Italy is an amazing travel destination filled with coastal views, beautiful cities, and diverse regions. No matter where you’re traveling in this European country, you are sure to experience breathtaking scenery and delicious Italian food.
If you’re traveling to Italy with food allergies, it is, of course, crucial to do your research to ensure you have a safe and enjoyable experience. You’ll be excited to learn that Italy has a farm-to-table mentality and focuses on using natural ingredients in their cooking. This makes it easier to understand what’s in the food on the menu so you can find made-to-order items with natural ingredients, allowing for easy substitutions to fit your dietary needs. All of this combined makes Italy a great travel destination for families with food allergies. Now, let’s dive into how you can confidently indulge in the flavors of Italy with less stress and worry!
Exploring the Culinary Delight of Italian Food
Italy is known for its rich culinary history and specialty cuisines. Whether you’re indulging in fresh seafood from the coast, delicious pizza and pasta dishes from across the country, or the wide variety of meats available, your tastebuds will never be left without a flavorful experience.
What makes Italy truly unique and a great place to visit while traveling to Europe with food allergies is its commitment to using simple, fresh, and natural ingredients. Not only does this make Italian cuisine taste amazing, but it minimizes the presence of many common allergens, making it easier to find safe dishes prepared to your liking. These simple fresh ingredients go a long way and make a world of a difference when eating out in Italy with food allergies.
Understanding Restaurants in Italy and Their Policies
As a food allergy travel agent, I am a strong advocate for doing your restaurant research ahead of time so you can better understand the restaurants you’ll be dining in and their policies around food allergies.
Luckily, restaurants in Italy are generally well-informed about handling food allergies. However, not every restaurant is able to accommodate every single food allergy. While one restaurant may be able to accommodate the 6 top allergies, they may not be equipped to handle allergies outside of that scope. That’s why I ALWAYS recommend doing your research and contacting the restaurants ahead of time when planning your trip. Don’t just rely on online recommendations alone, but make contact with the restaurant specifically to discuss your food allergies, your dietary needs, and determine if they can accommodate you and your family.
Many restaurants have policies in place regarding cross-contamination and working with food allergies. This can include separate cookware, separate prep areas, and even separate kitchens in some restaurants. However, some restaurants will not have these same policies and accommodations available, which is another reason why pre-planning is key. Trust me, it will save you from running around hungry!
Food Allergen Regulations in Italy
In December 2014, EU Regulation 1169/2011 came into effect in Italy and other European countries. According to FARE, this regulation requires food establishments, such as bakeries, butchers, confectioners, ice cream parlors, restaurants, hotels, clinics, etc, to declare allergenic ingredients in non-prepacked foods.
While each member state gets to choose how they provide allergenic information, Italy can provide it orally or in writing, such as on a board, in a menu, on a sign next to the food, in a folder, or on a form. If the allergen information is provided orally, such as during your pre-planning call to the restaurant, there must be a way to easily access written documentation upon request.
However, due to the dangerous nature of exposing yourself to harmful allergens, Food Allergy Italia advises that consumers with food allergies always request written allergen information.
Since this regulation passed in 2014, there have been significant improvements to labeling and information in Italy. However, when you are traveling in Italy with food allergies and are hungry after a long day of exploring, you want to feel confident knowing exactly what is safe and where you can eat. Reservations are recommended for families with food allergies, especially during peak travel season.
Doing your restaurant research and reaching out to restaurants before your trip or booking my restaurant research service is an important step so you know where you can safely dine and make reservations in advance. This will ensure you have an enjoyable and less stressful experience.
Food Allergy Vacation Options in Italy
When traveling to Italy with food allergies, you’ll find there are a lot of gluten-free options across the country with the AIC (Celiac Association). Peanuts aren’t as widely used, but they can be found in oils and some dishes. Tree nuts are the bigger issue in Italy, mainly with the use of pesto, but walnuts and pistachios are also commonly used on dishes like salads.
In larger cities, you can find dairy-free cheese options for pizza. Egg is going to be found in freshly made pasta dishes. In this instance, spaghetti is typically the better route to take if you have an egg allergy.
Soy is often used in dairy-free options, such as soy milk in cafes. Therefore, it’s best to confirm the use of soy in products, especially coffee and tea drinks. Generally, a lot of fresh ingredients don’t use soy in Italy.
Overall, the use of fresh ingredients in authentic Italian cuisine limits the use of popular allergens in recipes. However, that does not mean that’s the case in ALL places or that cross-contamination isn’t at play. As always, it’s best to do your due diligence, research, and ask questions at each restaurant you’ll be dining at.
Must-Do’s When Traveling in Italy With Food Allergies
While researching and contacting specific restaurants about your food allergy needs is key during the pre-planning phase, there are some other must-do’s to consider while traveling in Italy with food allergies. It’s important to think beyond restaurants and consider how your food allergies may be impacted in other aspects of your trip.
Consider Your Activities
Be sure to do your research and ask questions when booking activities such as cooking classes, excursions, activities, transfers, and more. Food allergies are not just present in restaurants, but extend to multiple other places on your trip. If you have airborne allergies, inform all drivers and tour guides about your food allergies and the potential for anaphylactic reaction so they can ensure no one present in the vehicle consumes nuts.
Be Your Own Advocate
While Italy is a great destination for food allergies and does have a lot of farm-to-table options, it’s not guaranteed that all of the food will match your safety precautions and needs. Italian people are incredibly welcoming, but it is your job to educate them about your food allergies and make decisions for yourself based on how they prepare for food allergies and what policies they have in place. Even if you reach out during the pre-planning phase of your trip, menus, chefs, and protocols can always change, so it’s important to be prepared, follow up, and confirm details before dining in.
Book Accommodations With Your Own Kitchen
Having a kitchen in your accommodation to cook meals in, especially breakfast, helps you feel confident that you can always whip up a meal or snack that satisfies your needs. Most breakfast items in Italy aren’t the best options for a large amount of allergies, so it may be beneficial to plan to cook your own breakfasts in your kitchen before heading out to explore. It will give you a relaxing and worry-free start to your day.
Overall, Italy offers a diverse and delicious culinary experience for travelers with food allergies. By understanding the specialty cuisines of the country, the policies and accommodations of each restaurant, and considering the activities you’ll be participating in, you can complete thorough research during your pre-planning phase to ensure you have a plan of where you can safely eat before you take off on your Italian adventure. With careful planning and consideration, your Italian vacation can be one full of memories and tasty foods for you to enjoy, all while accommodating your food allergies.
For more information on how you can work with me as a Food Allergy Travel Agent, visit our contact page to book a consultation call or learn more about our full-service travel planning!