TRAVELLING ITALY AS A CELIAC
For those with Celiac disease, or Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity, the thought of travelling abroad can seem like a nightmare. It already is hard enough when dining out in your own country to explain your dietary restrictions, and this task can feel even more daunting when doing it in Italy – the land of pizza and pasta. Well, let me tell you this could not be further from the truth!
Italians take their food seriously, and genuinely believe everyone should be able to enjoy a meal whether they have food allergies or not. In Italy food is at the center of every gathering, whether it be a night out at your favourite pizzeria or sitting the local bar for an aperitivo after a long day at work, Italians take the time to enjoy their food and drink and that includes those with gluten sensitivities and allergies.
In fact, in all my years of travelling gluten-free in Italy, I have never come across an establishment that was unable to offer a “gluten-free” meal. This is because Italians, in general, are quite aware of food allergies and are tested for celiac disease at a young age. As an added bonus, if pasta is off the menu, and no gluten-free substitute is available, many restaurants offer risotto and usually a variety of in-season vegetable side dishes and locally-raised meat which as always are naturally gluten-free and full of flavour.
However, as many celiacs understand, gluten-free doesn’t always mean “gluten-free”. Unfortunately, not all establishments can ensure that no contamination will occur, and for those with celiac disease contamination can cause an attack just as easily as eating a dish made with gluten-containing ingredients. If you want to ensure a healthy, stress-free, gluten-free vacation in Italy I suggest you do the following:
Always identify yourself as having celiac disease.
For example: “Sono celiachia” – I am celiac. This will ensure your server knows you are Celiac and they will inform the kitchen so that the necessary precautions can be taken to prevent any gluten contamination of your meal.
Do your research when planning a gluten-free trip to italy
Planning where is safe to eat is probably the biggest and most time consuming area you need to focus on when preparing for your trip to Italy. In Italy the Associazione Italiana Celiachia monitors and trains venues in order to guarantee gluten-free meals and they even have an app. This is a great place to start, although it is no guarantee that the food will be fantastic, it is only the security that the food will be safe. If you are looking for safe, authentic, and delicious gluten-free cuisine then check out our tour offerings that take the stress out of Gluten-Free travel in Italy.
Be open to trying new foods
In case you find yourself off-the-beaten path in a small hilltop town or the restaurant you originally planned to dine at is closed, don’t be afraid to ask for “senza glutine” (without gluten). In general, most Italians are very aware of celiac disease and its dining requirements and even if they are not listed with the AIC many establishments will be able to offer you a gluten-free meal. However, this might mean trying something completely new, and putting your faith in your server. And don’t forget there are a multitude of wines to try on your trip to Italy! Wine is simply a must and an arsenal in any G-Free foodies list of safety foods as it is naturally Gluten-Free. Well we’ll “Cin Cin” to that any day of the week!
If gluten-free travel in Italy still seems daunting, I have been there and done that! Personally having to avoid gluten like the plague, I understand the importance of dining “senza glutine” and when traveling with us I offer my expertise and knowledge as a Celiac living in Italy to ensure your dining experience isn’t one riddled with stress, but that is one which will be remembered for all the right reasons!