a image of a table at restaurant in italy with a yellow table cloths eating shellfish free in italy

How to Eat Shellfish Free in Italy | Fish Free in Italy

Is Italy on your bucket list of places to travel? It is such a beautiful destination with so many amazing sights to see and delicious flavors to immerse yourself in. However, for those with a fish or shellfish allergy, it can be a daunting experience, especially with the strong presence of fresh fish in coastal towns and throughout Italy. Don’t let that keep you from booking that dream Italian vacation, though. In this blog post, I’m sharing considerations and preparations to help you navigate every meal while eating shellfish free in Italy. 

Looking for more resources on traveling to Italy with various food allergies? Check out my Italy food allergy country guide as well as my blog posts on traveling to Italy while eating gluten free, nut free, egg free, dairy free, or soy free. 


Navigating a Shellfish Allergy in Italy

While coastal areas like the Amalfi Coast and Cinque Terre are most popular for their fresh fish and seafood, shellfish is not just kept on the coast. You will find shellfish dishes throughout Italy, especially in towns like Rome, Florence, and more. It is important to set expectations when selecting what cities to stay in. If you are going to stay in small seaside cities and towns, then having an apartment with a kitchen will give you the ability to eat safely if restaurants are not able to accommodate your needs.

Shellfish is commonly used in pasta dishes throughout the region, but it will also be found in standalone dishes too, such as soups, salads, and seafood specialties. 

When doing your restaurant research and choosing the best options for you and your family to dine, it will all come down to how comfortable you are with shellfish on the menu and the cross-contamination protocols in place. 

Pizzerias will likely offer the greatest variety of shellfish free options, and sometimes, will have no shellfish present in their kitchen at all. This can offer a sense of confidence for shellfish allergy travelers. 

When planning and traveling, be sure to do your research ahead of time to find restaurants that have solid protocols in place and can accommodate your allergies. Communicate with chefs and restaurant staff thoroughly to ensure everyone is on the same page around your allergies, needs, and cross-contamination risks. 

Keep your food allergy chef card in Italian on hand at all times so you can clearly communicate your dietary restrictions with confidence. . 

It’s also important to keep in mind that the Italian word for shellfish is: pescare and the Italian word for fish is: crostacei. This will give you another level of confidence when communicating about your allergies and needs. However, if you are allergic to specific shellfish or fish, I always recommend listing them out individually to help. 


How to Eat Shellfish Free In Italy

With a better understanding of navigating a shellfish allergy in Italy, it’s time to take a look at some great meal options and considerations for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. 



Italian breakfasts typically consist of delicious pastries, bread, fruit, and coffee/espresso. Shellfish is not common in American or Italian breakfast, which can give those with fish allergies a bit more confidence and peace of mind going in. 

However, if the hotel you’re staying at is also preparing for lunch while breakfast is happening, there is more risk of cross-contamination with fish and shellfish. Be sure to communicate with hotel staff ahead of time to check on this and their protocols. Breakfast menus and dining schedules differ from hotel to hotel, so always ask questions about ingredients and cross-contamination. 


Italians like to savor various dishes at lunchtime, with most lunches consisting of 3 different dishes followed by a light dessert and/or espresso. 

Lunch often begins with a primo (a soup, pasta, or risotto dish). Fish and shellfish is popular in soups and pastas, especially on the coast, so be sure to double-check the menus and communicate with restaurant staff when looking for places to dine for lunch. 

The next dish is a secondo, which is a meat or fish-based dish. Of course cross-contamination is a risk at restaurants where fish is on the menu, so again, call ahead to make sure they have other meat dishes available and you feel comfortable with their protocols. If you’re traveling on the coast, there’s a good chance that seafood will be present, so use extra diligence and stick to restaurants that you feel comfortable with and confident in their allergy protocols. 

The last dish is a contorno, which is a vegetable side dish. These dishes are typically easy to customize according to your needs and won’t contain fish or shellfish, but again, double-check to make sure. 

Some restaurants will offer special seafood dishes and other options with seafood at lunchtime, so keep that in mind when planning your meals. 

Pizza is not typically on lunch menus due to wood-fire grills taking a while to heat up for the dinner rush, but if you’re craving a yummy pizza that is shellfish free, you can find pizza present, especially in more touristy areas.

shellfish free pizza in italy overlooking water.


Italian dinner can follow a similar set of courses as lunch, but this is the time of day when the pizza ovens are fired up and pizza is a popular choice. Again, pizzerias don’t typically use fish products, and some may be totally free of fish and shellfish (which is great for you!). Do your restaurant research to find these restaurants and places to eat that you feel comfortable at. 

You will also find restaurants that offer seasonal, fresh dishes, and this is where seafood is more likely to come into play, especially on the coast. Call and ask about their protocols and if there are other options, free of fish or cross-contamination. This may be fresh pasta, meat, risotto, gnocchi, and vegetable dishes, etc. 


Traveling to Italy With Shellfish Allergy

While traveling with a shellfish allergy in Italy may be stressful, you can plan ahead and navigate your dining experiences with confidence by familiarizing yourself with Italian cuisines, meal structures, and the various restaurants in different regions. Be proactive about your shellfish allergy and/or fish allergy in Italy and never be afraid to ask questions, double-check for understanding, and confirm restaurant protocols and ingredients. It’s always better to be safe rather than sorry (or unsure!). Going more simple, like pizza, pasta, or meat dishes can help you feel more confident.

Eating shellfish free in Italy is possible, and with the right planning and choice of restaurants for each meal, you can savor the flavors of Italy with confidence. 

If you’re ready to plan your dream Italian vacation and reduce the stress and overwhelm of planning for your food allergies, visit my contact page to book a consultation with me and inquire about my full-service travel planning

With full service travel planning, I take care of everything from flights, accommodations, activities, and then you can add on restaurant research for complete trip help! All completely personalized to your allergies and needs!



I'm Lauren!

Food Allergy Travel Agent + your advocate for a well-planned ( + delicious) vacation.

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