Eating Gluten Free in Italy

As the world-renowned land of pizza and pasta, you might think that eating gluten free in Italy would be a mighty task. However, coeliac disease and wheat intolerance are well-known health issues in Italy and children are even routinely screened for the disease. It is even in Italian law that gluten-free food should be available in schools, hospitals and public places. So, you can probably see that you aren’t going to have any problems!

Gluten-free snacks are available in many cafes and most shops (look out for “senza glutine” on the packaging), and they’re even available in pharmacies as they are considered “medicine” in Italy. What’s more, a lot of hotels offer gluten-free alternatives at breakfast – although it doesn’t hurt to give the hotel a little heads-up regarding your requirements. If you’re eating out then breakfast probably is the harder meal as most patisseries won’t offer gluten-free options unless they are a specialist store. However, fruit salad (“Macedonia”) is a popular breakfast option in Italy, which could be accompanied by yogurt.

Cottoning on to the gluten-free movement, restaurants in the more touristic cities tend to advertise that they offer gluten-free options, but even if they don’t outwardly state so, you will certainly find gluten-free dishes in most restaurants. In the north of Italy, rice and polenta dishes are popular – look out for Risotto alla Milanese in the Lombardy region, which is a saffron-infused risotto that is the pride of Milan! In Rome many restaurants offer gluten-free pasta so you simply need to ask to adapt the dish. Ristorante Mama in the Trastevere region of Rome is well-regarded as offering tasty gluten-free alternatives (including pizza) and you can also make a wonderfully seasonal dish by looking at the sides (“contorni”) as grilled seasonal vegetables, wilted greens and fresh salads are available at nearly all restaurants. If you’re stopping in Venice, a good option is Il Ristorante a Beccafico Arte as the owner has a family member that suffers with coeliac disease and so is knowledgeable about gluten-free food.

However, with the exception of Ristorante Mama in Rome and other specialist restaurants, when it comes to pizza there is an issue with cross-contamination, even if gluten-free bases are available, so it is best to check with the restaurant that they are careful in this regard.

The good news is that gelato is naturally gluten free, so you can enjoy the many creamy options available, but do be careful of any that include biscuits, such as tiramisu-flavoured ice-creams – the Grom chain of gelaterias are a good option as their ingredients have been verified as gluten free by the Associazione Italiana Celiachia and their staff have received training with regards to coeliac disease. Of course, be sure to opt for a cup rather than a cone, although Grom have stated that they will be unveiling a gluten-free cone in the future.


Helpful phrases

“Senza glutine” – Gluten free

“Lo sono celiaco” – I am coeliac

“Per celiaci” – For coeliacs

“Possono contenere…” – May contain…

“Contiene…” – Contains…

“Grano” – Wheat

“Barley” – Orzo

“Segale” – Rye

“Avena” – Oats

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