If you think that gluten-free travel in Italy is an oxymoron, think again! When it comes to food, most people associate the country of Italy with pizza, pasta, bread, and desserts, which normally all contain gluten. If you are gluten-intolerant or have celiac disease, you might be worried about traveling to this place, thinking you may not have anything to eat. That’s not the case.
In Italy, every restaurant that serves food must have at least one gluten-free item. Staff are trained on cross contamination. If you are wondering why it’s so good, my guess is that Italians do not want anyone to have to eat inferior food so their gluten-free food is as good, if not better some times, than the original. Lucky us! Here are some of the other policies about celiac disease (including the testing done on children) as well as the Italian celiac disease website. Yes, it’s prevalent there (maybe more so because of the testing).
In years past, prior to learning I am at risk for having celiac disease, I have allowed myself to eat gluten while in Italy because I noticed it had almost no affect on me. Now, I know that eating gluten could be dangerous to me so I’m not taking any chances. When we were planning this trip, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.
This girl, of Italian descent (really, I think marinara flows through my veins), was happily surprised to find gluten-free everywhere, in different capacities; from a simple salad with greens, chick peas, carrots, and green beans at a rest stop on the autostrada to a full gluten-free restaurant in Rome. We walked 30 minutes to find the store that sold gluten-free cannoli shells and was happy to find, by accident twice, gelaterias with gluten-free conos (or cones).
We spent 7 fun-filled days in Rome, Sorrento, and a few other small towns. I did my research in the bigger cities but literally crossed my fingers everywhere else. In one hotel restaurant, I asked which items on the menu were gluten-free. Their answer? That is the gluten-free menu. Wow! It had pasta, lasagna (pictured to the left), eggplant parmesan, and more.
And on more than one occasion, as soon as I said “senza glutine”, delicious, hot gluten-free bread arrived at our table minutes later. We were blown away. I taught my daughter how to politely ask for more; she was so excited as 99% of the time in the US we have to say “no thank you” when the bread basket arrives.
Best of all, no one gave us a look, eye-roll, or asked any questions. In one hotel, the maitre d was disappointed no one told him ahead of time of our needs. Really??
Here’s my review of the restaurants we ate at in Rome and Sorrento as well as some tips for buying gluten-free food on the go. I hope if you go there, you will find everything molto bene (very good!).
That’s Amore-They ran out of gluten-free pizza that day but everything else was very good and the restaurant was close to the Trevi Fountain.
Mama Eat-One of our favorites. This restaurant is unique in that they have two kitchens; one regular and one gluten-free. The menu is extensive and typically Italian. We went there twice. Many things to choose from including arancini, pizza, ravioli, desserts…try to stop there.
Taverna dei Contrari (near the Colusseum) – We found this restaurant by accident. It proved to be a little gem, with mostly Italian customers. With my broken Italian, I was able to understand they served gluten-free pasta. We ordered salads, drinks, and each got a different pasta. It was all delicious. We had found another restaurant closer to the Colusseum but they wanted to charge extra for gluten-free pasta; that’s when we walked out. It pays to walk around and explore. Restaurants should not be charging extra!
La Soffitta Renovatio-This family restaurant near the Vatican is well known for their gluten-free offerings. I loved the gnocchi but pizza was a bit thick for me. Good desserts. Made the list for top 7 best gluten-free restaurants in Rome.
Sans de Ble-100% gf bakery-Wish I could tell you! Check the hours. It was closed when we got there.
La Cannoleria Sicialiana-Went out of our way to find this little bakery/cafe that offers gluten-free cannoli shells. They were very careful to make sure there was no cross contamination. One of the better desserts we had!
Gelato-We were pleasantly surprised to find gluten-free cones for our gelato at a number of gelaterias. In Rome, we found Vacanze Romane. In case the link doesn’t work, it is located at Piazza D’Aracoeli 10. Many people have mentioned GROM as a good option for gluten-free conos (cones).
Villa Rubinacci-We found this restaurant a little by accident (I did a bit of research and we decided to give it a try). The pizza was so good we ordered a second one! My daughter enjoyed her linguine with clams and the bread they brought to us.
Gelateria David-Another gelato place we stumbled upon with gluten-free cones and delicious gelato.
Inn Bufalito-Once again, we were pleasantly surprised to find a restaurant with so many gluten-free options. Everything was delicious! They specialize in items made from buffalo like mozzarella and meats.
If you are looking for food to buy, go to the farmacia (pharmacy) as well as a grocery store and you are likely to find many options. We ate a lot of mozzarella, tomatoes, basil, prosciutto, and salami. I assume their meats are gluten-free and of course, if buying from the deli, be careful with cross contamination. Ciao!