(with useful translations and a restaurant food allergy restaurant card)

Eating out in Italy is one of the pleasures of visiting this part of the world. Happily, with a vast array of fresh ingredients at hand and an inate sense of quality dining, most restaurants do not find it difficult to provide for customers with dietary restrictions. In fact, the Italian spirit of hospitality spurs them to making sure you find something digestible and delicious.

Tuscan Tomatoes
Food allergies and intolerances are not at all to be taken lightly, but as some Italians themselves are also lactose-intolerant or celiac, strides have already been made in Italy to provide alternatives for those needing to avoid certain ingredients. Gelato can be with rice or soy milk instead of dairy and breads are also made of flours that exclude wheat.

Help for Celiacs in Italy

If you are celiac rather than just gluten intolerant, it can be crucial that you can communicate this to the restaurant. We've made a PDF sheet you can download with a statement in Italian that you can show your waiter. We've also made a handy phrase book with some words you might need when speaking to waiters.

Download Celiac Restaurant Sheet

Download Italian Food Allergy Sheet.

There is also a website that lists restaurants that have declared that they are Celiac aware and prepared. We haven't tested it, and i think it relies on self-declaring, but at the very least it shows that the restaurants are aware of the issue. Our experience so far with Italian restaurants has actually been very good, so this is worth exploring:

Ristoranti per Celiaci

How to find gluten free, vegan or vegetarian items on the menu

Spring Vegan Risotto
Nowadays many Tuscan menus will indicate dishes that are vegetarian or vegan and may warn you if they contain certain allergens. But if you do not see these indications, rather than sitting flummoxed at the menu wondering what might be hidden in a dish you are tempted to order, take the lead – speak to the waiter and be as direct as possible. Rather than using a label that the waiter might not understand, indicate what you need to avoid. Come armed with a few useful phrases or perhaps a printed restaurant card.

Useful phrases for Italian Restaurants

I’m allergic to… Sono allergico a……

I'm celiac Sono Celiaco

I can’t digest …. Non posso digerire….

I’m vegetarian Sono vegetariano / a

Is this made without….È senza …..

Nuts: Noci (NO-chee) g., Peanuts: Arachidi (ah-RAK-ee-dee)

Gluten: Glutine (GLOO-tee-nay)

Dairy: Latosio (lah-TOE-see-oh)

Cheese: Formaggio (for-MAH-jee-oh)

Milk: Latte (LAH-tay)

Alcohol: Bevande Alcoliche (bee-an-day al-COL-ee-kay)

Sulfates: Solfati (sol-FAH-tee)

Soy: Soia (SOY-ah)

Shell fish: Crostacei (croh-STAH-chay-ee) or Molluschi (mol-OOS-key)

Tropical Fruit: Frutta Tropicale (FROO-tah troh-pee-KAH-lay)

Wheat: Grano (GRAH-noh)

Eggs: Uovo (oo-OH-voh)

Red Meat: Carne (CAR-nay)

Chicken: Pollo (POH-loh)

Pork: Maiale (my-AH-lay)

Fish: Pesce (PEH-sheh)

Download Food Allergy Sheet.

Alternatives for vegetarians or vegans

Vegetarian Pizza
If Vegan or Vegetarian the gardens of Italy provide you with great choice. Sun-ripened tomatoes and basil on toast are drizzled with oil in Bruschetta. Vegetables have a starring role on pizzas – if you need to avoid dairy, try a Marinara with anchovies and garlic. Similarly, many pastas feature vegetables, e.g., Penne all’arrabbiata, with tomatoes and chili doesn’t need meat or daily to spice it up. And of course under Contorni, or side dishes, you will find salads and grilled vegetables aplenty.

for example: Bruschetta al pomodoro, Vegetarian pizza, Verdure grigliate, Pasta all'arrabbiata

Gluten-free alternatives

Creamy Polenta with Mushrooms
If needing to be gluten-free you have many options. Polenta, creamy or fried, is made of corn meal; Farinata comes from chick-pea flour. Rice in the form of Risotto or Insalata features various vegetables, as do Tuscany’s delicious lentils, often served as Zuppa di lenticchie. For those who miss pasta, Gnocchi, usually made of potatoes, is an excellent substitute, though now gluten-free pasta options are also available.

for example: Risotto agli asparagi, Farinata, Polenta, Potato gnocchi, Zuppa di lenticchie, Insalata di riso

Life-threatening allergies:

If you have life-threatening allergies, it is always best to:

  • Carry a translating card explaining your food allergies
  • Order simple dishes with few ingredients
  • Avoid fried foods
  • Avoid stuffed pasta
  • Avoid buffets
  • Be careful about ice creams and cakes.

For allergies, Download Food Allergy Sheet.

How to find Vegan and vegetarian restaurants.

If you would rather not have to investigate on your own what has gone into the dish, there are an increasing number of Vegetarian and Vegan places to eat that have taken care of that for you.

We've made a list of good vegan and vegetarian restaurants in Tuscany - you can find more on the Happy Cow listing of Vegan and Vegetarian restaurants in Italy.

What can help if you feel ill

Pharmaceutical relief

To alleviate the effect of food allergies, or even just sensitivity, here are some products you can pick-up at the local farmacia.

  • Head Aches: Mal di Testa (mal dee TES-tah)
  • Aspirin: Aspirina (ass-pee-REE-nah)
  • Ibuprofen: Ibuprofene (ee-boo-proh-FEE-nay)
  • Tylenol: Acetaminofene (ah-CHET-ah-mee-noh-fen-ay)
  • Nausea and diarrhea: Nausea (NOW-zee-ah) e Diarrhea (dee-ah-RAY-ah)
  • Immodium (same name brand in Italy as in US)
  • Biochetasi (bee-oh-kay-TAH-see), like US Alka-Seltzer
  • Skin Rashes and Hives: Sfogo Cutaneo (SFOH-go COO-tah-nay-oh) e Orticaria (OR-tee-car-ee-ah)
  • Antihistamine: Antistaminico (an-TEE-stah-min-ee-coh). Brands include Loratadina, Fristamin, and Clarityn. May require a doctor’s prescription.
  • Cortisone: Cortizone (cor-tee-ZOH-nay). Can be administered by pills, shots, or creams. Requires a doctor’s prescription.

Getting immediate medical help

Call the health emergency number 118 immediately if the you or a member of your group is having an anaphylactic reaction. Give them the name, address and phone number and explain what brought on the shock due to food allergies, as well as information about symptoms and conditions. Keep the person in an upright position, and do not give them anything to drink.