viscardo (the market comes to Castel Viscardo on Fridays);
- last stroll around the castle in Torre Alfina.
Dinner option: Hire Alex to barbecue for us at the villa.
DAYS 9 – 12 (Saturday – Tuesday) — LEAVE BENANO / RETURN TO ROME / DEPART FOR HOME
Return rental cars, then Francis will drive us to Hotel Due Torri (€147-190/night) in Rome, touring and lunching along the way). While in Rome, take in dinner at Il Bacaro one night and at Osteria del Pegno another. Tour the Colosseum, Vatican, and go on a Rome Food tour.
There’s something else you should know about this extensively researched itinerary: Katie found the most highly acclaimed gelaterias almost everywhere they’re planning to go. Here are some of the gelataterias they’re hoping to visit:
Torre Alfina: Sarchioni’s
Bolsena: Gelateria Santa Cristina
Orvieto: La Musa, on the lower end of the Corso (the main shopping street) and Gelateria Pasqualetti. There are two Pasqualetti locations: one is on Piazza del Duomo and the other is at the corner of Via del Duomo and the Corso.
Two and a half years out of a perfectly wonderful career at Procter & Gamble, I still find myself mildly unsettled without a real job description (let alone quarterly goals, success measures, and annual reviews) for my work at Rocca di Benano. If I had one, it would include something along these lines:
Accelerate guests’ enjoyment of rural Italy by providing them ample recommendations for day trips, activities, restaurants, etc.
All of which is to say that my afternoon in Bolsena was a business trip. It was my job to make the 25-minute drive down to this beautiful medieval town situated on Europe’s largest volcanic lake on a spectacular Spring day.
I had to have lunch at Trattoria Picchietto, a lovely restaurant that we recommend to our guests. I had a delicious Minestra di Tinca, or spicy fish soup, and field-fresh salad. Other diners in the courtyard were so friendly that those at the next table poured me a glass of the wine from their bottle when they saw I was alone — and wineless. But these were merely fringe benefits of my work. My objective was to optimize the relevance of the consumer-facing copy I produce for guests. Simply put, I was efforting to gather value-added learnings that will take my material to the next level. (See? I still have it.)
My after-lunch stop didn’t go according to the workplan. (Note to self: will you ever learn to anticipate afternoon closures in Italy?) I had about an hour to kill, so I did what any self-respecting business traveller would do: I stopped in on Bella Pizza, one of the best pizza a taglio (pizza by the slice) places in the area, and bought a couple of slices for my dinner. And I still had time to walk down the broad boulevard to Lake Bolsena, which sparkled in the afternoon sun. In true corporate fashion, I squeezed in a coffee break, too.
Finally, I was able to fulfill my final objective for the visit (I am nothing if not diligent): I sampled the highly touted (and deservedly so) gelateria just off the main town square. It’s a friendly, surprisingly small shop, and the gelato (I had ricotta/cinnamon and chocolate) is exquisite.
The restaurant: Trattoria Tipica da Picchietto, Via Porta Fiorentiana, 15, Phone: (0761) 799158. Closed Mondays.
The pizza: Bella Pizza, Via G. Marconi, 10, Phone: (0761) 799904
The gelato: Gelateria Santa Cristina, Corso della Repubblica 8, Phone: (0761) 798758
Gelato makes a good day great, and the quest for the perfect gelato is a delightful hobby — or obsession. I didn’t plan my visit to Rome around gelato, but, come to think of it, that’s not a bad idea.
My most recent pursuit of gelato began when I was at the Spanish Steps. Before lunch. (And your point is … ?)
I thought of the gelato place called 71 Sotto 0 (translates to 71 degrees below zero) and realized that would be a great destination for the next part of my tour of Rome. Our friends who live in the Rome found it and swear that it’s hands-down the best in the city. It’s a gelateria that looks like all the others, but … mamma mia, the gelato is delicious. For those keeping track of such things, the address is Via Monte Brianzo, 71.
I got to walk all the way down the oh-so-elegant Via Condotti. Along the way, I took a peek into a little church on the left called Santa Trinita. It was interesting enough to distract me from my quest, if only briefly. As Italian churches go, it’s very small. So small, in fact, that it’s essentially just the dome. So I entered right into the rotunda area, “did” Santa Trinita very quickly, and was back on the prowl for gelato in no time. I returned to the street, which changed names and jogged a little, requiring me to bear left at one point (again, for those keep track of such things). Via Monte Brianzo is essentially the far end of Condotti near where it would run into the river. 71 Sotto 0 is on the left, and I could see the ice cream cone hanging over the door from a block away.
But the sign on the door read chuiso (closed). I was out of luck.
Mightily disappointed, but not dissuaded, I soldiered onward toward San Crispino, another favorite gelateria. Paul reminds me that it’s named after a saint who is no longer thought to have existed. Nonetheless, eating San Crispino gelato is a religious experience.
It’s a pretty slick operation – there are several locations, New York Times reviews, long lines in the summer, and a great reputation. The gelato is delicious and distinguished by particularly innovative flavors (e.g., ginger). The honey flavored gelato made me so curious that I had to ask for a taste (“posso assaggiare” — “may I taste…?”). I went with the apple and cinnamon and wasn’t disappointed.
If San Crispino had not panned out (and once I regained my composure after a second closed gelateria, that is), I would have had other good options: Giolitti, the gelato institution of Rome or Blue Ice. Blue Ice is a chain with stores all over Rome; we often find ourselves at the one near Campo de Fiori.
Thank heavens (or the fictional Saint Crispin), San Crispino’s was there for me. Sated with gelato, it was time to look for lunch. Again, I ask … what’s your point?