After 2 weeks in beautiful Spain, it was time to conquer our next country. After a helluva expensive flight from San Sebastian to Nice (via Barcelona), delayed baggage and a 3-train journey from Nice, we had arrived in Florence.
For this Allergian, Italian food is a clear winner. Not only is it extremely tasty. But more importantly, it’s safe. At any Italian restaurant, I can find many options for what to order (and no this is not normal for me with most other cuisines). Nuts tend only to feature by way of pesto or pine nuts and in my experience, this is always clearly identified. Combine this with the fact that I love carb-licious, fresh, delectable bread, pasta and pizza (and anything else of this variety), I had arrived in Allergian heaven (excluding the lactose intolerance issue, which I sometimes naughtily like to overlook).
For those of you who feel sorry for the poor deprived BF, who unfortunately may miss out sometimes because of my allergies, I’ll have you know that in Italy he had a ball. With all the gelato, waffles, crepes, Italian hot chocolates, crème brulees ETC ETC that Italy is famous for, he went all out and had the time of his life. Me on the other hand.. not so successful.
Before I get into the specifics of each city I visited in Italy, let me make a few general statements and observations about Italy.
Firstly, in Italy, the term “pesto” does not always mean the same thing as it does here in Australia. In Australia, pesto always contains nuts in some form or another, usually pine nuts, so I always avoid it. But in Italy, I discovered that often (perhaps always, but don’t quote me on that), pesto does not actually contain nuts. Rather, it was more of a herb/oregano type mixture. DO NOT just assume this though. Always always check!! Even if the first 5 restaurants you ask do not use nuts in their pesto, I would still always check just to be sure.
Secondly, if you do not eat pork, like me, always check whether the dish you are ordering (particularly in the case of pastas) contain pork. For example, bolognese will often be made with a mixture of beef and pork. The restaurant will always tell you which meat they use if you ask. I had a very funny conversation with a waitress in Rome when I asked what meat they used for their bolognese. She wasn’t sure how to say the words in English, so we started using animal sounds like “oink oink” to communicate the message – it was hilarious!
Thirdly, in Italy I discovered a pasta dish that was simple and basic, yet tasty. I ordered this whenever I was sick of eating out, felt a little bit off, or felt like something a bit more bland. It’s usually called something along the lines of “spaghetti aglio, olio e pepperoncino” and it is comprised of spaghetti, olive oil, garlic and chilli flakes (I usually asked for a half serve of the chili flakes). A great, safe, allergy-friendly option! I’ve even started making this at home, using fresh pasta that my dad and I have (almost) mastered!
One thing I loved about Italy was the bread. Yes, it sounds incredibly sad. Almost every restaurant gives you a serve of bread with your meal. From our observations, a lot of people don’t even eat their bread, or have only a piece or two. For me and the BF, this was one of the highlights of each meal! Delicious, soft, fresh bread, dipped in olive oil and balsamic. The perfect side to our meal. Delizioso!
For nut Allergians, dining in Italy will be a breeze compared to other European countries. I can’t say the same for those with gluten intolerances though! They would probably miss out on most of the deliciousness of Italian food. From what I paid attention to (which wasn’t a whole lot), I don’t think that GF options are as common in Italy as in Australia, where there is “* GF option available” on almost every restaurant menu. I would love to hear from those who can comment on how prevalent GF options are in Italy.
Something that all Allergians can enjoy, except possibly the fructards, is wine. I am nothing close to a wine connoisseur, but I am somewhat fussy as to which wines I enjoy and which I don’t (and there is not necessarily any correlation between price and my enjoyment). But in Italy, almost all the wine is amazing. You can order the house wine in any restaurant and it will be superb. The waiters even recommend the house wine over the other wines served. IMO, the house wines in Australian restaurants are usually quite average. But Italy is famed for its wine, and it definitely lives up to its reputation!
Stay posted for allergy-filled (and other) stories from my travels around Italy.
Until next time… buon appetito!
The Allergian Abroad