When I turned 40, it hit me – I was supposed to have lived in Italy my entire life…but somehow I didn’t! I think for many of us, forty marks something significant. You can look back and see your victories and your woes. You start to realize that time is precious and you can see which dreams are still yet to live.
So, on the eve of my 40th birthday, I made a firm decision that every year going forward, I would have to visit Italy – for my self-care, my health-care and so I wouldn’t go insane and lose it on my family! 🙂
Luckily, my amazing husband was completely on board. And last year, I took a two week trip to Italy completely by myself. It was a magical thing. But before I left, I was pretty anxious.
You see, I had actually lived in Italy before; 12 years before in fact, and at that time, I was completely unaware of even the concept of gluten-free….and I didn’t remember anyone eating “gluten-free” in Italy. So I was a little worried.
When I lived in Italy, I hadn’t developed Hashimoto’s yet and didn’t know that in the future, I would have to follow a gluten-free diet. In fact, that would’ve sounded preposterous to 29 year old me, a trained chef and foodie who ate everything she wanted to whenever she wanted. So, going back to Italy, now with a gluten and dairy sensitivity, seemed pretty daunting.
What surprised me though was how incredibly easy it was to find gluten-free options anywhere I went. In fact, having a gluten allergy or sensitivity is actually respected without the roll-of-the-eyes you often get in the States.
So why are Italians with a seemingly gluten-heavy diet so respectful of those with gluten restrictions? Because they care about food…and they care that you enjoy your food…and they have one of the fastest growing populations of celiac conditions.
In Italy, children are actually tested for celiac and if they test positive for it, the family is given a stipend to offset any extra expense to the cost of gluten-free food. What?!?! Amazing!
I can tell you, it hasn’t mattered where I’ve been in Italy, I was able to find a gluten-free option….and it was always delicious!
Last year, I was driving down a quiet road in the middle of nowhere toward the bottom edge of Italy. My guide and I stopped at a roadside fish fry place…this place was literally paces away from the ocean. The restaurant received the daily catch and would fry it up for visitors. So we stopped and asked if they had some gluten-free options. Even on this stretch of abandoned road, at a tiny, local fish fry place, they had SOOO many options. Everything could be fried in a separate fryer with gluten-free flour, every pasta dish was available with gluten-free pasta and they even had some gluten-free dessert options. It was BEYOND fantastic and totally yummy.
This has not been a rare occurrence for me. Everywhere I went in Italy, I was able to find a delicious, gluten-free option and the restaurant staff always understood the difference between a gluten-sensitivity and celiac…and they always respected my requests.
Coming soon, I’ll be sharing guides with lists of restaurants I stop at during my food crawls so you can enjoy this gluten free bliss as well. In the meantime, head over to our Facebook page, where you can see where I’m eating in real time! (plus, you can grab the restaurant’s contact info from there) You’re gonna be so happy!!!