I've been wanting to plan a trip to Italy but two years ago I became very sensitive to gluten and have been forced to go gluten-free. I'm concerned about the pasta-centric diet and the language barrier. Can anyone offer experiential advice? What would be my go-to local GF dishes? Will eating GF be a constant struggle while traveling?
Thanks for the help!
Please don't let the gluten issue keep you from visiting such a beautiful country with so much to offer. I also have gluten intolerance and I found Italy no more difficult than NY in terms of gluten free pasta. You will find it in a number of restaurants just like here. And if not, the choices for other foods are so numerous that skipping pasta will not be an issue. The language - of course it's always good to have some knowledge - but that will not be a major issue as so many people know some English and are accustomed to greeting visitors from the US. So go and enjoy!
Hi there! Don't you worry: It's common to even find gluten free pizza! The gf awareness (let's call it like that) has increased lately, and supermarkets have plenty of gf products, if you plan to cook for yourself, for example. Enjoy Italy and our food in total serenity!
(p.s: Can I suggest something? If you're afraid about the language, you can bring along a sheet of paper in which you can write down in Italian something like "hi, I'm intolerant to gluten, I cannot eat this and that, what can I eat here?" I friend of mine did this while going to Japan :) if you need a translation, feel free to ask!)
You won't have a problem at all! Firstly the Italian word(s) for gluten-free is senza glutine (pronounced gluten ay) so always ask. All Italians are tested at birth for gluten allergy so "gluten-free" is not an alien term in Italy. Even schools and hospitals cater well. The choice of food in Italy is vast & regional. Pasta is usually served as a starter but there will usually be plenty of choice (e.g. soup or risotto) with meat, fish, and vegetables as main (secondo) course. If you're travelling in the North, near the lakes, or along the coast fish will be on almost all menus. Breakfast usually features lots of fruit, meat & cheese and most wine, grappa & limoncello are gluten free.
I was going to reply that yeah, aside from fresh fruit and vegetables, I'd imagine Italy would be rough - but before doing so, I turned to Google. Turns out Italy is amazingly clued-in about and accommodating toward people with gluten sensitivities. Who knew? Enjoy Italy!
Hi Matt, I have celiac disease and went to Italy expecting that the country would be difficult to navigate. It turns out that many Italians have celiac disease themselves -- at such high rates that they've begun mandating gluten-free options in many public places like airports and train station restaurants.
Given the Italian excitement about food, the gluten-free pasty I tried was often handmade and exquisite -- see photo above! -- and to tell someone "sono celiaca" (I have celiac disease) meant that they actually understood that it was an auto-immune disease and not just an allergy. It was an incredible relief.
If you want more resources, I've listed a bunch specifically for Italy here, including guides from other sites and some great comments from readers. Go and enjoy! (My other suggestion by the way? Southern Vietnam - tapioca noodles, rice noodles, and mung bean noodles abount! Almost all of the soups, you can eat 'em.