Do you have Coeliac / gluten intolerance and are planning a trip to Puglia? Wondering where to visit and where to eat gluten free in the Puglia region of Italy? I hope this gluten free travel guide to Puglia can help you to find good spots to explore and eat in this beautiful region of southern Italy.
During our first (but certainly not last!) holiday to this stunning region of Italy, we rented a wonderful trullo located between Ostuni and Martina Franca. Using this as a base, we toured around the region visiting many of the areas town and villages. Shared below are the places we ate at (or attempted to eat at!) during our stay.
In addition to the high level of understanding in restaurants in Italy on catering for coeliacs and the generally high availability of gluten free food options on menus, the great thing about eating gluten free in Italy is the Italian Coeliac Society’s (AIC) accreditation programme. This covers the whole country from bed and breakfasts to pizzeria, road side cafes and gelateria. The AIC website and app are open for non members to access and this makes it easy to find safe-for-coeliacs places to eat.
However, schedules, restaurant opening times, table availability and in my case two hangry 5 year olds mean that always eating in AIC accredited restaurants in Italy isn’t possible for every meal. The good news is that understanding of Coeliac disease and the need to prevent cross contamination in food preparation is high in most restaurants. With good discussion between you and the restaurant staff, you can eat safely in most restaurants in Italy. This is much as at home where I don’t eat solely in Coeliac UK accredited restaurants. In Italy it’s a definite bonus to be able to check the AIC accredited restaurant list for the towns you’re visiting but it’s not a pre-requisite as the only safe place you can eat.
Where to enjoy a gluten free lunch in Martina Franca:
I absolutely adored this town. It isn’t fundamentally different to many small towns found all over Italy and it doesn’t have any particular stand out features or spectacular sights but it really did have a particular charm which I loved.
We had a wonderful lunch at Bistrot Garibaldi where the team fully understood about cooking for coeliacs.
I then enjoyed a gelato while wondering around.
Our super helpful local concierge recommended the following places for gluten free options in Martina Franca:
- Pizzeria Al Focolare AIC accredited restaurant offering gluten feee pizza (only open in the evenings)
- La Rotonda Another AIC accredited pizzeria (closed on Tuesdays)
- Spaghetteria PONTE – very family friendly and offers gluten free pasta
- Il Sagittario – where the locals eat in an authentic no frills family run restaurant
Where to find gluten free pizza and gelato in Ostuni:
Our trullo was located very close to Ostuni so we made several trips to this beautiful hilltop top with its white houses. Places we enjoyed in Ostuni were:
- Pizza Mania da Dario. AIC accredited pizzeria where you can have any pizza from the regular menu for Eat in or eat outside or even use their home delivery service if are staying close by!
- Cremeria alla Scala. Hard to find a better spot in Ostuni to enjoy the outstanding views of the white city while enjoying a wonderful gelato. Almost all flavours were gluten free and yes they offer gluten free cones too!
- La Dolce Vita – Not in the centre of town but close-ish by the Familia supermarket (see below) at Via Cav. Di Vitt. Veneto,17 this gelateria offers a good range of gluten free ice creams as well as some vegan options. Check opening times here before visiting.
- Al Solito Posto – we had a recommendation for these from our villa concierge (see below) but we didn’t get to visit on this trip
- Il Gatto Rosso – another concierge recommendation for this pizzeria offering gluten free pizza (evenings only)
Where to eat gluten free in Taranto:
Taranto was an hour or so drive from our trullo but we were keen to explore this town rich in ancient history. There are a number of archaeological sites to explore in Taranto, including (parts of!) the 6th century BC Ancient Greek Temple of Poseidon.
As lunchtime arrived, so did hangry status of the twins. Again, the Coeliac safe restaurants I’d researched here were either not open at lunchtime or just not suitable.
We managed to find 400 Degrees pizzeria just before the twins reached def con 4 levels. 400 degrees is not an AIC accredited pizzeria but the chef here was coeliac. After speaking at length on the food options and preparation methods (I had planned to stick with a salad), I felt reassured my food would be prepared safely. Not least since we were the first customers in the restaurant at lunchtime and no other food was being prepared at the same time as ours. There are many advantages to having small kids who need their lunch early!
Sadly the pizzas were not great here. The cime di rapa (turnip tops/broccolini) on the pizza had not been adequately squeezed and drained rendered this pizza too wet and soggy. I’d recommend not choosing a pizza with the green stuff.
Where to find gluten free meals in Lecce
Like Martina Franca, this was another old town I fell in love with. If you have a thing with doors, this is also a wonderful place to indulge your passion.
We got a little lost looking for Volo restaurant which offers an extensive AIC accredited gluten free menu. It’s located in the centre of town (and this is the website) if you fare better than us / don’t have two hungry 5 year olds to feed.
Where to find gelato in Alberobello (or not)
Kids can be so contrary and all my daughter wanted here was a lolly, rather than a gelato. I know, go figure!
You can find these lolly options all over Italy, just look how many are labelled as gluten free!
Where to eat gluten free in Polignano O Mare
Our initial destination was Monopoli, not Polignano but thanks to some torrential rain in Monopoli, no one wanted to get out of the car….even to catch a photo in front of a town sign to say we’d been to Monopoli.
But Monopoli’s loss was Polignano’s gain and we loved this coastal town (despite the torrential rain that continued).
Polignano O Mare is known for its cliff diving spots – it hosts the Red Bull Cliff Diving Championship annually – but the cliff jumpers must be the fair weather variety because we didn’t see any.
We enjoyed lunch at Al Buc Preferito Tranquillage.
The gluten free pizza here was a) available at lunchtime and b) delicious!
Followed by probably the best stracciatella gelato I’ve ever had (no gluten free cone though).
Polignano is a town I’d loved to return to and highly recommend you include in your Puglia itinerary.
What are the gluten free options like at the ZooSafari?
Surprisingly good! I enjoyed a safely cooked gluten free pasta dish here.
I was also provided with this gluten free bread, warmed in the pack to prevent cross contamination.
Where to find gluten free lunch options in Matera:
Matera – the 2019 European City of Culture – is not actually in Puglia but if there is one place I recommend you visit during your time in Puglia, this is it. It’s an astoniishing place that has to be seen to be believed.
Matera is thought to be third longest continually inhabited human settlement in the world. This ancient city is known for the Sassi which are an area of cave dwellings carved in to the rocky mountainsides. The entire complex was evacuated in 1952 due to unspeakable living conditions for its 15,000 residents.
In an example of how quickly life has moved on, just 60 years later and it’s estimated that more than 25% of Matera’s now-renovated housing stock is available to rent on Airbnb!
We ate lunch at Il Terrazzino where the spectacular terrace overlooked the Sassi. This was a local speciality made with gluten free pasta and sausage, mozzarella oven baked and served in a clay pot cooked safely for me while we enjoyed the incredible view of the Sassi from our table.
Pro tip: Wear comfortable shoes to explore Matera. There’s a lot of walking to do here.
Where to shop for gluten free food in Puglia:
Since we were staying in a self catered villa (actually a trullo, more on that below), we visited the local supermarkets for provisions. We were based between Ostuni and Martina Franca and the following were the best supermarkets in the area:
CSette7 Supermarket, Cisternino
Many gluten free options here from bread, pasta, wraps, sweet & savoury biscuits, gluten free pizza and much more. The gluten free products here were spread all over the supermarket and could be found in the same section as their gluten-y counterparts. This store also had many organic and very locally produced fruit and vegetables.
Famila Supermarket– Ostuni
I much preferred the quality of the fruit and vegetables in this store. The meat and cheese sections were also more extensive and better quality.
There were many gluten free items in this store and they were mainly all grouped together, which I found very helpful.
Where to stay while you’re in Puglia:
We stayed at the trulli (sorry, I had to!) wonderful Trulli of Stars. This was managed through the excellent local agents, Puglia Paradise. (There’s no incentive for me to recommend them – they have excellent local knowledge and offer fantastic local service and concierge service before / during your trip. I’ve stayed in plenty of Airbnb / self catered villas and not many are able to match their fantastic level of concierge support and high quality villas.
I very highly recommend this agency, check out their website for other properties, they have some stunning places to stay.
When to visit Puglia; a note on the weather
We visited Puglia in April this year. Since Puglia is one of the most southerly regions of Italy (in the heel of Italy’s boot) I had naturally assumed that it would be warm.
I did not expect to be seeing THIS! And yes, it is what it looks like….
It seems that inclement temperatures are not unusual for this time of the year in Puglia; almost as soon as I’d booked our holiday, friends and colleagues were telling me stories about how they’d visited Puglia in April or May and had found cold weather there.
Particular mention to the Airbnb host I’d contacted for information on her swimming pool who told me – and I quote – that if I let my kids use the outdoor swimming pool in April, they’d catch pneumonia. Mamma Mia!
Generally we found temperatures around 20C. Good for sightseeing with kids as not too hot for them to walk, but when it rained, it was torrential!
So if you’re looking for accommodation outside of the main June – September holiday period, I’d recommend not focusing too heavily on choosing an outdoor pool in your property. Alternatively, save some cash ny opting for a property without a pool or try and find one with an indoor pool as we had in our trullo.
On the other hand, travelling outside of peak holiday season does have its advantages. For example in Alborobello – which is a prime Puglia – we had the town almost entirely to ourselves to explore. I should imagine that would not be the case in July and August.
A final note on finding gluten free pizza in Puglia (because pizza is life, right?):
If you’re a regular reader of this blog then you’ll know I love a gluten free pizza. One slightly tricky thing we found on this trip was that many of the pizzerias (including those accredited by the Italian Coeliac Association, the AIC) were only open in the evening. Since we were spending our days exploring new towns (and therefore looking for restaurant lunch options) and our 5 years old twins go to bed quite early, this didn’t exactly fit with our schedule. I’ve not found this to be the case in any other region of Italy so we were surprised. Just wanted to share this in case you’re visiting the area with similar aged children who are keen for gluten free pizza at lunchtimes!
I hope you enjoy your trip to Puglia and that you find this gluten free travel guide to Puglia helpful to you. If you have found any other gluten free gems, please do comment below.
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