Italy

Gluten free restaurants, cafes, pizzeria and supermarkets in Italy

Gluten Free Guide To Italy: Tips and Resources

I have a complete love of Italy. It was the first foreign country I was taken on holiday by my parents, aged 2. It was the country I chose to get married & honeymoon in and later it was the first overseas country we took the twins to on holiday. I’ve spent so much time there it feels so familiar. I never worry about what I’ll eat when I go to Italy because from experience that it will always be good.

In all the trips I’ve taken to parts all over Italy, I’ve learnt a few things which might help in planning a gluten free holiday in Italy:

1. It’s incredibly easy
You’d think with all that gluten-y pizza and pasta it’d be hard to eat safely in Italy but you would be wrong, it’s remarkably straightforward. Catering to coeliac and gluten intolerant diners is just so normal in Italy, it’s truly a breeze. In all the trips I’ve taken, my dietary restrictions have been treated kindly, seriously and most of all with respect. Something which can’t always be said of dining out in the UK.

2. Even if gluten free options aren’t listed on the menu, it’s likely there will be some
All over Italy I’ve discovered that just because it’s not written on the menu, it doesn’t mean they don’t have gluten free options. On the tiny Aeolian island of Salina, I asked and was given this gluten free pizza. It had been made on a shop-bought gluten free base. In Verona we had searched out a great looking gluten free restaurant I’d found online – only to arrive for us to arrive just as the kitchen was closing (for its lunch!). Instead, and with two hangry toddlers, we stumbled into a pleasant looking pizzeria opposite the Roman amphitheatre. With no mention of gluten free options on the menu I expected to order a simple salad for myself. Instead it transpired they did offer gluten free pizzas (even though they were not on the menu) and I thoroughly enjoyed this fabulous pizza, cooked in a foil tray to prevent cross contamination. Lesson of the day: If you don’t ask, you don’t get.

gluten free pizza Verona

3. You don’t need to bring food with you from home
There is absolutely no need to bring gluten free food with you from home for your trip, taking up valuable luggage space. Italian supermarkets will have everything you need. Even a small supermarket in central Turin had this enormous section of gluten free products.

Larger supermarkets and hypermarkets carry a dizzying array of products. I was once so overcome at finding frozen puff pastry in a Tuscan IberCoop I considered making a Millefoglie on my holiday (don’t worry – I snapped out of that one pretty fast!). This was the gluten free food selection found in just one store. Can you see why you don’t need to bring gluten free provisions with you to Italy?

4. Gluten free food can be bought in pharmacies
It’s not only supermarkets, but also pharmacies (farmacia) which carry gluten free food. In my experience the range found in pharmacies varies enormously. For example, on a trip to the Ligurian coast I found a pharmacy in Santa Margherita with a huge range, much larger than stocked in the supermarkets in the area. On the other hand, some pharmacies may only carry a few gluten free biscuits and crackers. Generally they often look like this one in Milan.

gluten free pharmacy italy

Or like this pharmacy in Genoa, they could be an entire shop of gluten free food!

5. Gluten free foods can be purchased on (some) trains
Of the many things I particularly love about Italy, the ease of train travel is high on the list. The train network is fast (or you could opt to take the slow line if you wish!), it takes you easily between city centre to city centre – meaning no need for a car to explore – and gluten free foods are even stocked on some trains. On Frecce (high speed) trains, the AIC has worked with Trenitalia to ensure that two savoury and two sweet gluten free products are stocked on trains. Am I alone in wishing the UK’s train operators would offer a similar service?

gluten Italy train travel

6. You can enjoy your gelato from a gluten free cone
Many (but admittedly not all) gelateria carry gluten free ice cream cones. However, eating from a coppa (cup) is totally normal. If you visit a Grom store which are found all over Italy, their ice creams are mostly all gluten free and they are now also carrying gluten free cones.

gluten free gelato italy

7. Prepare to be pleasantly surprised at every turn
For the twins’ first holiday we rented a villa in beautiful Umbria for two weeks. A pizza evening was included as part of the rental, with pizzas cooked in our villa’s wood fired pizza oven. I explained to the pizza chef about my dietary requirements. She said it would be fine and not to worry. Just in case (and because it’s impossible not to worry when you have food allergies/intolerance), I picked up some pre made gluten free pizza bases from the local supermarket as a back up. Yet what was provided was this….. The gluten free dough had been prepared in a clean kitchen and the pizzas cooked in metal trays to prevent cross contamination. Truly some of the best gluten free pizza I’ve ever eaten. And I’ve eaten a lot. (I wanted to bring Valentina back to London with us). 

8. Separate kitchen exist for the preparation of gluten free food
In some restaurants in Italy (especially pizzerias) a separate and dedicated kitchen may exist specifically for producing gluten free foods in an environment to minimise the risk of cross contamination as much as possible. I’m not aware of this type of separate kitchen set up occurring outside of Italy, except in rare cases. In addition, many of the gluten free pizzas I’ve had in Italy (including those show in this post) have been cooked in foil trays to prevent cross contamination in the pizza ovens.

9. The AIC (Italian Coeliac Association) website is open to use by non-members
Unlike other databases for Coeliacs (including Coeliac UK’s and the French Association Française Des Intolérants Au Gluten), the AIC generously provides open access to the restaurants listed within its database to non members. By clicking here you can search by town/region for restaurants trained and monitored (at least once a year) by the AIC. There are currently over 4,000 venues listed! . If you would like to use the AIC’s mobile app, full instructions on how to gain access – in English – are provided on this page.

And again exceeding expectations, this database even includes the name of the person at each venue who is responsible for gluten free food.

If there were one thing I wish about travelling in Italy, it’s that I wish my Italian language skills were better than the somewhat rudimentary level they currently are. But really I think the only way to solve this would be an extended stay spent living somewhere between Florence (and all its artistic gems) and the rolling hills of Tuscany or Umbria. I can almost taste the wine and freshest foods and I’d be eating….

Useful resources for gluten free travel to Italy
• You can find all of my gluten free posts on Italy here. I haven’t blogged about all the places I’ve visited so please do feel free to leave a comment below or email me if you have specific questions and I’ll help if I can.
• Essential phrases in Italian are:
o senza glutine = gluten free
o io sono coeliaco/a = I’m coeliac (m/f)
o sono intollerante al glutine = I’m intolerant to gluten
• It’s usually easy to find Schär gluten free products in Italy and they have a huge range of savoury and sweet options. But there are many brands offering gluten free products. Of these, some of my favourites are La Veneziane for authentic tasting gluten free pasta. Almost all supermarkets of any size I’ve visited in Italy carry the Galbusera Zero Grano range of savoury crackers and plain biscuits. Recently I’ve discovered the Barilla Mulino Bianco Rosemary crackers, perfect with some parma ham and Gorgonzola cheese. The COOP supermarket chain has its own gluten free range including gluten free cornettos.
• Gluten free beer can be found in most supermarkets, even smaller ones in town centres. It’s usually found in with the regular beers. The beers I’ve most often found are gluten free Daura and Peroni.
• As well as the AIC website, I like to use the Mangiare Senza Glutine website and app to find gluten free restaurants. I find this incredibly useful as it can search for suitable places near to your location on a map, plus it has reviews and users can add photos to the app of the foods eaten. You can even add your favourites to the app for future reference.
• Also useful is http://www.ristorantiperceliaci.net/ and http://www.pizzerieperceliaci.net/ (they also have an app)
• Just outside Rome is Relais Borgo Gentile. It’s owned by a registered dietitian and the whole menu is entirely gluten free, with other dietary restrictions accommodated also. I haven’t stayed here but Amy has and thought it was marvellous. I follow them on Facebook and the food and accommodation looks stunning (just take a look!).
• For a comprehensive guide to Italy, including a translation card and list of foods to eat and foods to avoid in Italy, Jodi’s Legal Nomad’s guide is very useful

Have you been to Italy? What surprised you about your trip? What was the best gluten free meal you ate there?

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Gluten Free Guide To Italy

Gluten Free Italy: Ae Oche Pizza, Venice

There are many things that I love about life in Italy (it’s not all about pizzas and gelato! Oh, wait…) but train travel within Italy is so efficient that staying in one place and then exploring other places in the local-ish area by train is very easy.

And so it was that on our recent trip to Verona we decided to head to Venice. I’ve been to Venice a number of times before. Our most recent visit to this unique city was on honeymoon when we caught that train back to London from Venice’s Santa Lucia station. For the record, they provided amazing gluten free meals for me on board the Orient Express, including gluten free afternoon tea. So it was quite exciting to arrive back into the same station, but this time with the mini Ds.

gluten free Venice

Since we were travelling with the double buggy, Venice has 409 bridges and one of the mini Ds has Bear Grylls levels of adventurousness when freed from the buggy (no chance in Venice, young lady) we were somewhat limited in our explorations to the Cannareggio area. This suited the Mini Ds just fine as they couldn’t have been more excited to wave excitedly at the people travelling along the canals in boats, taxis and gondolas (giving me an excuse to wave away too!).

We’d arrived into the city at lunchtime and a random internet search on the train to Venice had uncovered a pizzeria near to Santa Lucia which offered gluten free pizza.

From the outside Pizzeria Ae Oche wasn’t somewhere I’d usually choose with its sports TV and lots of American memorabilia on the walls. But it seemed kid friendly, they had gluten free pizza and Venice was hot and heaving with tourists that Saturday. We headed in.

Ae Oche Pizzeria Venice

Sitting on the next table to us were a group of Venetian gondoliers enjoying their lunch, resplendent in their black and white striped t-shirts which somewhat offset the feeling I could be somewhere in the US from the décor inside.

The gluten free pizza selection was huge.

I chose Gorgonzola with ham, my usual pizza of choice.

Gluten free pizza Venice

Verdict? I thought the topping was just right. You’ll note the pizza didn’t have a great deal of tomato sauce. I think its absence resulted in the base being more crunchy, than thin and crispy albeit perfectly acceptable nonetheless. Whilst the pizza itself was okay, the service was incredibly slow, despite us arriving after the main lunchtime rush when they were less busy.

Because even in beautiful Venice the washing needs to get done...

Because even in beautiful Venice the washing needs to get done…

Location: Venezia S. Lucia, Cannareggio, 158/A, 30100 Venezia (VE) Italy
Cost: Under EUR 50 for 2 adult pizzas (one gluten free) and 2 childrens meals with (non-alcoholic) drinks
Would I go back: Maybe, if I were in the Santa Lucia station area. Ae Oche have several restaurants in the Venice area.

Have you been to Venice? Could you recommend a good place for gluten free pizza? If so, please do leave a comment below. I’d love to return to Venice soon.

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ae oche pizzeria

Gluten Free Italy: Bella Vista Pizzeria, Lake Garda

My global quest to discover the world’s best gluten free pizza is well documented both on this blog and via my Instagram/Twitter feeds. So epic is this quest I sometimes wonder whether this blog should be called (with a large nod to Kelly) Around the World in 80 Gluten Free Pizzas. Except my tally of gluten free pizzas consumed around the world now far exceeds 80. Sorry? Not really, no.

So when I took a trip to Lake Garda on our recent weekend in Verona, I was particularly happy to discover that in the town we were visiting there was a highly rated pizzeria offering gluten free options.

Restaurant Bella Vista Pizzeria located in Peschiera del Garda a small town on the shores of beautiful Lake Garda.


As far as gluten free pizza perfection comes, Bella Vista’s pizza is very high on the list. Why?

Gluten Free Options on the Menu

Not just gluten free pizzas are on offer here, but a whole host of tempting gluten free treats such as gluten free calamari (so long since I had that) fritto misto and more.


Pizza Crust

I like it thin, crispy and cooked in a proper pizza oven. This ticks all boxes!


Toppings

For me the perfect pizza is as they are served in Italy – with just enough topping to taste but definitely not over loaded.
Gluten Free Pizza Lake Garda Italy

Location
What’s not to love about sitting out on a vine covered shady terrace, right next to the sparkling waters of Lake Garda in the May sunshine?


Finally, is there gluten free beer?

Yes there is! Although I stuck to water on this occasion.

Website: Bella Vista Pizzeria

Cost: Under EUR 50 for 2 adult pizzas (one gluten free), 2 children’s meals plus salad, grilled vegetables and drinks. Outstanding value.

Would I go back? You bet! I wish every Sunday lunch could be like this.

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bella vista pizza pinterest

Gluten Free Rome: Guest Post

Our first family holiday with the twins was to Italy (of course!) and involved an overnight stay in Rome but sadly we didn’t have time to explore the latest gluten free restaurants in Rome on that trip. So I was thrilled when Meredith offered to write a guest post on her visit to Rome.

Many thanks to Meredith for this…and making me wish I could hop on a plane to eat at Barbara’s, pronto!

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Gluten  free adventures in Rome.

I won’t lie, as someone who had never been to Rome before, I was incredibly excited to go but as a coeliac, the land of pizza and pasta had me somewhat concerned. How wrong I was.

In Italy, coeliac testing is normal and mandatory. Coeliacs are also given a financial stipend to cover the increased costs of shopping for food and eating out, something I wish the British government would consider! As a result, gluten free food is frequently available even in small supermarkets, and a number of restaurants offer gluten free pizza and pasta, some even with separate kitchens for the gluten free food to be kept contamination free. Below are details of my four dining-out experiences.

Pantharei2 minutes walk from the Pantheon

Food: 4/5

I could have a potato pizza. Yep you heard right, potato and cheese on a pizza, I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy. There was lots of choice and the food I had was delicious.

Price: 2/5

Marked down as a result of a €2 surcharge for gluten free pizza bases, but even with that, three main courses and a carafe of wine was just €35.

Atmosphere: 3/5

A rustic, homely place with wooden benches, which other than the far-too-common TV was very pleasant for lunch.

Mama Eat In the Travstevere district

Food: 4.5/5

There is a separate gluten free menu which gives confidence, and I had a lovely pizza. The non-coeliac contingent of my party also said it was their favourite pizza of the entire trip. Bonus points for having three types of cake available, all of which were gluten free, and just to be thorough for you I can with confidence say that the two I tasted were delicious!

Price: 4/5

Very reasonable, three main courses, water, a carafe of wine and two slices of cake came to €47.5.

Atmosphere: 2/5

The tables were tightly packed, and as with many of the restaurants a TV was distracting, as a caveat Mama Eat has a lovely outside area which the torrential rain prevented us from enjoying.

Voglia di Pizza – Near Piazza Navona and the Pantheon

Food: 5/5

The high mark is a result of not only delicious food, and a separate menu for gluten free food, but because I could have anything I wanted. Beer, starters, bruschetta, deep fried vegetables, they would make anything I wanted specially.

Price: 3/5

Three two-course meals with water and wine came to €57.

Atmosphere: 2/5

As with Mama Eat it felt a little more like a diner, and also had a TV, which as you may have noticed is not my favourite thing for a restaurant!

“Eat With” Barbara – In the Travstevere district

Eat With is a website, a little like couch surfer, which allows you to dine at a local resident’s house with others from all over the world. Barbara is one such host in Rome, where we spent a really wonderful evening, joined by an Israeli couple and an American couple on their honeymoon.

Food: 5/5

Incredible artichokes, risotto, polenta, the list of delicacies goes on and on.

Price: 5/5

The cost is £35 per person, this however includes countless courses of food, and as much alcohol as you want to drink, Prosecco, red wine, white wine and aperitifs were served though-out the evening. Ultimately, all-you-can-eat and all-you-can-drink in incredibly pleasant surroundings, I can’t recommend more highly.

Atmosphere: 5/5

I want to move in to her apartment, now.

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Have you visited Rome, Italy recently? Is there anywhere you’d recommend to eat out with great gluten free options? For more posts on Rome click here and for many more posts on Italy please click here.

Grom: Gluten Free Ice Cream, Italy

No trip to Italy would ever be complete without a cup of something cooling and icy on a hot day.

The good thing is that even the smallest villages usually have a gelateria to get your ice cream fix. The bad news is that it can be a little hit and miss to find one which sells gluten free ice cream. When I know I’m going to a specific town or city, I check the excellent website of the Italian Coeliac Society in advance which helpfully for ice cream lovers like me provides a search facility for gluten free gelateria.

Although I most enjoy trying ice cream in small, independent producers like this one in Bologna, sometimes in a busy city with a big queue of tourists lining up behind you who are all desperate to get their ice cream fix, it can be a little intimidating to question the servers about gluten (and nut) free status of their ice cream. That’s what makes the Grom chain a good option.

 

Grom, Siena, Tuscany

Their website states:

GROM collaborates with the Italian Coeliac Association (AIC) to serve our Coeliac customers in the best possible way. AIC has rated our gelato as “gluten free” and suitable for consumption by coeliac customers.

AIC has also trained our staff in the rules of proper gelato scooping to prevent contamination gluten. All Grom stores joined this project and are constantly followed and monitored by the technical staff of the AIC. You will recognise the dedicated AIC sticker in our window.

All Grom gelato products are suitable for Coeliac customers except those marked with the (wheat) symbol.

Grom has a clear allergy list on their website showing which of their gelato, sorbet and granita contain gluten, milk, eggs, nuts and soy. These are also displayed on a wall inside the Grom store.

 

Grom’s very clear allergy menu

The Grom stores carry a huge range of different flavours in their delicious gelato. It’s a shame Grom don’t offer a gluten free cone which some Italian gelateria do, so I take my gelato in a paper cup. However, I’ll let them off on this since it’s great to be able to find a reliable gluten free gelato on a hot day!

 

Stracchiatella – my favourite

Grom stores can be found all over Italy (check the list here) and they also have a handful of stores overseas.