Exploring Italy, Gluten-Free Travel

Posted by ivylau on April 29, 2015 - Leave a comment

Exploring Italy, Gluten-Free Travel

Wow- what a whirlwind trip. I just returned from a long-awaited trip to Italy, where I spent 12 amazing days in Rome, Florence and Venice. It was a dream vacation, everything I was expecting and more- 10 days of non-stop walking and sightseeing. Rich history, stunning architecture and, of course, amazing food-led by pizza, pasta and pastries. My hubby and I had a blast.

As usual, I had planned much of this trip out to maximize my gluten free food experience. But of course you can never account for everything –and there were surprises, both good and bad, along the way.

Here are some of my discoveries, tips and takeaways from my Italy adventure.

First of all, everywhere you go, you will see displays of pizza, pasta, bread and pastry; but don’t panic. Don’t worry-there are tons of good gluten-free options. Even better, the Italians are very aware of “senza glutine”. At every restaurant we queried, they were able to quickly tell us whether gluten-free options were available or not (roughly 1 in five or more offered at least some GF options, usually certain types of pasta…which is pretty easy for them them).
Like on my previous blog- “The Mindful Traveler: 5 Tips to Travel Gluten Free”, traveling gluten-free needs planning ahead of time.

Call ahead to your hotels and airlines. When you book airline tickets, make sure to order gluten-free meals.

Here’s how I rated the gluten-free food from different airlines from this trip.

Airlines-gluten-free meals

United Airlines (Newark to Rome), they served gluten-free meal with Udi’s bread and Udi’s muffin; they were pretty tasty. I usually travel with United from San Francisco to Hong Kong, and know from experience their gluten-free meals are mediocre, so this was a nice surprise.

Lufthansa Airlines (Venice-Munich-SF). They had the worst food. The gluten-free bread is barely edible, more like cardboard. I ended up eating all my gluten-free goodies instead- small pound cakes and wafers.

Hotels – Gluten-free options

GF_Breakfast_ItalyAfter booking all the hotels, email or call them and let them know you need gluten-free breakfast. Most European hotels include breakfast, so make sure they prepare gluten-free options for you. You MUST let them know ahead. We went to 3 different cities and stayed at 4 different hotels; they all offered gluten-free breakfasts.

Let’s start with Rome. Rome is a beautiful city, rich with history, a wonderful mix of the ancient and modern merged together in harmony. I loved seeing the old buildings side by side with the new trendy stores, the new and ancient architecture together as one. One disappointment: most of the bakeries do not carry any gluten-free pastries; we visited several of them and showed them the “senza glutine” card and they all said “no”.

GF Produts on Grocery store at Rome, Italy

GF Produts on Grocery store at Rome, Italy

Grocery stores were another story. Many of them carried an ample supply of gluten-free options and they were very inexpensive. I bought 4 little pound cake in a package, 4 packs of Wafer for 1.99 (Euro)-double the size of Glutino Wafer cracker that I for $4.99 in United States. I was a happy camper that day; stocked up with all inexpensive gluten-free food for enough snacks for the next few days.

For breakfast, the hotel provided fresh fruits, coffee, yogurt, egg and some gluten-free goodies for me. It was all packaged gluten-free food, cracker, cake and cookies. Turns out all of the hotels gave me a similar gluten free package of products for breakfast; it must be their way of dealing with gluten free dieters-just enough to satisfy most people, but I wouldn’t call it overly- satisfying.

The best gluten-free restaurant experience in Rome was “Mama’s Ristobistrot”, only 8 minutes walk from St. Peter’s Basilica, the Vatican City. We had the best meal in Rome from Mama’s; I ordered the gluten-free seafood pasta, salad and dessert. They made sure everything was gluten-free for me; they even gave me some gluten-free bread. Yum!


We spent a day on Uffizi Gallery and Pitti Palace; and a day for Gallery of the Academy. Amazing experiences.

So again, instead of going to the café and bakery, we hiked over to the grocery store; the price for the gluten-free cookies and crackers are about the same as in Rome. As Florence is famous for the “Florentine steak”, I indulged in it twice. Delicious!

Our favorite restaurant in Florence was “Trattoria La Casalinga”; it’s about 9 minutes from Uffizi Gallery and 5 minutes from Ponte Vecchio. Small family owned restaurant, very busy, very good food and they have a lot of gluten-free options. Recommended by a friend (he and his wife are on gluten-free diets too).

Best gluten-free pizza came from “Gianniano in San Lorenzo”, only 2 minutes from Plazza del Duomo. Very tasty.


Venice is an amazing city, houses build around the lagoon, and everything moves around by boats-people, supplies, etc. Our hotel faced the canal and we were fixated on the waterways and steady parade of sea vessels-boat, water taxi, waterbus and private boat. We spent a lot of time walking, checking the hundreds of shops, and of course getting lost and eventually finding our way. Forget a regular map; it doesn’t work on the crazy, winding streets. Thanks for Google maps, we were able to find our way.

The best restaurant happened to be our hotel restaurant; we were staying in Hotel Principe Venezia. The restaurant had great dinners-the veal was super tasty, as was the polenta. But the room service charge was $6 per person, $12 for a couple. Ouch.
Check before you order!

I can’t wait till our next trip back to Europe. Maybe Paris next time.

Other related blogs about traveling:

The Gluten Free Traveler: 5 Tips for Eating Your Way Across Kauai

The Healthy Traveler: 5 Tips for Eating Your Way Across Asia (or anywhere) Gluten Free

The Mindful Traveler: 5 Tips to Travel Gluten Free

Gluten free sweet and sour chicken

You can also buy our (Ivy’s Garden) Gluten Free Sweet & Sour Chicken, Gluten Free Lemon Chicken and Gluten Free Chicken Nuggets food products online or stores near you. http://www.ivysgardenfood.com/stores-or-online/ or read about our product reviews from other bloggers.


“I just tried your gluten free sweet & sour chicken and could not believe how GOOD it is…I can’t wait to try the nuggets and lemon chicken. …”

Carolyn Straaberg (Brentwood, California)
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