Long before Ken and I got married, we ranked Italy as a dream destination to definitely visit once we were married. So it made perfect sense one beautiful spring evening in the Dubai Marina, while indulging ourselves in an Italian dinner, that we decided Italy would be the perfect spot to celebrate our first anniversary.
I was excited. However, I must admit, I was a little apprehensive. Not because I didn’t want to go – I was REALLY excited about Italy. But Italy is known for its cuisine…pasta, pizza, bread, and all things GLUTEN-filled! In my normal life, when friends inquire the best dining options for my allergy, I usually remark “I can find anything anywhere…except Italian! Please no Italian restaurants!” I was dying to drink Italian wine and eat Italian olives – but such does not a dinner make.
You might think all you’re going to be eating is gelato, wine, and prosciutto…
I was PLEASANTLY surprised, then, to discover that Italy is amazingly full of gluten-free options. And I don’t just mean in large tourist areas in Rome. Ken and I began our journey in Rome, but ventured up into Tuscany, and throughout the small villages down to the southern shores. Whether we were in a city or the rural countryside, I was always pleasantly surprised to discover so many gluten-free treats.
My very first meal, I had cheese-crusted asparagus, a beautiful pasta carbonara, and we shared strawberry panna cotta for dessert! I was so excited that my first night in Rome could be GF yet so deliciously pasta-induced!
“Senza glutine” is Italian for “gluten free”. Look for these words as you venture through grocery stores and mini marts. I’d suggest bringing a few gluten free snacks when on road trips in case you do run into the odd grocery store that doesn’t have what you need. In smaller towns, stores close between 1 and 4 for siesta. The one store or restaurant that remains open may not have anything for you, so always have something on hand!
Whether you’re grabbing some gelato (middle) or visiting a grocery store to make a delicious snack at your hotel (right), you’re guaranteed to find appropriate gluten-free snacks. The picture on the left shows beautiful barrels of balsamic vinegar! Balsamic and olive oil make a beautiful snack for dipping bread, cheese, or vegetables! Easy to replicate at your hotel. Or you can always grab a takeaway gluten free pizza, buy some vino, and enjoy an at-home meal in the beautiful Italian (here Tuscan) sun:
Make sure you call/email your hotel ahead to let them know you’re coming. All B&Bs and hotels that we visited were happy to provide gluten free options, but needed the heads up to appropriate prepare. Same goes for wine tastings! I was able to enjoy a beautiful selection of meats and cheeses with GF bread…but they need the time to make these available!
My amazing meal accompanying the wine tasting. On the right is my GF biscotti, perfect for ending a meal with dessert wine.
Especially if you’re coeliac, rest peacefully in the fact that cuisine is such a large part of Italian culture. Every restaurant I visited had no problem with me going to view the kitchen and ensure that GF truly meant GF. Ask in a friendly manner and they have no problem!
L –> R: a pizza in rural Tuscany; a crepe in Florence; pasta in Sorrento. In all 3 cases, I discussed with the chef about the true GF-ness of these products and even ventured into the kitchens to observe! Each had their own GF-only station!
Explore! Ask! I was surprised by how many places had GF options, even without being advertised. In fact, when I asked if they had GF options most places had the reaction – “of course”. So just ask!
Simple exploring gave me these delicious meals: grilled veg, caprese salad with GF bread, and the ever-faithful, always gluten free, eggplant parmesan (unless they add breadcrumbs – always ask!)
A great activity while in Italy is a cooking class. Especially if you’re GF, you can learn the ins and outs of GF pasta-making. To be honest, I didn’t love our B&B’s cooking class offering – I’d suggest doing your homework ahead of time and finding a class that’s rated well online! Nonetheless, we did learn some tips, have fun, and enjoy a great meal!
Ken was WAAAAY better at making the pasta than me! He’s on pasta-maker duty at home now!
Hopefully this has shed your fears and excited you about your gluten-free trip to Italy! And remember, even if you find nothing to eat…there’s always drinking…