Gluten Free Tour of Italy

Gluten Free Tour of Italy

Italy has always been well known as being fantastic for Coeliacs. After her cruise was cancelled due to the pandemic, my Coeliac friend Sophie went on a tour of Italy and has kindly wrote a blog of some of the gluten free places she ate at while away!

Posted On: 30th September 2020
Last updated on: 30th September 2020
Tagged with: 100% gluten free, coeliac holidays, eating out, europe, gluten free, holiday, italy

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This blog is guest written by my friend Sophie after her trip to Italy recently, I hope it gives you some ideas of places to eat at in this stunning county. If you need help with eating abroad we do travel cards in our online shop, which Sophie actually did take to Italy with her too! You can find our translation cards here

This travel food blog was not something I had intended to write. Pre Covid-19 we had a fabulous cruise booked round the Adriatic with 5 days in Venice pre sailing… fast forward the cruise was cancelled but our flights remained. Having a tour of Italy on our bucket list and Covid cases remaining relatively low how could we pass up the chance to travel to some of the most visited tourist attractions with barely any tourists?

Italy is known for their amazing availability of Gluten Free food, and my expectations we’re blown out of the water. 19 days in Italy, no Coeliac reactions and way too many pizzas consumed, Italy is definitely a Coeliacs dream. One thing you will notice though, not one menu in Italy had garlic bread. Not one?! Despite the disappointment it did mean we got to taste lots of different pizzas with our pastas instead 😊

VENICE

Venice - Hotel al Piave
Venice - Hotel al Piave
Hotel Al Piave

When we originally booked our cruise, I went on the hunt for a hotel was gluten free or catered well for Coeliacs that would ensure a good breakfast for a busy day’s sightseeing. Hotel Al Piave is accredited with the AIC (Italian Coeliac Association) and as the owner’s daughter is Coeliac their knowledge was amazing.

Each morning a separate plate of delicious prepacked treats as well as scrummy homemade GF cakes was brought to the table. They also brought out separate fruit juice and coffee to limit cross contamination.

I felt so safe eating there, so the food combined with the friendly staff and great spacious rooms we will book again if we go to Venice.

Venice - Osteria Al Pozzo Reverso
Venice - Osteria Al Pozzo Reverso
Osteria Al Pozzo Reverso

Just down the street from our hotel was a lovely quaint restaurant that offered a substantial GF menu. Whilst not a 100% GF kitchen I did not have any cross-contamination reaction. They took the time to talk through what was Senza Glutine and even brought out GF bread separately. I opted for a good ol' Carbonara with margarita to share and it was delicious. The pizza base was so light and had a good crisp to it. I felt that comfortable eating there that we went back for a second night and again opted for the carbonara but changed it up with a ham/fungi pizza to share. Utterly delicious and highly recommended.

We also had an evening meal at Al Giardinetto da Severino who were very clued up on Gluten Free. All options were highlighted when we arrived, and they brought some freshly heated GF bread for me.

Venice - Trattoria Povoledo
Venice - Trattoria Povoledo
Trattoria Povoledo

As our flights back to the UK were from Venice, it would have been rude not to stop for a last-minute lunch before popping to the airport. On our very first day we were given a card by a lovely Trattoria next to the train station, so we had already decided to eat there. Nestled on the main shopping street they had a lovely terrace that looked onto the Grand Canal.

Knowing I would get told off by Alison (coeliac sanctuary’s owner) if I opted for another carbonara I resisted and chose the pesto pasta. It was nice, and the basil was so light and refreshing, but I did miss the carbonara. They advised there would be a little bit of a wait for the GF pasta which I was happy about and, in the meantime, brought out GF crackers/bread sticks to nibble on. They are a little higher priced than some other places however given the location I would still recommend them.

Venice - Grom
Venice - Grom
Grom

Knowing we would want a gelato I was so happy to find that most of Italy's cities have numerous branches of Grom who are a 100% Gluten Free gelateria.

Spoilt for choice I tended to opt for the waffle cone with pistachio, hazelnut and chocolate gelatos but they do toppings like biscuits and loads of other flavours of gelato and sorbets. Each one was delicious and a must for any travels to Italy.

There are 24 branches of Grom in Italy and there are also a few more branches worldwide including Paris (France),Shanghai (China) and London (UK).

ROME

Rome - Mama eat restaurant/street food
Rome - Mama eat restaurant/street food
Mama eat restaurant/street food

When researching places to eat in Rome, the first that popped up was Mama Eat who are accredited with AIC and fabulous for GF.

As a Slimming World member, I knew this holiday was my time to go crazy (we have to enjoy ourselves sometimes, after losing 13st a holiday treat is well deserved) so the deep fried Arancini, Mozzarella bites and Nutella covered pizza strips screamed at me here, and they were amazing!

We went to the main restaurant in Trastevere twice for our evening meals and had various starters, a Calzone (yes, unheard of in the UK),pizzas to share and of course pasta. We also visited the Mama Eat street food branch near the Vatican and indulged in snacky bites for lunch Each meal we had left us wanting more.

Rome - Voglia di Pizza
Rome - Voglia di Pizza
Voglia di Pizza- Gluten Free


Also highly recommended was Voglia di Pizza. We tried the restaurant on our last night in Rome and were not disappointed.

We opted for some snacky bits to share for our starter followed by pizzas and a tiramisu and cheesecake for dessert. The pizza base was nicer than Mama Eat which I was not expecting, and the desserts were to die for.

Fiocco de Neve

You can’t go to Italy without having a Gelato. After having Grom a few times it was lovely to experience a different company. I opted for a basic cone with snickers and Oreo gelato. It was so yum I didn't even get a chance to take a picture but their website can be found here.

NAPLES

Naples - Zero Zero Grano
Naples - Zero Zero Grano
Zero Zero Grano


Availability of senza glutine seemed to be a bit more limited in Naples. I did read about Zero Zero Grano who appear to be the only 100% GF and Lactose free restaurant in Napoli. As it was 10 minutes’ walk from our hotel (and as we hated the centre of Naples) we went twice.

We opted for various starters to share between us and a different meal each night. The food was good and being completely gluten free is always an advantage, however the only critique was that some dishes needed a tad more seasoning. Despite this I would recommend for Coeliacs.

Leopoldo

Whilst walking up to our hotel we came across this little gem. Leopoldo is a 100% GF bakery, so we just had to stop for lunch. We opted for a variation of sandwiches, pizza bites and took some cornets away to snack on in the room. Again, the excited Labrador inside me dug in before I could take pics, but they do have a website here.

FLORENCE

Florence - Antica Gelateria Florentina
Florence - Antica Gelateria Florentina
Antica Gelateria Florentina

After a long train journey from Naples, we had to scout out a Gelato on our way to the hotel.

Antica Gelateria offers gluten free gelato however there normal cones are not Gluten Free. They do have pre-packed cones at the back of the counter that they unwrap and fill using fresh utensils and from where the gelato has not been touched previously to avoid cross-contamination where possible.

All the flavours were delicious and they have a variety of different ones including stracciatella, black cherry and tiramisu. We also popped back on our last day as a treat whilst wandering about. Lovely gelato in a great central location.


Florence - Ciro
Florence - Ciro
Ciro and Sons

After a quick scan of other Gluten Free travel blogs floating round the internet it was ensured we would not miss the chance to go to Ciro and Son’s. Set right in the middle of Florence their GF menu was amazing.

Whilst browsing the menu they brought out GF bread and olives and when speaking to one of the main waiters he offered to bring out some homemade bread to sample.

For the meal, I opted for the chicken alfredo pasta and a pizza to share followed by Nutella crepes. OMG, absolute game changer. Anyone travelling to Florence must give this place a try, amazing food for sure!

Florence - 1950's American Diner
Florence - 1950's American Diner
1950’s American diner

When I found out there was an AIC accredited 1950s American diner in Florence, I felt guilty for wanting to go. I should want another pizza, more pasta… but this is not something we get in the UK.

The menu was surprisingly limited, especially the starters given the AIC accreditation however the food was delicious. I opted for the nacho starter and then the Juicy Lucy burger for the main.

We couldn’t go without trying the donut so split that with my husband along side my chocolate cake. The donut was dry and I would not recommend it but on the other hand the flourless cake- divine!

Florence - Quinoa
Florence - Quinoa
Quinoa

Quinoa was the first 100% GF restaurant in Florence and is the perfect place if you want a more a la carte meal. Set off the main area in a quiet courtyard, Quinoa focuses on healthy meals with a twist.

We split the chickpea hummus with sea bass as a starter which they presented on separate plates for us and then I had the Thai chicken curry and jasmine rice for a main as I fancied a bit of Asian. It was really nice food but is slightly higher in price. I would recommend Quinoa if your wanting a romantic courtyard ambiance with the a la carte menu rather than traditional pasta/pizza.

Florence - Starbene
Florence - Starbene
Starbene

There are just no words that will convey my excitement when I found Starbene. A little bakery just 5 minutes’ walk from the Ponte Vecchio, Starbene are 100% Gluten Free without tasting GF.

We popped in a few times for lunch and sampled a selection of pizza squares, pastries, biscuits and tarts. They were all amazing and even my muggle eating husband enjoyed them all. They also sell gateaux to buy in the fridge and a selection of gluten free products such as schar and dry pastas to take away.

Watching my husband enjoy muggle pastries at breakfast didn’t seem as disappointing knowing I had my Starbene stop later that day. I urge anyone who visits Florence to scout them out.

Florence - Trattoria Da Garibardi
Florence - Trattoria Da Garibardi
Trattoria Da Garibardi

I’d read online that this Trattoria was a great place for GF. We popped along one night, and I was pleasantly surprised by their extensive menu. We opted for the chicken liver pate and grandma Tina’s meatballs to share and both dishes were delicious. They even brought GF bread to accompany them.

For mains I had to go for my favourite- the carbonara. It was good and of course, as there was no garlic bread, we split a pizza instead. This time we opted for the prosciutto and rocket pizza as a lighter option.

Founded in 1989 their website has a section about Gluten Free and they were great confirming what options were available. If we returned to Florence, they would be on the list of places we would re-visit.

Florence - Lorenzo Di Medici
Florence - Lorenzo Di Medici
Lorenzo Di Medici

Located opposite Ciro and Son’s, we spotted the menu on the first night. We decided we would pop back for lunch the next day and split two pizzas.

The pizzas showed signs of being cooked in a wood fired stove (which as the first customers of the day had just been lit) however the charred taste didn’t impact or ruin the pizza itself. Besides, as BBQ loving Geordies we wouldn’t turn our nose up at a bit of charred crust.

The base was actually the best stone baked crust of the holiday and the toppings were great. The waiter did knock €4 off the bill for the charred crust which we gave back as a tip anyway bless him. We enjoyed the food that much that we went back for lunch another day and I opted for the risotto with a meat sauce (as I hadn’t had risotto up til this point) which was lovely and full of flavour.

VERONA

Verona - Peperino
Verona - Peperino
Peperino

We only had four hours in Verona as part of a transfer from Florence to Lake Garda so decided on a quick bite to eat. A quick scan of google and we decided to pop to Peperino.

They were quick to confirm they could do some dishes Gluten Free however could not guarantee cross contamination due to the kitchen. I opted for the GF pizza which honestly, I could have taken it or left it. Well done to them for trying to create a GF pizza base however due to the lack of topping to the edge of the crust it was a bit drier than others I have tried.

As it looks like there is limited offerings in Verona, I would still recommend them for a quick bite to eat, even if it is just for the pannacotta which was delicious.

PESCHIERA DEL GARDA

Garda - BellaVista
Garda - BellaVista
BellaVista

For a small town at the bottom of Lake Garda, I was surprised at the number of restaurants that offered Gluten Free food. After researching I decided we would have one night at BellaVista which was about 5 minutes walk from our hotel.

With a lakeside view, BellaVista’s ambience was lovely and their GF menu was even better. I opted for the tuna carpaccio with fennel and orange to start and then we split two pizzas and some french fries. Of course, with my love of carbonara I wasn’t going to turn down the chance to try the carbonara pizza.

When it arrived it was not what I was expecting (the creamy sauce across the base). It did however have the taste of a carbonara with the bacon and cheese however had a egg right in the middle. Different but surprisingly tasty! For dessert I fancied something light so opted for the nougat parfait which was so nice I wanted another one. The location makes BellaVista the go to for a romantic meal with a view of the moonlit water and twinkling lights of towns at the other side of the lake.

Garda - Tortuga
Garda - Tortuga
Tortuga

Next door to BellaVista and also with the lakeside view is Tortuga. A little bit more casual than its neighbour, Tortuga had a great (although slightly more limited) menu. We decided to share the salmon as a starter then I opted for a pizza. I was slightly disappointed with the base of the pizza as it was quite soft and not crispy at all but fair play to them trying to offer a variety of meals. The dessert of coconut parfait with berries made up for it though – yum!

TRANSPORT

We booked our flights through KLM and I specified the requirement for a GF snack which was included in the price. On all four flights to and from the UK via the Netherlands not one flight supplied a GF snack. In fact, it appeared that they were not supplying snacks for any dietary requirement as all passengers were given the same box of sandwiches/biscuits and cake in the evening flight.

To travel round Italy we used the Freccirossa high speed rail network. Whilst I did not purchase any items on the train I did look at the menu and there was a vast selection of GF sandwiches and snacks from Schar to purchase at a very reasonable price (€4 for a sandwich and €2 for the snacks if I remember correctly).

Overall, the holiday was amazing and I only had to get my Coeliac Sanctuary translation card out once (for a restaurant I am not willing to speak about due to a language barrier and worry about cross contamination). Every city had somewhere a Coeliac could go to and be spoilt for choice. For me (and my husband agrees) Florence was without a doubt the city with the most availability, the most awareness and where the staff were most willing to take the time to go through the menu. Florence itself is a beautiful compact city and we will definitely be back.

Your Comments

I used to have a house in Southern Italy (Puglia),and a friend with coeliac disease came to stay. I was a bit nervous because at that time, foreign tourists were not common, and many of the restaurants are small places run by a family, with a limited menu. We thought the dependence on pasta and pizzas would mean he might go hungry - no way would they have gluten free pasta! I needn't have worried. He had with him one of the translation cards, which he showed to them, and I have to say, on his behalf, that the restaurants were absolutely brilliant. They understood the issue completely, They were really helpful at telling him what he could and couldn't eat off the regular menu. Often the antipasti will consist of 19-20 small plates, with a lot of variety. (In one place he was offered the local speciality, trippa (tripe),as as we started to say, ugh no, our friend said he'd love to try it, and declared it excellent - all a matter of taste!) But they also took great pains to prepare something special, if what they had wasn't going to work. He also loved the fantastic Italian gelati, and all in all the holiday was much easier for him than we had expected. So, in Italy, just go for it - just carry your transalation card!

Sheila Robson - 12th October 2020

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