For all you dessert lovers out there, I hope you’ve read Part 1 of this post which discussed why my ability to enjoy desserts in Florence was less than successful, to my dismay. With all the Nutella served as a topping on waffles and crepes, the nut-flavoured gelatos, the peanut-coated gelato cones and the nutty chocolate goodies, nuts were everywhere in this sweeter side of Florence. Luckily I am sweet enough already. Oh, but the smell of waffles wafting through the air…. Torture.
I was desperate to try some gelato in Florence.
I am a huge ice cream fan. And Italy is famous for gelato.
No.1 ice cream fan + world’s best ice cream should = a perfect combo.
In Florence, I looked, without fail, at every single gelateria in the desperate (hopeless) attempt to find a place that didn’t have any nut flavours. Zilch. You can’t say I’m not determined!
But one day, we were recommended by a local to go to “THE BEST GELATO PLACE IN FLORENCE”. How could we resist? Gelateria della Passera. We were intrigued – a local’s recommendation must be good. It took us a while to find the place between our useless sense of direction and our inability to properly understand the local’s Italian pronunciation of street names. We eventually found it, funnily enough, right across the road from Quattro Leoni (where you can go enjoy the pear ravioli before treating yourself to some delicious gelato – see our previous post here).
We went inside and the BF ordered his gelato. They only had 6-8 flavours, and each was in a metal tub which you couldn’t see the contents of. I had been told that the best gelato places were the ones that didn’t have bright, colourful and overfilled gelato – these were just typical tourist traps. I watched the lady who was serving us very carefully take the spoon, scoop a flavour of gelato onto the cone and then put the spoon in the basin to be washed. She then took a new spoon, scooped the next flavour and put that in the basin too. We paid for the BF’s ice cream (really cheap too – what a bonus!) and went to sit in the lovely courtyard area while he enjoyed his gelato (and I enjoyed the sun).
After hearing him express his immense pleasure with this gelato (yeh yeh, I’m a super nice GF who allows him to gloat to me about all the treats I cannot enjoy), I began wondering – she had been so careful when serving it, but were they always so careful? They also had only 1 nut flavour (which wasn’t peanuts). With this glimmer of hope, the BF excitedly went to speak to the shopkeeper, who confirmed that they are always careful as they don’t like to mix the flavours (these were true Italians, taking pride in their gelato and not just seeking out tourists). She also said that she had brought out brand new tubs of gelato that morning so the entire tub had been treated by only her, in this careful manner. I took the plunge and ordered myself a vanilla and coffee gelato. I was nervous at first, but I knew that I was being neurotic since I had watched how careful she was. I enjoyed my drooool-worthy gelato and lived to tell the tale! And now I can even say that I got to taste gelato in Italy.
I also enjoyed a soft serve strawberry gelato at La Milkeria (near the Duomo). The BF enjoyed a waffle with white chocolate sauce (which I couldn’t eat because of the Nutella in the vicinity), but the ice cream was served out of a soft serve machine, so was free of cross-contamination risk. This was pretty tasty, but not as delicious as the more authentic gelato from Gelateria della Passera.
I had only one almost run-in with nuts (those sneaky buggers are just everywhere aren’t they). The BF and I were on the hunt for the best Italian hot chocolate. We had heard these were spectacular so, as people obsessed with chocolate (but really, who isn’t?), hunt we did. Unfortunately for us, these famed Italian hot chocolates don’t have much of a presence in summer. Why oh why? I never knew that chocolate (hot or cold) was season-dependent…
We managed to narrow down on a restaurant that was known for their delicious hot chocolates – Rivoire on Palazza Vecchio. And YAY they were serving them in summer. We got a table outside to soak up some sun, looking forward to resting our feet after wayyy too much walking. We both ordered Italian hot chocolates and I told the waiter about my allergy. He responded telling me that I couldn’t have the hot chocolate because it contained “gianduja”. I had never heard of this before. While people do often mistakenly categorise something as an allergen (a common one being sesame, or my weird bean story), chocolate was more likely to contain nuts so I didn’t take the risk.
Believe it or not, gianduja does contain nuts – it is, in fact, a chocolate spread made with hazelnut paste! I guess you learn something new every day (and definitely something in each new city you visit).
I spontaneously made the decision to order a coke zero instead. It tasted mighty fine (though not as fine as the apparently AMAYYYYZING hot chocolate that the BF enjoyed), ice cold and quenched my thirst on the hot summer’s day. Until I got the bill. I knew that you paid a premium for sitting down at restaurants in Italy, especially on the main square. But $9 AUD for a 330 mL of coke was beyooond. In conclusion: Rivoire – definitely worth a visit for the Italian hot chocolates (if you are not allergic to nuts) and the atmosphere, but less so for the coke zero!
Ironically, the only Italian hot chocolate I got to enjoy on this trip was in Paris. Our daily breakfast bakery – Paul’s – served a to-die-for Italian hot chocolate that was made by them and was entirely nut free. I had this a couple of times (I had to restrain myself due to the lactose), so it sort of kinda almost made up for the lack-of in Italy.
A few other tips for travelling to Florence with a nut allergy:
- As amazing as the desserts may be, they aren’t worth risking your life over. Make sure you are confident that a place is free of the risk of cross-contamination and that servers/waiters understand your allergy. I felt that the Italians generally had quite a good understanding of allergies, but be sure to judge each situation independently. You are likely to come across restaurants or shops that are safe enough for you to enjoy a few treats. If you are comfortable, then enjoy away!
- Don’t just assume that you won’t be able to enjoy anything – be sure to ask, because you never know what you might be able to enjoy!
- Force feed your travel partner any dessert that you like the look of, just so you can enjoy it by way of your other senses which, while not nearly as good, is better than nothing 😉
- If you are travelling with young children, it can be difficult for them to miss out on those treats that they are eyeing or that others around them are enjoying. The good news is that there are a few options:
- There are quite a few restaurants/cafes that serve slurpee/granita drinks that are a nice dessert option and I would decide are safe from an allergy perspective as they are pretty much free of cross-contamination risks (separate machine, aren’t served with hands etc).
- If you want to treat your child, take them to a store where they can buy some packaged Italian treats. I particularly liked Alessi Bottiglieria (near the Duomo), which stocks candy, delicious Italian chocolate, hot chocolate sachets, biscuits and every other treat imaginable (predominantly with English ingredients). This way, your child can choose something they like and won’t miss out, and you can feel comfortable at the same time!
In summary, Florence pretty much balances itself out – what we can’t eat by way of desserts, we can enjoy by way of meals. I think that it’s probably much harder to make pasta of the same quality as you may find in Italy, than it would be to make delicious waffles or crepes at home. So be an optimist and enjoy the fact that you can enjoy great Italian food, almost completely worry-free!