Gluten-Free (GF) in Italy

Ciao Italy

Last month, my husband and I ventured to Italy, Austria, Croatia and Slovenia with several friends. We were very fortunate to have one who wanted to act as our tour guide and translator on our adventure. Sal, who lives in Littleton, was born in Italy and spends three months there each year. It just so happened that his stay in Italy overlapped with our 10-day trip.

After a couple of days in Venice, we headed for the countryside. Our adventure included:

  • Visiting restaurants; especially small family owned ones.
  • Eating at the restaurant that Sal’s parents owned and operated in Croatia during WWII.
  • Enjoying talking to winemakers and learning about (and tasting) their wines.
  • Staying at B&B’s.
  • Watching a Bocce Game.

Gluten-Free (senza glutine) and Onion-Free (no cipolle)!

Traveling always adds a little bit of stress. Besides the usual worry about making your connections or if your luggage will arrive, traveling with dietary restrictions is challenging. I live with both celiac disease (no food containing wheat, rye, barley or oats) and type 1 diabetes. My husband, Jim, is unable to tolerate onions. We are quite a pair!

Although we dealt with cancelled flights and luggage arriving 24 hours after we did, our food experience was awesome. You would think that in a pasta loving country such as Italy, finding gluten-free options would be a challenge. And you would be wrong. In all the countries we visited, there were tasty GF options. They use an ‘A’ or ‘1’ to indicate those foods containing gluten. In the US, one sees GF on the menu. I found myself double checking that I ordered the A or 1 labeled foods rather than the G ones. If I remember correctly, the G foods contained milk.

At one of the farm to table restaurants, the server actually showed us the box of GF pasta they use. (BTW… the Barilla Brand can be found in the United States). In addition, she was able to let Jim and I both know which items could accommodate our dietary needs.

Eating Gluten-Free
Enjoyed meeting some of Sal’s family at one of the farm to table restaurants

In Austria, the B&B proprietor (Gitta) baked me GF bread. She provided me with a list of the ingredients used to ensure it was acceptable. It reminded me of Irish soda bread. The only mishap was that Gitta unfortunately put the GF bread in the same basket as the bread containing gluten. I explained why that was an issue and she promptly corrected the situation.

Shared Fryer? Are you Kidding?

One thing I noticed was the consistent look of shock and even disgust when asked about using shared fryers. After explaining what I meant – are other foods, specifically breaded ones, cooked in the same fryer as say your fries? They simply asked why would someone do that? It would impact the taste of your food, followed by a strong – WE DON’T DO THAT!

It was great to enjoy a change of pace – French fries instead of pasta. In many places, the restaurants even provided me with individually wrapped Gluten-Free crackers or bread.

Next Steps…

In December 2014, the European Union (EU) Food Allergen labeling law was enacted. For those of you who are still hesitating about venturing to EU countries, here’s a few of my learnings:

  • Be empowered: review the guidelines at to feel comfortable with how well your destination understands and deals with food intolerances.
  • Download the ‘Google Translate’ App on your phone even though I have found that there is always someone to help no matter where you find yourself.
  • Also download the ‘Find Me GF’ App. Based on the reviews shared, I had delicious GF gnocchi at Trattoria Al Gazzettino while in Venice.
  • Be diligent: continue to ask questions.
  • Always bring some snacks, just in case.
  • Share meals: portion sizes tend to be extremely generous.

Now go ahead and plan a trip today. I look forward to hearing about your adventures.


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