‟Senza glutine” in Italy!

Monica says:

My husband, Lewie, and I were so fortunate to go on our ‟dream trip” to Italy a few weeks ago. We travelled from the US to Lake Como and then worked our way south to Rome on a tour with TravelWorld.

This tour was hosted by our pastor, Fr. Jack Lambert, and as a group of 45, we saw a great deal between those two cities. Since I am gluten-free, my first questions when booking the trip were, ‟Can you accommodate my gluten-free diet?” and ‟How hard will it be for me to find gluten-free food while in Italy?”

How can you visit the great land of pasta and be gluten-free?

Both questions were answered with ‟We’ve had many people on our Italy tours, and all of them were pleased with the food accommodations.”

So we said, ‟Let’s do it!”

Overall, I can say I was well taken care of…since we were part of this tour, we had several group dinners included. These were wonderful! The chefs at each of the venues took such great care of me, it was almost embarrassing! They were so attentive and the food was delightful!

While on our own, it was much more challenging! Especially during lunchtime….I mostly existed on salads! And I was hungry most of the time, while everyone else filled up on pizza, cannoli, Panini sandwiches, etc. This was really tough for me! All I wanted to find was gluten-free pizza!!

If we had been on our own, we most likely would have been able to chart out where to go for lunch beforehand, but because we were always on a time crunch and couldn’t take the time to get a taxi to find gluten-free food, it was upsetting.

So I had salad, salad, and did I say salad?

Our first day in Lake Como was so incredibly beautiful but very windy. We were unaware at the time that the hurricane winds from Bermuda were funneling over Europe. We wore our gelato after eating lunch! Here is a picture of my lovely ‟insalata”! The greens were so fresh, they tasted like they were just picked out of the garden!

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And this was an antipasti ordered by our traveling companions, Marge and Tom….the cheese was incredible….melted in your mouth!

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Our evening meal at the Palace Hotel was amazing! We tasted wines from each region with our dinners, and this one was a winner!

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What we found out right away was that you needed to be very hungry when dinner was planned, since there were several courses, including gluten-free rolls for little old me (which were so yummy!).

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The gluten-free ‟orecchiette” pasta here was served with prawns, olives and cherry tomatoes and was a perfect al dente. How do they do it?

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The main course was a pan-cooked sliced entrcôte steak with rocket salad, parmesan cheese flakes and roast potatoes….oh dear! Just melted in your mouth!

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A selection of crème brûlée was served for dessert….mine without the crunchy hazelnut biscuit….to ensure that it was gluten-free! Delightful!

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The next morning we were off to Venice by way of Padua, and before we left, I enjoyed a great breakfast.

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It’s a good thing because once again, I had a salad for lunch! But when we arrived in Venice, we were so amazed by the ‟floating city,” food was the last thing on our minds….until much later, when we had a group dinner at Ristorante Noemi , where I had an antipasti, gluten-free pasta with mushrooms and a ‟special dessert” made just for me!

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This pasta was the best that I tasted in Italy….it was perfectly cooked and since I love mushrooms, I was in heaven!

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And my dessert….cherries jubilee! It paid to be gluten-free that night!

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The next morning we had a morning walking tour of Venice and there was very little for me to eat at our hotel, Hotel la Fenice et des Artistes, for breakfast. I grabbed some vanilla yogurt and added some cocoa krispy flakes to flavor it….wasn’t too bad!

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After the tour, we were on our own and luckily found a great little place called Beppino, where I found a great seafood risotto. We were able to have a great sit-down lunch and enjoy our food!

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Our afternoon and early evening were sightseeing and tasting gelato….we had gelato nearly every day! You just can’t seem to pass up those places….they are like magnets! See what I mean??

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When dinner time arrived, I just wanted something a little lighter. We found a quaint little place, called Ristorante Trattoria Cherubino. Our waiter looked like a friend of mine and it felt so homey there!

We all ordered scallops on the half-shell with zucchini ribbons. They were to die for! I seriously could have eaten just these….tons of them!

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Next, I had a great insalata, followed by veggie soup. Everything tasted so fresh and delicious!

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Lewie had the same dinner except he ordered the seafood soup….which I could have ordered, too! Looks good, huh?

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The next morning, we were on our way to Tuscany, particularly Montecatini Terme. This place could take your breath away….it was so beautiful…one little village after the next with olive trees, lemon trees, and lime trees. Again, I had yogurt for breakfast and when we arrived in Tuscany, we went for a walk to find some lunch and what did I have?

Of course you know! A salad!

For dinner we had a wonderful meal at our hotel, Grand Hotel Tamerici Principe, and I was treated royally! Our wine of the region was a delicious Cianti, which went well with my insalata and gluten-free roll.

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The chickpea soup with fennel was smooth and pleasant. Mine was made just for me (minus the pasta)!

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The main course was breaded veal with ham and cheese, so the chef made me chicken with ham, cheese and sautéed string beans. No la spuma di patate (potatoes mousse) for me tonight!

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No dessert for me tonight! Don’t think I could have fit it anyway!

Our next day began with eggs, bacon, and fruit for breakfast!

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Then we were on to Florence to see the world’s most famous sculpture, Michelangelo’s David at Galleria dell’Accademia. We had such a busy day and of course, I had a salad for lunch.

When we returned to Montecatini Terme, we found a great little place for dinner called Trattoria il Vicolo. The staff was very familiar with ‟senza glutine” (no gluten) and I was very happy! I ordered branzino (sea bass) and it was complemented with a tomato/potato flan….accented with black olives. The fish was perfectly cooked….yummy!

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To top off the meal, I ordered vanilla bean crème brûlée….it had such a great texture!  And it was so tasty!

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I had a repeat breakfast from the day before and then we were off to Rome, by way of Siena. Siena was such a great stop along the way….we loved this medieval city! And it was here that I actually had a lunch of porketta and cheese with balsamic vinegar (minus the bread, of course!). The enoteca (wine bar) was located right off of the Il Campo and it was so delicious….I am just so sad that I forgot to take a picture of it! We had so little time to eat lunch that day!

When we arrived in Rome later that day, we had a group dinner at al Nuovo Fagianetto where I enjoyed some wine and gluten-free penne pasta with marinara sauce.

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My Lewie, ‟Luigi,” met Mario, the owner, and they hit it off immediately….see what I mean?

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To end my simple meal, I had some fruit….simple and delicious!

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It was so nice that our hotel in Rome, called the Best Western Hotel Universo, had a gluten-free menu.

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I ordered a sandwich-to-go for lunch and it was fair….meat a bit too fatty for me! No picture….forgot to photograph it!

After our day of sightseeing in Rome, we had dinner on our own. We were exhausted and decided to try a restaurant nearby the hotel. It was called Trattoria Grotta Amatriciana and turned out to be a fun place! I was able to have a salad….of course!

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And then I ordered baccalà  (cod) with polenta in marinara sauce…..this picture doesn’t do it justice….it was very good!

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Vanilla ice cream with raspberry swirl topped off the meal but didn’t get photographed! I was too excited to eat it!

Our next morning began super early and luckily I had stockpiled some gluten-free items from the Hotel Universo’s kitchen. I started the day with some gluten-free crackers and Magdalenas….thank goodness for Schär products!

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We were off to see Pope Francis and we could hardly contain our excitement! What an honor to be part of the Papal blessing in St. Peter’s Square….something we will never forget! It was the most uplifting event we ever attended!

Upon leaving the Papal blessing, we headed toward the Vatican Museums. One of the women on our tour told me she had spotted a sign for gluten-free pizza the previous day.  We had to check it out….it was our last full day in Italy and I still had not found pizza!

I can’t tell you the elation when we found this sign!!

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And, how about this menu?

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The man who took my order was all smiles, as was I…..he must get this reaction most days! And, I am not kidding….when my gluten-free pizza arrived and I tasted it, I was in heaven! It seriously was the BEST gluten-free pizza I had ever had!

The crust was so wonderful (the closest to ‟regular” wheat crust) and the cheese was gooey and chewy!

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Oh how I wish I could order a takeout right now!!

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At least I have my memories, right?

After I ate ¾ of the pizza….no kidding….we walked and walked and walked….and got lost and lost and lost….thank heavens we had a map (albeit a small, ‟need your bifocals” map)! Between our finding the Trevi Fountain (which was under construction) and the Spanish Steps, we stopped for gelato at Gelateria Siciliana. Mine was raspberry….turned out to be my least favorite of all of my Italy gelatos.

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We got a taxi back to the hotel since we were so tired and on the way back, we witnessed a motorcycle and taxi accident! Both parties were yelling Italian obscenities at each other and everyone around them chimed in …..quite the scene!

For dinner our group returned to al Nuovo Fagianetto and since the owner, Mario, wasn’t there, his second-born son Marco, had to provide my gluten-free dinner. He didn’t speak much English but did his best to accommodate me.  I had a repeat meal of gluten-free pasta and chicken with peppers (but forgot to take a picture!).

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Marco was just as sweet as his dad and of course, we had to have a picture of Marco and ‟Luigi!” As I mentioned above, Marco is one of 9 brothers and has one sister….number 10 son is on the way!! Insert

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Notice the painting behind them….father, Mario, is on the far right!

Words can’t even explain how grateful we are to have experienced Italy. Since both Lewie and I are of Italian descent, this was truly a trip of a lifetime! And we are so happy that two of our best friends, Marge and Tom, got to experience Italy with us….we hope to return someday but until then…

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Arrivederci e Grazie Italia!

© 2014, Monica of glutenfreedoubletalk

 

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