Today's guest post comes to you thanks to Cherise Joelle of Four Seasons Of Travel. Cherise is an Australian travel and lifestyle writer who is currently living in Florence. Her site offers an inside guide on the best places to see, authentic food finds (specifically gluten-free), and unique ways to travel through Italy and many other European countries.
Traveling Gluten-Free in Italy
When I first started telling people that I was moving to Italy this year, their reactions were always the same: “Ohh, you’re going to have so much amazing pasta and pizza!” Hmm, I upsettingly thought, we will see about that.
You see, I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease two years ago, which means that I cannot eat wheat, rye, barley, oats or malt – a big part of the Italian diet. It became my goal to travel through Europe (which I have been doing for the past six months) to discover which countries offer the most options for those with different dietary requirements.
Upon landing in Florence, I discovered that Italy is actually one of the most aware countries in Europe for those with Celiac Disease. I felt surprised and relieved that I could actually tell people how the pasta was! After learning that many Italians (especially in the south) have been diagnosed as Celiac, it was natural for me to search and find a variety of restaurants and café’s throughout not only Florence, but the whole of Italy that provide gluten free pizza, pasta and other options on their menu.
Where are the best cities in Italy for gluten-free food?
The best cities in Italy for gluten-free food have so far been in Sicily!
I travelled to both Messina and Catania, and each had wonderful gluten-free bakeries and restaurants. The quality of food was extremely high, fresh, and reasonably priced, which made such a difference. There is only one bakery in each city, however they each are extremely high quality.
In Messina there is a 100% gluten free bakery called Le Altre Farine Del Mulino, This little gem is located along the bay of Messina, nice and central, which makes it easy to pick up a yummy lunch. It is a goldmine of pastries and freshly baked bread all catering to a Celiac’s needs. YUM!
In Catania, the main bakery is called Panaglu. It is located further into the city center along one of the main cobble stone streets, and has a smaller but still great range of cakes, pizzas, and bread.
My favorite restaurant for gluten-free food was in Catania at Restaurante Primo Piano, which makes its own pasta, pizza, and desserts all catered to Celiacs.
The next best cities after that are Florence and Venice, which have a lot of “GLUTEN FREE/SENZA GLUTINE” marked on the menu outside of the restaurants. In Florence there is only one gluten-free bakery called Starbene Senza Glutine, which is tucked away on the outskirts of the city – perfect for gluten-free bread or a little sweet treat. Otherwise there are numerous restaurants and cafes that offer gluten-free pizza and pasta. These reviews and further information can be found here.
What to order off the menu?
If you’re in Italy and can’t find any specifically ‘gluten-free’ restaurant, I have my ways of making it work:
- You can easily replace pasta and lasagna for risotto for the entrée.
- For the main there are a number of options including arrosto di maiale (pork steak), pollo arrosto (roast chicken) or polenta (corn meal).
- Dessert is time to stay away from cannoli (soo sad, my favorite!!) and go for pasta di mandorle, a biscuit made from almond meal, egg and icing sugar (almost as good) or gelato/sorbetto in a cup, not a cone.
- Always be sure to double check that the restaurant prepares these foods gluten free and that they don’t dust the meats with flour.
Traveling through Italy gluten free doesn’t mean you have to miss out on any of the wonderful pizza and pasta any more.
For more information on a gluten free guide to cities all over Europe you can check out my site or the Associazione Italiana Celiachia website, which has a large portfolio of gluten free restaurants online.
Do you have any tips or recommendations for traveling through Italy gluten-free?