Eating Gluten Free in Italy: A Look Back

IMG_3669_DxO resize

I’ve been lucky enough to have traveled to Italy three times, each as a gluten free traveler. In fact, I found out I had to be gluten free a mere three days before embarking on a month long trip to Italy in May 2010. At the time I was upset thinking that I wouldn’t be able to enjoy the pizza and pasta Italy is known for; I mean what is a trip to Italy if you can’t enjoy the amazing food that so much of its culture is based around? Thankfully I soon learned two things.

  1. That quickly upon removing gluten from my diet I started to feel so much better. I could finally get out of bed instead of being curled up in the fetal position in so much pain, my energy level increased, my right arm no longer went numb, and the mysterious pain in my right calf disappeared. I felt good again. I was so grateful that I felt healthy enough to walk around and sight see in Italy. Really finding out I had be gluten free couldn’t have come at a better time.
  2. That Italy is such a fantastic place to be gluten free and it was easy learning the ropes there is so much awareness of Celiac Disease and gluten intolerance in Italy. (On the flip side though it meant I got spoiled and it was much harder to find good quality and good tasting gluten free foods at home).

Last Thursday there was a great article in the NY Times about Gluten Free Dining in Italy. It talked about how aware and sympathetic Italians are to those who must avoid gluten and ultimately how well they feed us. With wheat being such a staple in the Italian diet, Italians are so much more conscious of Celiac Disease and gluten intolerance. Reading the article confirmed everything that I had experienced over my three trips to Italy. But more so, reading the article just made me miss Italy. I miss the food and how easy it is to eat there. I miss the culture centered around gathering over food and wine. I miss the people and the beautiful landscape. Italy is my favourite place in the world, probably a good part due to the fantastic food. That’s why on almost every trip to Europe I take I try to either fly into or out of Roma so that I can spend a day or two eating Italian food.

Italy has been on my mind a lot since reading that NY Times article. It made me realize that I have only written about my most recent trip to Italy last year: my favourites in Roma, our stay at an agriturismo in Tuscany, lunch in Lago di Como, Gelato, and the paradise that is Cala Ganone, Sardini. So I thought I would share some general thoughts about eating gluten free in Italy and some of my favourite gluten free dishes I’ve had at restaurants during my previous trips. It’s like a trip down memory lane for me.

Read More

Delicious Half Board at L’Oasi – Cala Gonone, Sardinia

Tender veal with slices of Parmesan cheese and arugala

During our stay in Cala Gonone, Sardegna we stayed at L’Oasi, a great B&B that was a ten minute uphill walk from the harbour with gorgeous views.  Once again we trusted the reviews from Lonely Planet who recommended spending the extra money on half board in order to eat three course meals prepared with local ingredients.  Twice during our stay we ate dinner at L’Oasi, and it was well worth it!  Each day the set menu would rotate with three new options for each course.  The menu was displayed at breakfast and you had to select your meal by 4:30 p.m. for the fixed 8:00 p.m. dinner.  The staff was wonderful about cooking me gluten free food.  Each morning —, one of the owners, would walk through the menu with me and explain what was naturally gluten free and if any substitutions were required.

The food was delicious; some of the best meals of our trip!

Read More

My Favourite Gelato in Italy! It’s Gluten Free.

San Crispino classics: nocciola, pistachio and banana

Growing up I was so obsessed with ice cream that my first email address was a play on “ice cream”.  When I found out I couldn’t eat gluten, I was happy knowing there were many gluten free ice cream brands available.  But when I learned my body also couldn’t tolerate soya or guar gum, it was upsetting knowing that virtually all ice cream was taken away from me.  Except for Hagaan Daaz because they are incredible and only use natural ingredients.  I’ll gladly spend the extra money to eat that perfection.
But let me say this once, ice cream’s got nothing on gelato!  Real good homemade gelato with natural ingredients is far superior.  The amazing thing about high quality gelato is that it doesn’t contain guar gum, I have never had my stomach turn from good gelato (let’s hope it stays that way).

Read More

An Unexpected Modern Lunch in Bellagio, Lake Como

Delicious eggplant parmesan with one of the best tomato sauces I have eaten

We had such a lovely afternoon in Bellagio.  We took a boat from Como across Lago di Como to get to Bellagio.  It was a beautiful, quiet and surprisingly not overly touristy town.  We walked around the little streets to get some beautiful views of Lago di Como.  It took us a little while to find a restaurant that could serve me a gluten free lunch, in fact I can still remember the ignorant look a waitress at one restaurant gave me when I asked if they had anything gluten free.  So when we stumbled across Princess Bellagio, a fancy modern bar very unlike the small outdoor terraces of the other restaurants we passed by, I felt it was more important to eat at a place that didn’t hesitate at serving a gluten free meal rather than ambiance.  We’re talking an empty, entirely indoor bar with A/C playing five years old American rap music.  Not exactly the kind of place you’d expect to find authentic Italian food.  When I asked the waiter if they had anything senza glutine, he immediately started listing off their gluten free dishes.  So I was in.  As it turned out, the meal was fantastic!

Read More

Gluten Free Cooking Class in Tuscany, Italy

Gluten Free Cooking Class Tuscany

It turned out that Ry and I had our own private cooking class at the Agriturismo Podere San Lorenzo and the menu was entirely senza glutine.  Does it get much better than that?  Well, yes it does once you know what we cooked and how delicious everything tasted!  The night before our class, we were told that we were going to be cooking for everyone eating dinner at the Agriturismo that evening, as well as the staff, so eight people in total.  That was a bit scary, but thankfully we had our incredible teacher and chef Marianna to help guide us.  I’ve never done a hands-on cooking class before; I must admit it was so nice not having to do any of the prep or cleanup!  We had such an enjoyable three hours in the tiny chapel that the class was in.  There was laughter and intense discussion on food while the homemade red wine kept flowing.  These are the courses that we helped to prepare, with the close direction and help by Marianna.

Read More

Paradise in Volterra, Toscana

One of many picnic lunches on the gorgeous grounds

We spoiled ourselves a bit on this trip.  As Ry said we were only going for two weeks so that meant we could spend more money!  Well, not exactly.  But after such a hectic year working on a big project, I needed the first leg of our trip to be very relaxing.  So we thought the hills and olive groves of Toscana would do the trick.  We found the lovely Agriturismo Podere San Lorenzo by a top recommendation by none other than our go to Lonely Planet.  We rented a car specifically so that we could get to this gorgeous hideout.

There were so many wonderful aspects of the Agriturismo: peacefulness, beautiful views and secluded.  But one of the biggest draws was the food.  We had a kitchen in our apartment and it was so nice being able to cook breakfast and lunch and then bring it outside to eat on the gorgeous grounds.  There is nothing more enjoyable than a lazy afternoon lounging under a big umbrella in a field of olive trees laughing over pecorino, Milanese salumi and a bottle of local wine.  Our first night there we cooked pasta with olive oil, tomatoes, onion and zucchini with a side of caprese salad and ate it outside on the terrace.  It’s so nice being able to always eat outside.  Fresh air complements food so well.  We even got a sample ¼ L of the Agriturismo’s homemade olive oil from the olive trees on their property that we used for the rest of our trip.

Read More

Authentic Italian Gluten Free Pizza at Voglia di Pizza in Rome, Italy

Just look at that gluten free pizza - white pizza with pomodorino, buffala and basil at Voglia di Pizza

When I first visited Roma in 2010, I really wasn’t a fan.  It’s too touristy for my liking and I cannot stand all restaurants advertising ‘tourist menus’ in 10 languages around every famous site.

I’ll be honest I never thought that I would say that I now enjoy spending an afternoon or evening in Roma.  But now that’s the case.  We’re like old regulars with our favourite gelato shop and pizzeria.   We no longer have the need to see all the big sites, but the Coliseum at night is a must.  Whenever we fly to Europe, we try to always fly in or out of FCO for two reasons, (1) it’s a cheap jump off destination and (2) to get authentic pizza and gelato.  Last year was my first time trying Voglia di Pizza and I’ve been dreaming about the gluten free pizza ever since.  I did a lot of research last year for recommended gluten free pizza and there were several good reviews for Voglia di Pizza.  It was incredible pizza (I actually ordered two that visit).  I tell ya, good authentic Italian pizza is hard to find in North America, let alone a gluten free version.  That’s why I always look forward to Voglia di Pizza.

Read More