My favorite part of traveling is trying new foods, without a doubt. What better way to appreciate a culture than to indulge in the local foods, right? Italian culture is centered around food. It brings family and friends together and eating is a sacred social activity (as it should be!). Hey, Italy is my favorite country in the entire world for a reason!
As someone who is allergic to gluten, traveling on a strict gluten free (GF) diet isn’t the easiest thing and it takes much more research and planning to have a safe dining experience. So when I found a gluten free food tour in Rome, offered by Eating Italy, I JUMPED on it! Ahh, finally! I decided on the Taste of Testaccio Tour with Eating Italy because I have never been to that neighbourhood but have always heard good things about it. It’s a local, colorful, and hip neighbourhood in Rome and it deserves more attention than it receives. I also learned that Testaccio is considered the birthplace of Roman cuisine! Umm, sign me up please! ♥
If you’re like me and are skeptical about forking out cash for a food tour, you will be pleasantly surprised. The food tour hits up 8 STOPS (and 12 tastings total), so make sure you skip breakfast. You will be STUFFED by the end of the 4-hour tour, guaranteed! My tour was from 10:30am-2:30pm, and it filled me up for the entire day. I only needed a light snack around 9pm, but it’s basically breakfast lunch and dinner crammed into 4 hours of yummy goodness.
(note: this food tour isn’t only for those who are gluten free and is open to everyone. However, it can be specifically tailored to those with food allergies, which is what they did with me).
So What Does a Gluten Free Food Tour in Rome Look like? Here are the highlights below!
1st Stop→ Pastry Shopping
Rich & sweet GF chocolate fudge tart
Breakfast of champions…the non Gf version below.
I’ll take one of each, please 🙂
2nd Stop→Pizza, pizza, pizza (& rice)
There’s nothing like a local pizza spot in Rome. My eyes were bulging out of my head. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a GF option and I was offered a rice dish instead (boo!). The rice was tasty, but it’s not the same. So instead, I just lived vicariously through my pizza devouring tour members.
Next stop was a cute salumeria where we were offered salami, prosciutto, and cheeses. The prosciutto was delicate, tasty and tender. The highlight was the buttery truffle cheese, an absolutely amazing surprise! I usually hate truffles (I know, blasphemous right?), but this was one of the best cheeses I have ever tried.
Balsamic vinegar tasting. Tasted like honey to me, SO GOOD!
We had some free time inside to sample and purchase any delicacies we desired. If I wasn’t at the beginning of my trip, I would have stocked up for goodies to take home. Maybe next time!
4th Stop→The Non-Catholic Cemetery for Foreigners in Rome
I know what you’re thinking.. a cemetery visit on a food tour, wtf? But after all that food, it was the perfect break. Not to mention, a very beautiful and peaceful place. If you’re in Rome, I would highly recommend a visit here to get away from the crowds!
5th Stop→Testaccio Covered Market ( with 3 food stops inside the market)
This was my favorite stop on the tour. It was a local market where the shops were passed down from generation to generation and everyone knew each other. It was such a great vibe inside, and not to mention some awesome food!
Nothing like fresh caprese salad. Melted in my mouth!
Bruschetta (pronounced “broo skeyta” NOT “brooshetta”) with a homemade gluten free baguette, soft on the inside and crispy on the edges. They let me take home the entire loaf for later, which was a big plus!
Caprese-garnished with the freshest basil and mozarella. The ingredients were so soft and fresh, I didn’t need to chew much.
Fried artichoke and wine-the artichoke was a substitute for the bombettos (neck of pork, pecorino, and bacon) the others got to try. Delicious!
Bonus stop: I found a little gluten free shop and got my own suppli (fried risotto and cheese ball) and it was divine! (note: this was not included in the tour and I purchased it on my own).
6th Stop→Sit-Down Restaurant with 3 Pastas & Unlimited Wine
GF pasta substitute with cracked pepper and cheese. Simple yet delicious.
Stretchy pants would have been very helpful at this point in the tour. Just about to tap out but there were 2 more stops! Oh, and did I mention endless wine carafes? ♥
3 non-GF pastas to choose from
7th Stop→Suppli (fried risotto and cheese balls) at Trapizzino.
Traditional Suppli (fried risotto % cheese). Not GF but they look oh so tasty!
Suppli is a traditional fast food in Rome and costs only about €1. This option was NOT GF so I was offered some pulled marinated chicken. I did get to taste the GF version of suppli in the covered market, so I was satisfied to say the least.
The last stop was for dessert, and what better dessert in Italy than gelato? I finished the whole thing and then I surrendered the flag. I could not physically fit any more food inside my body. I had never been so stuffed in my life.
My first food tour was a success! I had doubts about not getting enough food but boy was I wrong! It was totally worth it and food tours are going to be my new obsession. I will also say that the tour would not have been as fun without our awesome tour guide Domenico. He had a hippie style, and was whitty, knowledgable, and charismatic. The tour guide really does make or break the tour!
I was surprised at all the GF options and the variety of foods offered. The only disappointment was that they didn’t have GF pizza. Other than that, I give it an A! If you have never done a food tour in Italy, I would definitely give it a try! It was the perfect gluten free food tour in Rome.
*I was a guest of Eating Italy on the Taste of Testaccio Tour. My opinions, however are my own. I don’t bullshit and I LOVED this food tour!
Have you Ever done a Food Tour with Eating Italy? Have you done any other gluten free food tours in Rome? Do tell!
Traveling Europe with a gluten allergy does not have to be a daunting task. It just takes a little bit of extra planning and preparation beforehand. As an avid traveler, my first thought of traveling with a Gluten allergy was “omg, I’m not going to be able to travel and enjoy all the amazing foods that I love experiencing”. But I soon learned that it IS possible. It’s difficult, I’m not going to lie. But I think I figured out the system and I wanted to share some of my tips for all those who might avoid traveling out of fear of food allergies (not just gluten).
How I Noticed Signs of Gluten Intolerance
To make a long story short, about 2 years ago I developed a whole list of mysterious medical symptoms. I started having extreme joint pains, headaches, blurry vision, muscle cramping, fatigue, and sharp tingling and burning sensations in my hands, arms and legs. I live a pretty healthy lifestyle, working out since I was 15 and eating “right”, so this came out of nowhere for me.
It was a long 6 months straight of going to endless doctors appointment and undergoing just about every medical test and blood test in the book. I became depressed as I though I must be dying or something (I’m already a hypochondriac so this just made it a thousand time worse).
After spending $5000 out of my pocket, on top of my $300 monthly premium (thanks to our awesome US healthcare system), one doctor suggested an elimination diet (from gluten).
Fast forward 2 months later, after religiously restricting gluten from my diet, low and behold, the symptoms went away completely! Gluten, you bastard! I never underwent all the Celiac tests, so I’m not exactly sure if I have it (although it does run in my family). At that point I didn’t need to, I knew 100% that Gluten was the culprit. Fast forward 2 years, and I have never felt healthier!
I wanted to share some tips (through trial and error) and how I get by traveling Europe with a gluten allergy. It doesn’t have to be stressful if you’re fully prepared.
8 Helpful Tips for Traveling Europe with a Gluten allergy (or any food allergy for that matter):
If you have any friends with food allergies, you will soon realize that they ALWAYS carry snacks on them. Zip-lock bags are your friends. I never get on a flight without packing a few bags of goodies beforehand. My favourite in-flight snacks are rice cakes, gluten-free crackers, bananas, and cereal. Sometimes I bring peanut butter but it often gets confiscated, especially in US airports. However, it has gotten through security in several European airports, so it all depends. But a good rule of thumb is, stick to solids only. Sorry, that Nutella just won’t cut it!
2. Request special airline meals AT LEAST 24 HOURS in advance
This one is tricky and will only work on longer flights. Most European budget airlines don’t have this option at all, so be aware (or if they do, it will cost you an arm and a leg). For most intercontinental flights, CALL the airline AT LEAST 24 hours before your flight to make your requests. Ive made the mistake of requesting it online while I was signed into my United Mileage account. Unfortunately they didn’t get the memo and I was left without ANY food on an 8 hour flight. This has happened to me 3 TIMES! Although, the other 2 times I was given the first class meal, so I wasn’t complaining.
3. Stock up Locally
Gluten-free/Bio section in DM
The first thing I do when I go to a new place is go to the local farmer’s market for fresh produce. It’s also a great way to help the local economy! I also look around for a DM (Drogerie Markt), they are located all over Europe. DM is a German based retail store that sells cosmetics, household items, travel size toiletries (bingo!), and bio and gluten-free snacks. DM is my go-to spot and I’m obsessed!
4. Gluten-free Restaurant Card (GAME CHANGER)
Croatian gluten-free restaurant card
Discovering the gluten-free restaurant card was a complete game changer for me! It’s basically a nice, neat print out card for Celiacs to give to your waiter so they know what you can and cannot eat. It’s available in 54 languages and honestly has been a life-saver for me. Click here to find your desired language.
5. Learn the Lingo
In the event you misplace your gluten-free restaurant card, it’s smart to learn a few words in the local language regarding your allergy. If there is one phrase I make sure I remember, it’s how to say “gluten-free”.
Here are a few useful ones to remember: Italian: Senza Glutine Croatian: Bez Glutena German: Gluten-frei Spanish: Sin-Gluten French: Sans Gluten
6. Cook your Meals
This is where Airbnb comes in! One of the main reasons I love Aribnb is that you can often cook all your meals, not only making it easier for those with food allergies, but saving you extra money by avoiding dining out.
Super quick meal I whipped up in Italy, with fresh spices from the host’s balcony 🙂
If I’m staying in a hotel with a mini fridge, I make sure to stock it up with salami, cheese, fruit, and smoked salmon. Even with no kitchen, there are ways to dine in and I definitely take advantage of them!
7. Gluten-Free Apps
Apps are an easy way to find gluten-free options while you’re traveling and I use them heavily! Three of my favorites are:
Find Me GF-allows you to search gluten-free restaurants and stores based on your location.
Mangiare SG-basically the same thing as Find Me GF but specific to Italy.
Google Translate-there is a feature where you can scan a whole group of words for translation (only available in a few language). I use this a lot translating ingredients on a package. Genius!
8. Visit the Pharmacy
Yes, you heard that right. In some countries, specifically Italy and Croatia, the government awards a stipend to those suffering from Celiac. For this reason, most pharmacies are stocked up on gluten-free items to accommodate these prescription holders. When all else fails and you’re having no luck finding GF snacks, look for the big green pharmacy sign.
Worrying about food should not be on your mind when traveling Europe with a gluten allergy, there are so many amazing experiences to be had! You just need to be smart, change some habits, and be better prepared. It’s not the easiest thing, but once you get the hang of it you can get out there and explore with a better piece of mind, and not to mention a healthier overall well-being.
Do you have any more helpful tips to add for traveling with a food allergy? PLEASE SHARE! I’m always open to new suggestions! 🙂