As someone who dates a bread rejector, I’m all too informed of the hassle coeliac disease presents whilst travelling. Gluten-Free dining can be a farce in the UK. Very occasionally a restaurant has a dedicated gluten-free menu, but more often than not, a folder of biblical length (decorated by a plethora of sauces) is deposited onto your table. Always a welcoming start to a meal. When it comes to dining abroad, concerns tend to be heightened. How does a country’s culture affect their attitude towards dietary requirements? Do the laws of the country require allergens to be listed? Have they had the education to understand cross-contamination? How on earth do I say Gluten-Free in *insert language here*? When travelling to Rome last year, questions like these were very much in our minds, as it doesn’t take long to realise a coeliac diet could be a predicament when it comes to Italian food. It was going to go one of two ways. Italian food is very wheat-based, so surely they have a great understanding of allergens in their national dish. Or, Italian food is very wheat-based so sorry Ed you can’t have it. Fortunately for Ed, and the hotel bed linen, it was the first.
Mama Eat – Trastevere
Conveniently for our trip, I have an Italian friend who works in the hospitality industry in Rome. He told us the Gluten-Free Pizza at his pizzeria is rubbish, great start, but at least he was honest. However, he did suggest some great places where we could find GF food in Rome. One of which Ed had already discovered online, and the location was perfect for where we had planned to be on the first evening. ‘Mama Eat Roma’ is an all gluten-free restaurant located in Trastevere, Rome’s more bohemian neighbourhood. We discovered that evening that it’s easy to find yourself lost in Trastevere’s narrow cobbled streets, so make sure you have a map of some kind to help get you there. We found the restaurant, and we were sat outside, very nearly on the narrow road. Still, we didn’t mind as Trastevere’s atmosphere was alive with residents and tourists united drinking and dancing to the street bands in the piazzas. The food was superb, and the zesty sparkling house white was almost a little too easy to drink.
- On a side note, it’s always good to buy the house wines in Rome as this supports the local wine industry. This may be the case for many other cities, but if I’m being honest, I know nothing about wine…
Mama Eat gets very busy in the evening during summer, as does the entire Trastevere area, so make sure you book a table in advance.
Voglia di Pizza – Centro Storico (Old Town)
On the first day of our trip, we spent the morning touring the Colosseum and the surrounding area, and by lunchtime, we were starving. We didn’t have a specific restaurant in mind, so we just went for a wander around the local area. We both fancied a pizza as it was our first meal in Rome (discounting the traditional hotel breakfast buffet), and not too far from us was Voglia di Pizza that specialises in GF pizza. Now, unlike Ed, I am not coeliac or gluten intolerant, so I get to eat nice pizzas all the time. However, the Pizza at Voglia di Pizza was GF, great value and one of the best pizzas I have ever had! Just like Mama Eat, you do feel like you’re sat in the street; however, this is all part of being in a city that’s thousands of years old.
GF In Our Hotel? – Hotel Colosseum
Earlier I mentioned the breakfast buffet, something we don’t usually go for with Ed being coeliac however it was included in our hotel price. So on the first morning, we thought we’d check it out. We were so glad we did. At first glance, it wasn’t massively GF accommodating. However, Ed had already been practising – what came to be his most used Italian phrase of the trip – ‘Hai qualcosa senza glutine?’ (have you got anything gluten-free). Ed asked one of the women working in the breakfast room, and suddenly she disappeared. I started to wonder if he’d got his translation awfully wrong and told her the breakfast was crap. Thankfully he had not, as a minute later, she returned with a basket full of individually wrapped GF treats such as tarts, mini cakes and nice breads. This was a great surprise as in the UK you usually just get an unenthusiastic sounding apology combined somewhere with a “no”. The next day when we came down for breakfast, Ed’s little wicker basket was out waiting for him. Exceptional service!
Le Altre Farine del Mulino – A GF Bakery Neighbouring The Vatican
On our last day in Rome, we were visiting the Vatican. Ed had discovered a gluten-free bakery nearby, so obviously we had to pay it a visit. We went to a GF bakery at home in London once, which was a disappointment as you could buy a sandwich, and that was pretty much it. We headed to Le Altre Farine Del Mulino (The Other Flowers of the Mill) feeling a little pessimistic due to past experiences, but this was Rome. We were wrong. I have never seen such an array of gluten-free food in my life. There was bread, pizza, pastries, croissants, cakes, cannolis, the list went on! Ed was, for the first time in his life, spoilt for choice. Definitely worth the trip if you’re coeliac and visiting any part of Rome.
Ed hasn’t travelled a great deal since being diagnosed with coeliac disease. We know that this could be a real issue on some of our travels, but Rome was much better than we ever could have expected. If you’re gluten intolerant or coeliac and are heading to Rome, you can relax, there’s an abundance of great places to eat. I just hope countries like the UK can learn from Rome’s exceptional example.