Eating gluten free in Italy was so straightforward. All Italians and especially those in the food service industry have a great knowledge of gluten free requirements. Coeliac disease is a well known health issue, children are routinely screened for coeliac disease and there is a state subsidy to compensate people with coeliac disease for the higher cost of gluten-free food. Italian law even requires gluten-free food be available in schools, hospitals, and public places. You can probably see why you aren’t going to have any problems already!
There is a general acceptance of coeliac disease in Italy, which is surprising when compared to Australia as the prevalence is the same, at around 1% of the population. Although Italy’s population is 3 times the size of Australia’s, we still hold out hope that Australia will be just as aware of coeliac disease in the future.
There are still a few words of gluten free wisdom we can share, so lets begin...
Gluten free in Italy
Any restaurant you go to will be able to serve you gluten free food. All you need to say when ordering food in Italy is ‘senza glutine’ or ‘Io sono celiaco’ and you can be rest assured you will be served gluten free food... as you can see this guide isn’t going to be terribly long!
Getting to know Italian cuisine
Most people are familiar with Italian cuisine as pizza and pasta. So it is no surprise that those on a gluten free diet may be a little wary when heading to Italy. Certainly from a tourist’s perspective pizza and pasta is available on every corner but that isn’t necessarily what Italian’s eat every day. There is a large emphasis on simple dishes that focus on the flavour of fresh ingredients. Italian’s have a Mediterranean diet which is high in healthy fats, fresh fish and meat and vegetables. They also cook with rice and polenta both of which are delicious gluten free alternatives to pasta.
Tips for eating out gluten free in Italy
Explaining your gluten free dietary requirements in Italy
Here are the links to the translations to help you practice saying ‘gluten free’ and ‘I am coeliac’ in Italian.
Anything problematic with eating gluten free in Italy?
Just a few tips to make your gluten free life easier while travelling in Italy;
- Avoid patisseries as they don’t have anything gluten free as a rule (unless you are lucky enough to find a dedicated gluten free patisserie).
- Desserts aren’t that easy to come by gluten free although, the Italians do a mean creme caramel.
- Due to fear of cross contamination gluten free pizza isn’t that easy to find, which is both comforting and frustrating if you have been looking forward to an authentic Italian gluten free pizza. Ask around and you should manage to locate one.
Suggested gluten free meal options in Italy
- Gluten free versions of pasta are available at most restaurants.
- Gluten free pizza is possible to find but it takes a little hunting out.
- Almost everything else on a menu is adaptable, just ask.
Italy's tried and tested gluten free restaurants
Here is a list of restaurants in Sicily in which we ate and know are very accommodating to gluten free diets.
- Pizzeria Porta Messina: Good range of gluten free pasta options, nice outdoor setting and creme caramel to die for, we came back for dessert a second night.
- Bella Blu: The only place we found offering gluten free pizza and a dedicated gluten free menu with gluten free fries and gluten free beer. They were very accommodating to people with coeliac disease.
- Acqua Pazza: Some of the best seafood dishes ever. No gluten free pasta (they make it all fresh) but the risotto was sensational and the view is one of the best.
Tips for eating in gluten free in Italy
This is something we didn’t do a lot of due to the ease with which you can eat out in Italy, however, breakfast still remains a more difficult gluten free meal and there are a few other tips below to help you with navigating the supermarkets in Italy.
Reading labels in Italy
You will have no issues as products are clearly marked gluten free or otherwise in Italy but here are a few translations that may be worth learning.
A lot of gluten free brands are international so they will have English on them but the Italian version, senza glutine, isn’t that hard to decipher either.
Gluten free breakfast options in Italy
No espresso with a sweet pastry for those eating gluten free so we found it easiest to eat breakfast at our accommodation. You will be able to find gluten free breakfast options in the supermarket otherwise you can always fall back on eggs and bacon or fresh fruit and yoghurt.
Unfortunately, we were only in Palermo for a limited time (really just to sleep) due to travel delays but we were well catered to with a gluten free breakfast at B&B Delle Vittorie, if you are looking for good gluten free friendly accommodation.
Gluten free snacks in Italy
There is an abundance of gluten free snacking options in large supermarkets but fresh fruit, nuts and dried fruit are a good fall back and you are spoiled for choice with fresh produce in summer.
Supermarkets and gluten free in Italy
We were probably expecting bigger gluten free sections in supermarkets because the ones in Australia are getting so big, however, there was still a lot of choice. You could even buy gluten free beer in the supermarket.
In Taormina there was no big supermarket so the night we decided to cook in we had to buy gluten free pasta from the pharmacy. It was quite a novel experience, they had to get it from out the back and it felt like we were almost doing something that wasn’t quite legal but it was worth the effort because the gluten free pasta was delicious!
If you have any tips to add or questions to ask please get in contact we are always looking to add to our guides to improve travelling gluten free for everyone. If you are looking for more gluten free travelling guides go here.