Looking for affordable Italian hotels? We’ve found the best Italian hotels for foodies in Piedmont, Tuscany, Sicily, Puglia and everywhere in between. Check out our round up of the best Italian hotels for those on a budget…
Il Borgo del Balsamico, Emilia Romagna
Modena is synonymous with one of Italy’s most celebrated ingredients: intensely flavoured balsamic vinegar made from fermented grape must. The area around the city of Reggio Emilia is a hub for the vinegar’s production, and also happens to be where you will find Il Borgo del Balsamico. At this historic guest house, in Botteghe Albinea, sisters Cristina and Silvia Crotti produce DOP and IGP vinegars. It’s a lovely setting – an 18th century villa and farmhouse surrounded by wisteria draped gardens abundant with damask roses and fruit trees.
You can visit the tasting rooms as a day tripper but we recommend booking to stay over in one of the property’s three, refined guestrooms (plus one apartment); think parquet floors, Venetian plasterwork and carefully chosen antiques. There’s a small pool in the gardens too.
Calling Locanda al Colle a bed and breakfast is a bit of an understatement. This 12-room guesthouse has many of the perks of a five-star hotel with its antiques and art, saltwater pool and immaculate gardens. Adding to the exclusive feel is its tranquil location, on a pine and olive tree-dotted hill outside Camaiore (also easily reached from seaside resorts like Viareggio, Forte dei Marmi and the pretty town of Pietrasanta).
The overall vibe is informal but impeccable, and the same could be said of the food, with everything freshly made each day, from the sourdough bread and granola at breakfast to the cakes for afternoon tea. Resident chef Gianluca also conducts cookery lessons in the kitchen and, twice a week (on Wednesdays and Saturdays) hosts sociable dinners serving homemade ravioli and more on the candlelit terrace (on Monday evenings simple suppers of Tuscan soup and bruschetta are also available).
Slightly less well-trammelled by British visitors than other corners of the country, Basilicata is sandwiched between Campania (to the north) and Calabria (to the south). Its rumpled Tyrrhenian Sea coastline is short but sweet at just 30km long, with mountains rising abruptly from the sea. Maratea, its principal town, is a charming cluster of buildings dotted with twisting alleyways and over 40 churches. Also in town, La Locanda delle Donne Monache is a former 18th century convent, now a smart hotel, with a pool and views over the countryside to the sea.
The hotel’s Il Sacella restaurant embraces the flavours of the province – chillies and pork are popular regional staples – and the menu features local sausages from Maratea, homemade pasta with mussels, shrimp and cuttlefish and baked sea bream washed down by Basilicata’s signature wine, the red Aglianco del Vulture.
The Maremma is a corner of Tuscany where you can still find countryside roamed by traditional cowboys called “butteri” and Antica Fattoria La Parrina is the perfect stop for a window into rural life down on the Tuscan farm. As well as making well regarded wines and grappa, the farm also produces cheese, honey, olive oil, fruit, vegetables, pasta, flour and meat – there’s an on site shop that would put many a farmer’s market to shame.
Overnight guests (it also doubles as an agriturismo) can also enjoy the farm’s bounty on the breakfast table, as well as at lunch and dinner; everything is made onsite. Guests can picnic in the grounds, enjoy wine tastings, join a Tuscan cookery lesson or even go boar hunting on the estate. The property’s 12 bedrooms, housed in the solid farmhouse at the centre of the estate, channel rustic charm rather than country chic and there’s a pool, gardens and the beach resorts of the Tyrrhenian Sea a short drive away.
A 19th century farmhouse in the rural heartland of Sardinia, Domu Antiga is out in the countryside near Gergei, surrounded by empty plains and olive groves roamed by more sheep than people. The sensitively restored building is now home to four airy guestrooms whose owners are passionate about local traditions.
Guests can jump on a cute Piaggio Ape van and tour the Unesco World Heritage-listed archaeological site of Su Nuraxi at Barumini. Alternatively, join chef Maria Grazia’s bread and cheese-making classes or try your hand at making local pasta shapes, like the island’s unique malloreddus gnocchi. Maria also oversees the guesthouse’s lavish breakfasts, and cooks dinner on request (expect grilled vegetables, local ravioli and Sardinian cheeses). There’s also a pizzeria and a winery close by.
The regimented vines and gently undulating patchwork of one of Italy’s most prestigious wine regions, the Langhe-Roero Monferrato, is a worthy entry on the Unesco World Heritage list. Within it, Tenuta Caretta is a sprawling estate near Piobesi d’Alba that encompasses damask rose-pink buildings stretching to a winery, a 10-room inn and two restaurants (one of which is Michelin starred).
Book into the inn and you can choose between differently themed tastings of the estate’s different wines (including Barolo, Barbera d’Alba and Nebbiolo), as well as local cheeses and cured meats. Best of all, order one of its new picnics – created by head chef, Flavio Costa – and go vine trekking on a gentle 2.1km route through the surrounding vineyards, looking out for the perfect spot for lunch; a picnic blanket and corkscrew are included.
With rolling hills, ancient towns and beaches lapped by the limpid waters of the Adriatic, Le Marche’s under-the-radar charms are many. Hotel Emilia commands a haughty spot on the Cornero Riviera, a slice of dreamy coastline south of Ancona mostly given over to a national park. In addition to its 30 guests rooms, there’s a pool, an artsy vibe, a restaurant focusing on local dishes and fabulous sunsets.
While you’re there, take the serpentine road down to Portonovo, however. At night the loungers are tidied away and tables are set up on the beach. Seafood is the order of the day, namely the acclaimed wild mussels found in the bay, some of the sweetest you’ll ever taste and harvested in the traditional way. Served in a number of guises; sautéed with lemon, served with spaghetti or with “paccheri” and fennel as is the case at Da Giachetti (ristorantedagiachetti.it). Il Laghetto (illaghetto.com) and Da Emilia (daemilia) are two more to try.
It’s a family affair at the Masseria Susafa, a sprawling estate that has been owned by members of the Saeli-Rizzuto family for five generations – brothers Manfredi and Tommaso are now at the helm. The fortified, 19th century farmhouse at its heart sits at the foot the Madonie mountains, near Polizzi Generosa, and is the focal point for overnight guests. Around the farmhouse are 18 simple but chic guest rooms. Between terracotta floors and exposed beams are restful ricotta-coloured walls and the odd pop of olive green or tomato red from a headboard or throw.
A restaurant is housed in the old granary and flavours here take their inspiration from the traditional Sicilian table. Vegetables, herbs, fruit and organic olive oil all come straight from the farm and the menu is elegantly rustic (think tomato salads, caponata and creamy risottos). Join a cookery lesson if you can drag yourself away from the pool.
Unsurprisingly it’s all about wine at the Planeta Wine Estate, just outside Menfi in south-western Sicily. As one of Sicily’s most well established and highly regarded wine producers, Planeta has five different territories dotted around the island but Menfi is where it all began, back in the 16th century. At nearby La Forestiera (part of the estate) there are 14 guestrooms set amid regimented vines, plus a restaurant whose menu is informed by its surroundings – the herbs of the countryside and seafood from the nearby coast.
Sip a glass of Nero d’Avola on the pool terrace or visit one of Planeta’s wineries for an in-depth tasting. As well as the pool, in the warmer months guests have access to the Lido Fiori on the beach at Porto Palo di Menfi, 10 minutes’ drive away. Planeta also has vast olive groves at Capparriva producing DOP Val di Mazzara oils; guests can sign up for a tasting and learn about harvesting and pressing.
In time-honoured Pugliese farming tradition, breakfast is the most important meal of the day and, at Masseria Montenapoleone – a stylish farmhouse hotel – it is served in the atmospheric surroundings of the Old Stables. Freshly picked fruits from the farm, dried fig tarts straight from the oven, citrus carpaccio with cinnamon, local cheese and cured meats are just some of the treats on offer for the first meal of the day.
The warm sandstone farmhouse, which dates from the 1600s, has 16 guestrooms and is surrounded by a plane of silvery olive and almond trees. Just outside Fasano, on the Salento coast, it is very much a working farm, dedicated to organic produce. Guests are encouraged to pick their own fruit and vegetables and to go behind the scenes to learn more about Puglian cuisine.
Palazzo Seneca, Norcia, Italy: hotel and restaurant review
“Moviti!” Truffle hunting expert, Nicola, bellows across the densely tree-covered Sibillini Mountains in Umbria. “Lulu! Nina! Dove vai?” (“Where are you?”). A young black cocker spaniel emerges from under a large oak tree to deliver a black king (a prized local variety of truffle) to Nicola, while an older spaniel, Nina, keeps her nose to the ground in search of the next treasure.
Also in these mountains, within the stunning Sibillini National Park, is Norcia, one of the foodiest towns we have ever come across. Enter through one of seven gates in the town’s heart-shaped, ancient walls and you soon discover a network of paved streets rich with foodie delights – café and restaurant tables spilling onto pavements and traditional food shops, Norcinerias, packed with prosciutto, cheeses, spelt and truffles.
As well as abundant produce this area, in central Italy, is known for its warm welcome. True enough, 83-year old local, Elso, greeted us like we’d known him for years as we sipped on café marocchino in one of the town’s cafes (espresso with milk froth and a dusting of cocoa).
Sicily’s largest city is famous for its street food, but don’t miss the grilled fish, suckling pig cooked with pears and breakfasts (yes, really) of brioche buns filled with gelato. When it’s hot outside, pop along to Gelateria La Delizia for a soft brioche bun filled with rich gelato. We recommend the pistachio, almond and coffee. Why not get three to try them all? After that sweet fix, head on over to PerciaSacchi for the best pizza you’ll find in Palermo. The base is made from a sourdough starter, while the topping are strictly seasonal and local. After all the food, you’ll need a cold aperitif. Head over to Vineria Arrè Gusto for a craft beer and glass of wine from small producers.
Stone archways, cobbled lanes and steps edged with scarlet geraniums link the tightly packed houses of Montecchio, Umbria. As we soon realise during our holiday here – a foodie homestay trip based at Casa Jole, a cosy and welcoming property just outside the village – Montecchio is the prettiest of the many stone-built medieval villages that dot the wooded hillsides south of Orvieto where mushrooms, truffles and chestnuts grow.
Wine and olives too, of course. The village is within the Colli Orvietani PDO olive oil zone (it also belongs to Italy’s Città dell’Olio network of olive oil-producing locations) and the Orvieto Classico wine area and is surrounded by vines.
Wine has always played a fundamental role in the local economy: the Etruscans invented an ingenious system for wine-making in Orvieto, digging three levels down into the tall spur of yellow tufa-stone which serves as a pedestal for the city, treading the grapes on the first floor, allowing the juice to flow down a level where it fermented in vats before being transferred to the lower floor for ageing.
Wines from nearby Valpolicella, Soave and Custoza, in Verona’s busy bars, are perfect accompaniments for rich north Italian risottos, fluffy polenta and gelato made with wild fennel and figs. For a plate of creamy polenta, check out Al Bersagliere. They offer slow food, cooked by the owners wife, using only the best fresh ingredients. The focus really is on the ingredients – there are over 20 olive oils to choose from. If you’ve got a yearning for fish, head on over to Trattoria ai Piloti for paccheri ai piloti (pasta with prawns, tomato and aubergine) and scallop gratin. Midday on Sunday is the best time to go though, that’s when the seafood risotto is brought round.
In my white Fiat 500, I snaked hungrily along the coast heading towards Gallipoli, and the southernmost tip of Italy. I had come to Puglia, the province that teeters in the heel of Italy, to explore its west coast. A rocky landscape beside the Ionian Sea, dotted with wild, remote beaches, I was also discovering that this affordable, sun-kissed region makes an excellent foodie road-trip. Starting my four-wheeled tour, first stop was the town of Porto Cesareo. Here, I walked along a powder-white beach before lunching on fresh mussels and clams, their salty juices soaked up by pieces of fried bread, at Trattoria al Gambero (19 Piazza Nazario Sauro, 00 39 0833 569 123). With a terrace overlooking the marina it was an ideal spot to enjoy a glass of the local rosé, made with Negroamaro grapes. Not for me, though; first, I had more driving to do.