The last big remaining damage from the Lyme Disease this year has been my lingering food allergies/sensitivities. Though I’ve been able to add in a few of the no-no’s recently, I’m still what you would call SUPER LIMITED in terms of eating out safely in the States, let alone in a country where I can’t speak the language.
But, hey, I wasn’t going to let that stop us from saying yes to the gift of our dream vacation. Our trip was unconventional in terms of how we handled meals, but all the prep we did beforehand made the trip a breeze.
Our Pre-Trip To-Do List
1. I Googled like crazy all the allergy friendly restaurants in the cities we would be traveling to. I’d google key words like “Eating in Italy with (list allergies)”, or just keep it simple and google “Gluten Free” restaurants in Italy. Usually, if a restaurant has been trained and certified to serve Celiac customers, they understand safe practices in the kitchen for other allergies.
2. After collecting a nice list of promising restaurants with fantastic blog, yelp or trip advisor reviews from the food-allergic, I went ahead and contacted them, listing my allergies and seeing if they could accommodate me. Most could.
3. We packed food as if we were spending a couple weeks stranded on a desert island. One of our suitcases PLUS a carry-on was full of fun treats we could eat. Jerky, snack bars, dried fruit, canned meats, cream of buckwheat (and a two-cup Pyrex cup to microwave it in), oatmeal, rice crackers, sunflower butter, tea, safe nuts, black-bean pasta, crackers, some chips, and even our own salt and pepper packets…It really saved us hassle and LOADS of money! (oh, and our own dish soap and even dish towel in case)
4. My Aunt helped me translate a “Allergy Card” to flash around. A couple restaurants that I corresponded with pre-trip actually recommended this due to my extensive list of allergens. This card is loosely based off of a template I found.
5. Bring your Benadryl, Epinephrine Injections (I brought 4 in case), and anything else to help in (the unlikely) case of emergency.
6. We LOVED the airBnBs we stayed at and picked ones with full on kitchens. We actually only used our kitchens a few times, but it gave us options and made things really easy.
What Actually Happened In Italy
1. Cooking with peanut oil is a “thing”, and though I didn’t find that it was common, there were a couple restaurants that were not comfortable serving me due to this allergy (lupines are also common, which usually triggers the same reaction in peanut-allergic individuals). I appreciated their honesty. No harm, no foul!
2. Frankly, since we had so much food with us, our problem was more trying to eat it fast enough to make room for souvenirs. Therefore, we planned our exploration routes according to what we wanted to see and do that day instead of making it a point to go to a restaurant we researched…but maybe next time I’d change this due to point #3.
3. I couldn’t order pasta in Italy.
When we went to a restaurant that could accommodate me, I was really picky. All I wanted was GF spaghetti noodles with fresh tomatoes, olives, garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper. WELL, I was a bit shocked to find out that the restaurants we stumbled upon advertising Gluten-Free pasta had noodles with either corn and/or eggs (or traces). Boo hoo! I wish I knew this was a thing. This was all I wanted to eat in Italy, and I really didn’t want to settle.
Finally, on our last night in Italy, I knew it was spaghetti or bust (or another salad). In a last ditch effort, we bought rice pasta and brought it to a few restaurants to see if they’d cook it. They all turned me down so finally with tears in my eyes, we went to a grocery store and got tomatoes, garlic, olives and olive oil and cooked my spaghetti at our place (I added in sardines from our stash). I was in more of a bummer mood than I should have been, but I think all the expectation and the pressure of it being our last night really made it sink in a bit more dramatically than it was worth. We really did have an excellent time!
4. I learned, then, that I should have been even more proactive and detailed in my research. But, hey, who knew I’d get there and only want pasta?
All in all, we had a really fun and (mostly) hassle-free time in Italy, especially in terms of food. God was so perfect with us and gave us so many beautify moments every day. Our happiness was off the charts! Next time, however, we will be a bit more thorough with our pre-trip research into restaurants and ask about the pasta ingredients.
Speaking of which, does anyone know of a restaurant in Italy that has gluten-free, corn-free, and egg-free pasta? I would very much like to go there next time!