4 things we loved doing while at Fontanaro:
- Cooking with Alina: she is an excellent teacher and mentor, with a seriously discerning palate. Experiencing her creating a new dish with just-picked seasonal ingredients is hugely informative about traditional and inventive Tuscan and Umbrian cuisine.
- Walking from Fontanaro through Paciano to Panicale—with amazing views of Lago Trasimeno and the countryside that inspired Perugino—ending with an excellent meal at Lilli Tatini in the central square in Panicale.
- Day trip to Siena: Such a beautiful city. We particularly loved the multi-stair climbs to the top of the tower at the Piazza del Campo and to the panorama at the museum at the (astonishing) Duomo. And the delicious Ricciarelli di Siena from the Antica Pizzicheria Chigiana.
- Montepulciano wine cellar from Redi: Amazing caves that go back to the Etruscan era, and delicious wines.
Logistics for day trips
If you want to go to Florence:
Consider taking the train from Chiusi-Chianciano Termine, which goes right into the center of Florence (the Santa Maria Novella train station is very close to the Duomo); this will allow you to avoid traffic and complicated medieval street driving in Florence (though you will need to find street parking in Chiusi). Train schedules can be found here:
If you prefer driving to Florence, there is a for-pay parking lot right under the Santa Maria Novella train station. If your party is large, the cost for driving and parking may end up being less than for taking the train.
Make sure to look up the websites for any museums you want to go to for up-to-date information about opening hours and (sometimes surprising) days and hours of closing. You can make sure to gain entry and reduce waiting time once you are there by buying tickets online beforehand and printing them out ahead of time. (Even when you buy online beforehand you will probably still wait in line, so be prepared for that). The most famous and crowded is the Uffizi (put in website), and the Duomo is remarkable (also worth looking online beforehand for opening hours—for example you can only climb to the top of the Duomo when the museum is open).
Florence is full of tourists, with a huge range in quality of dining. If you are interested in better quality food, you should consider booking a restaurant reservation beforehand, to make sure you can get a table and that the place you are interested in is indeed open when you are hoping. Restaurants that Fontanaro guests have enjoyed and recommend include:
Osteria di Giovanni (http://www.osteriadigiovanni.com)