Gluten free toasts topped with green avocado, white banana and red tomato

Gluten Free in Italy: A Comprehensive Travel Guide

When I locked in my first gluten-free trip to Italy after my diagnosis, I have to admit, I was pretty nervous.

I’m an Italian who grew up eating pasta and bread for the past 33 years. Now, I’m off to the land where gluten seems to be part of our DNA. How on earth was I going to survive?

Fear not, fellow gluten-free wanderers, as Italy is a gastronomic adventure waiting to be savoured, even without gluten.

I’ve always had my timeless gluten-free guidelines when preparing for a trip. Still, today, I’m excited to open up about my adventure in Italy while embracing a gluten-free lifestyle.

Travelling Gluten Free means Research

Embarking on a gluten-free journey through Italy is not just a culinary experience; it’s a well-planned adventure.

The key to enjoying every moment without worrying about gluten pitfalls lies in in-depth Research and preparation. So, let’s dive into the first essential steps.

Accommodations

Before packing your bags, check the services of your accommodation.

Do they provide gluten-free breakfast options? How is the standard kitchen organized?

Many hotels are now used to various dietary needs, so don’t hesitate to contact them directly.

Visit AIC website (Associazione Italiana Celiachia)

The AIC website is a goldmine for gluten-free travellers. The Associazione Italiana Celiachia is the Italian national association for celiac disease, and its website offers valuable insights into gluten-free eateries across Italy.

It’s widespread to see their logo on certified restaurant websites or on their Instagram bio. When you see this logo, take a deep breath as you’re about to taste yummy and celiac-friendly food.

In my own experience, Rome was a big surprise for me. It has delicious pasta, yummy pizzas, and unique sweet treats. I loved everything about it!

Associazione Italiana Celiachia Logo

Research gluten-free eateries

Then, take your Research to the virtual streets of social media and restaurant websites.

I like to spend a bit of time online and pencil down gluten-free eateries I’d like to try. Next, I enjoy reading their menu and if they offer a diverse range of products. There’s nothing more disappointing than stepping into a shop only to discover they don’t have the delicious treat your stomach was yearning for.

Nowadays, many eateries in Italy proudly display their gluten-free offer online. It’s easy to see their gluten-free menu on their website or social pages.

Don’t hesitate to email them for any additional information or specific inquiries.

Pin Eateries to Google Maps

Gluten free pasta shop

Next, whip out your virtual treasure map using Google Maps.

Pin those fabulous gluten-free finds – the restaurants and bakeries on your radar.

This handy map isn’t just your travel buddy for this trip; think of it as your gluten-free compass. It won’t just come in handy now, but it’ll also be a time-saver for your future travels (and trust me, there’ll be plenty more research sessions – loads of them, LOL).

Research Supermarkets

Don’t limit your Research to just restaurants, cafes, and eateries. Supermarkets have become another invaluable friend when it comes to travelling gluten-free.

As an Italian expat, trust me if I say that supermarkets are one of the things I miss the most in Italy.

Idyllic aisles full of tasty and fresh food come in great variety, and they have a great selection of gluten-free food. Depending on where you are travelling, the most prominent Italian supermarket chains are Conad, Esselunga, Famila, Carrefour, Coop, Eurospin, Pam, Despar and Lidl.

On top of these, you’ll find plenty of local deli shops in Italy serving fresh and local gluten-free food. However, you might need to check with locals once you arrive at the destination.

In a nutshell, searching for supermarkets close to your hotel or planned landmarks is essential. Once you find them, please familiarise yourself with their gluten-free product selections, allowing you to stock up on essentials.

Contact Tour Organizers

Plan your meals in advance for day trips, whether self-guided or part of an organized tour.

Contact the organizers beforehand to discuss your dietary needs if you’re joining an organized tour. This will ensure a seamless and stress-free experience.

Whether you booked a walking tour or a day filled with activities, reach out to the tour organizer to better understand the lunchtime plans. This way, you can search for gluten-free options nearby or plan to bring your delicious lunch.

Gluten-Free Snacks on Trains

If your Italian adventure involves high-speed train travel with Frecciarossa, AIC has teamed up with Trenitalia – the Italian railway network – to provide gluten-free solutions when travelling by train.

Remember that regional trains do not offer restaurant or bar services, so you must pack your gluten-free snacks. This is particularly important since not all train stations are equipped with bars or restaurants.

Communication is Key when Travelling Gluten Free

The gluten-free landscape in Italy is perfect, but navigating gluten-free terrain in a foreign country requires effective communication.

From seeking recommendations to read food labels, here’s how you can ensure clear communication on your gluten-free escapade:

Seek Recommendations

Waiter working in a gluten free restaurant in Italy

My first tip about communications is diving into the strength of social networks and online communities to collect firsthand gluten-free recommendations.

If you’re fortunate enough to have celiac friends who’ve explored your destination, consider it a treasure trove. They’ve taste-tested eateries on your behalf, providing you with trustworthy additions to your must-visit list.

For more gluten-free hidden gems, turn to the ‘gram! Seek gluten-free food influencers or coaches for insights into safe havens for gluten-free dining.

Alternatively, type “Gluten-Free + Destination” into the search bar and embark on a journey through many opportunities. This not only assures you that you’re not alone in your gluten-free travels but also reinforces the notion that it’s entirely possible to explore new destinations without letting celiac disease hold you back.

I’ve got to confess Italy, especially Rome, is like hitting the jackpot for gluten-free travellers!

Gluten-Free Vocabulary Crash Course

Next up, arm yourself with a simple gluten-free vocabulary—it’s a game-changer!

I make it a point to pick up essential words like gluten, wheat, rye, barley, and oats in the local language. Ever since becoming celiac, I’ve developed a habit of scrutinizing every food label. This practice isn’t just crucial for daily grocery shopping. It becomes convenient when you’re doing your groceries in a foreign country.

While English menus are familiar, a few local words can help you navigate the gluten-free landscape of your destination!

Use Travel Cards

If you like using translations, travel cards can be super helpful. These cards have important phrases about gluten-free eating and come in different languages.

When you go to Italy, many restaurants have staff who speak English and have menus in English. However, if you travel to a small town, you might need extra help explaining your special diet.

The excellent news is Italians love food, especially those working in restaurants. They’ll do their best to understand you, maybe even using gestures, to prepare you a tasty and safe meal.

This way, you can ensure that restaurant people understand your special diet needs. It’s my always-to-go trick when I go to a country where I don’t speak the language well.

Learn Allergens and Labels

Gluten free pasta in Italy

Another critical skill is becoming a label-reading pro.

If you’re planning a trip to Italy, the choice of gluten-free food in supermarkets is impressive. Familiarizing with the standard terms for gluten-containing ingredients in Italian will give you more confidence.

I’ll list some essential words and questions you might use during your gluten-free trip to Italy:

  • Gluten: glutine
  • Rye: segale
  • Barley: orzo
  • Wheat: grano
  • Oat: avena
  • Are there gluten-free options available on the menu? : Ci sono opzioni gluten-free nel menu?
  • Are gluten-free items prepared in a separate area or with separate utensils? : I piatti gluten free sono preparati in un’area separata o con diversi utensili?
  • How is cross-contamination prevented in the kitchen? : Come evitate la contaminazione da glutine in cucina?
  • What type of flour is used in the preparation of certain dishes? : Quale tipo di farina usate per preparare alcuni piatti?

Choose Private Accommodations

If you’ve opted for private accommodation, take an extra step to ensure your safety.

Before use, wash all kitchen tools, utensils, and dishes thoroughly. This precautionary measure adds a layer of security, allowing you to enjoy home-cooked meals without worrying about cross-contamination.

As an extra security step, I’ve always bought new sponges, so I’m 100% confident there won’t be cross-contamination.

FAQ

Is Italy gluten-free friendly?

Yes, Italy is a fantastic place for people who eat gluten-free. More and more places are aware of celiac disease, which is good. But if you’re going to small towns or countryside places, you might need to look harder for gluten-free options. It’s worth doing some extra research in those areas.

Can celiacs eat pizza in Italy?

Absolutely! As mentioned, ensure they prepare your pizza in a safe environment. However, fear not, as it’s common to see certified restaurants in small towns. I’m from a city of 15.000 near Verona, and I have three accredited pizzerias nearby. Imagine the choice in bigger cities!

Is it easy to get gluten-free food in Italy?

Another big yes! We take our food seriously, and ensuring it’s good and safe is a big deal. Whether buying food in a store or eating out, you’ll find many gluten-free options. But remember, doing some research and getting ready is always essential.

To sum it up, going gluten-free in Italy is a chance to enjoy the fantastic culture and yummy Italian food. If you research with a fearless attitude, your gluten-free trip will be an incredible part of your Italian adventure.

Buon viaggio!

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