A Gluten-Free Guide to the World’s Carbiest Country
Alexa, Florence, Fall 2017
September 20, 2017

If you think being gluten-free in Italy is impossible, you are wrong; if you think it is a struggle, you are wrong; & if you think you will starve for four months, you are wrong!  Due to health reasons, I am gluten free.  So coming to Italy to study abroad raised some concerns of what I would be able to eat. This was especially true because food is so imbedded in to Italian culture and I did not want to miss out! I am also lactose intolerant which limits my options further.

A delicious donut-style pastry

To my surprise, it didn’t take much searching to find several options for gluten-free pasta, pizza, and even gelato cones–my personal favorite. My first day in Florence, I went to a restaurant, Ristorante Boccadama, near my apartment. It’s outdoor seating is outside of the Piazza Santa Croce. I ordered gluten free pasta and it is still my favorite pasta I’ve had since moving here. When ordering gluten free food ask for “senza glutine,” or look for it on the labels in the grocery stores. Most of the grocery stores have a good selection for gluten-free food, but the larger stores have more options.

Piazza Santa Croce

If you have class in the FUA Corso dei Tintori building you can stop at Starbene, an entirely senza glutine bakery. I absolutely love this bakery and stop there almost once a day. They have a wide variety of pastries, pizzas, pastas, and breads. If you can’t have lactose they also have “senza lattosio,” lactose free, and vegan options.

The amount of gluten free options within five minutes of my apartment blew my mind. I was so concerned about moving here because I thought I would be unable to eat out at all unless I was ordering a salad. I thought I was going to miss out on the true Italian experience because of my medical condition. I’m pleased to say I have not missed out on anything since I have been here. I even found gluten-free cones at a little gelato shop, La Carraia. I highly recommend getting the frutti di bosco (mixed berries) and dark chocolate. Both are dairy free if you prefer vegan options.

Me + gelato

I went to Osteria De Peccatori, where I got the vegetarian pizza with no cheese along with with a gluten free beer. The waiters were so sweet. They accidentally brought me out regular beer and then let my friend have the beer for free when they brought out my “birra senza glutine.” Our waiter also entertained us with some great singing while we enjoyed our food. If you just want to eat pizza at home instead of going out there is a delivery option.

I learned on a day trip to Siena some of the Italian pastries are already made gluten free, not as an alternative option. At Nannini, I ordered an entire bag of “ricciarelli alla mandorla e cioccolato.” These small cookies are made of almond flour, honey, eggs, and powdered sugar. I bought both the original and chocolate cookies. I finished the bag by the end of the day because of how addicting they were.

Pasta, pasta, pasta

I have come to believe the gluten-free food here in Italy is even better than the options available in America. So don’t worry about having dietary restrictions while studying abroad because there is always great food options. The SAI program provided me with a lot of information on where to shop and made my experience amazing. Even going on weekend trips where I am not familiar with the restaurants is easy because if they are through the SAI program, the directors make sure there are food options for me. Even if the trips are booked on your own, it is easy, all you have to do is type in gluten-free or senza glutine into YELP. I would recommend bookmarking some options ahead of time and saving the places you find on your own while just exploring.

Alexa is a SAI/ Florence University of the Arts (FUA) student from Saint Mary’s College of California.

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About SAI

SAI is dedicated to providing academic and cultural learning experiences abroad that enhance global awareness, professional development and social responsibility. We concentrate our programs in Europe, with a focus on in-depth learning of individual European countries and their unique global role in the geopolitical economy, humanities, and in the arts.