EATING GLUTEN FREE IN ITALY

Sufferers of Celiac disease and gluten intolerance rejoice! Italy—the land of pizza, pasta, and all things gluten—is actually one of the friendliest countries to visit for those following a gluten-free diet. 

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Many a traveler has been surprised to find that gluten-free versions of all the Italian specialties are quite common in restaurants across the country—from Rome, to Florence, to Venice.  No longer will you be forced to opt for the salad while your eating companions scarf down gluten-laden foods in front of you.

Italy, in fact, is one of the most progressive countries when it comes to understanding the needs of people with Celiac.  Italians living with the disease actually receive vouchers from the government to purchase gluten-free versions of pasta, bread, pizza, and other products[1], since these foods are such a staple of the Italian diet.  The Italian Celiac Association (Associazione Italiana Celiachia, or AIC) has done much to educate the general public and the restaurant industry on the disease—and even trains and monitors restaurants and other food establishments on proper preparation techniques to ensure meals free from gluten or any cross-contamination.  Currently, over 3,800 restaurants and other venues in Italy have been approved by the AIC to offer some kind of gluten-free service[2], whether a full published menu, or alterations to menu-items on request.

All of the approved restaurants—including information on the services offered—can be found on the AIC’s website.  Much of the site is in Italian, but you can search for restaurants here (either by region, further specifying typology—or by province, further specifying the city).  A search for establishments in the city of Rome comes up with 102 results.  You can even generate a PDF of all results by clicking the “Give all results” button.  This makes it easy to print out to take with you on your journey, or save it onto any mobile electronic device.

To communicate your allergy to your server or any other restaurant staff, make sure you print out one of these handy restaurant cards  from Celiac Travel (celiactravel.com) to help you explain your needs in Italian.  Remember to do this whether you are dining at an AIC approved establishment or not.  Gluten-free options are also often available even if a restaurant is not on the AIC’s list (or does not mention it on their menu)—but use your judgment.  If you have Celiac or are highly sensitive to gluten, you’ll need to make sure the restaurant understands how to cook your meal without any cross-contamination.

Sources:

[1] https://celiac.org/celiac-disease/resources/celiac-policies-around-the-world/

[2] http://www.celiachia.it/dieta/Dieta.aspx?SS=95&M=1280

 

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