Eating with Special Diets in Italy

How to Eat Vegetarian and Gluten or Lactose Free

If you have dietary restrictions, you can still enjoy good food in Italy. Many places in Italy are becoming more aware of vegetarians and the need to eat gluten free so it’s not as difficult as you might think. If you are self-catering you can usually find special dietary foods, such as gluten-free pasta, in a pharmacy and in some super markets.

  • Gluten Free: While you will probably have to skip the pasta and pizza, most appetizers, second courses, and side dishes are gluten free and some places even serve a gluten free pizza or pasta. Risotto and polenta (corn meal), found mainly in northern and central Italy, are good gluten free first course and sometimes soup although it may have pasta in it. Hotels, especially 4 and 5 star, are starting to have a gluten free corner on the breakfast buffet. Words to know: senza glutine (without gluten), celiaci (celiac)
  • Lactose Intolerant: Those who need to skip any milk products may also need to skip the first course, especially in the north where butter or cream is used more frequently, although you can usually ask for a simple pasta with garlic and olive oil (aglio e olio) and tomato sauces (pomodoro) usually won’t have any milk products. Some restaurants add cheese to the pasta so you should tell them without cheese (senza formaggio). Some appetizers and vegetables may also have cheese or butter (burro) in them. Although you won’t be able to eat regular gelato, occasionally you may find gelato made with soy milk.
  • Vegetarian or Vegan: Eating vegetarian (vegetariano) is fairly easy. You will probably have to skip the second course although you can ask for cheese (formaggio) or salad (insalata). Be aware that a little pancetta or prosciuto is not considered meat, it’s more like seasoning, so sometimes “vegetarian” pasta may include these. You can often ask for pasta with tomato sauce or just with olive oil. Being vegan is a little harder, since many dishes have some eggs, milk products, or cheese.
aglione sauce for pici
Making Aglione Sauce for Pasta with Tuscan Women Cook - a vegetarian sauce of tomatoes with lots of garlic.

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Eating with Special Diets in Italy originally appeared on , updated: Sep 02, 2020.