Travelling with a food intolerance (such as gluten) or allergy (like with celiac disease) is never easy. Visiting Italy and eating gluten-free might seem daunting, almost impossible, to some. The good news is that the prevalence of wheat in the Italian cuisine has made the land of pizza, pasta and bread one of the most conscious about celiac disease, and one of the best destinations for those who avoid or cannot consume gluten. That being said, there are a couple of tricks and tips one should know about:
Inform restaurants beforehand of your intolerances or allergies, and also tour operators and tour guides if you are taking any tours including food during your stay.
You can look for restaurants that are celiac friendly certified by the Associazione Italiana Celiachia, the entity responsible for those suffering from gluten intolerance or celiac disease here in Italy. These can be recognized through the sign they usually bear outside with the association’s logo.
Be aware that some foods, such as Italy’s renowned cold meats and sausages, cheeses, sauces and dressings, soups, and some desserts such as chocolate or gelato might contain wheat or gluten. As the saying goes, ‘prevention is better than cure’, and the best way to avoid accidental gluten consumption, or even cross contamination is to ask and confirm with the staff responsible from beforehand.
Learn the essentials
Many Italians, especially in the bigger cities, can communicate well in English. However, it is always a good idea to learn the essential phrases and words to describe your dietary requirements. Phrases such as “sono celiaca” (I suffer from celiac disease), “sono intolerante al glutine” (I am gluten intolerant), “Questo piatto è senza glutine?” (Is this dish gluten free?) might come in handy when ordering food at a restaurant. You can write them down on a piece of paper to carry with you if you are concerned about pronunciation!
Not just pizza and pasta
Delicious Italian food goes much further than just pizza and pasta. Naturally gluten-free foods such as risottos, polenta, as well as vegetable- and meat-based dishes are just as Italian, and delicious as their wheaty counterparts. Italy’s climate as well as culinary diversity around the various regions make it one of the richest countries when it comes to gastronomy. Spending some time wandering around its many food markets is not only an enriching experience culturally, but also a good opportunity to stock up on fruit, vegetables and nuts so that you can have something to snack on during the day.
Explore Italy’s food culture with one of our food tours!
Discover Florence’s most famous food market on our Market Tour and Easy Cooking Class Lunch , taste Tuscany’s culinary tradition on one of our food and wine tasting tours, learn how to prepare your own Tuscan dishes on our cooking classes.