Sunday, 24 May 2015

Food | Eating Gluten Free in Rome

I was diagnosed with coeliac disease about 7 years ago now, which has given me more than enough time to accept it, learn about it and adapt to it so that I barely have to think about it in my day-to-day life. But sometimes it becomes a problem. When I step outside of the comfort zones that are my own kitchen, pre-packaged 'Free From' foods from the supermarket and the rarer than rare restaurants and cafes that are 100% gluten free, I'm forced to look my coeliac disease straight in the eyes and prepare for a mental and physical battle. Going on holiday and away from what I know to be safe, is a flight into the fray. I'm very new to travelling, having only gone abroad for the first time in 2013 (Hong Kong in April, Paris in August) and each time eating out became the bane of the trip. I struggled to eat in both cities and felt guilty for burdening my travelling partners, too. Sometimes I think the hardest part of my own experience with coeliac disease is the guilt.

With all of that in mind, you can imagine my trepidation when J and I made the decision to visit Rome in April, a place I've wanted to visit for as long as I can remember. Italy is all pasta, bread and pizza and surely that isn't any place for a person who can't eat gluten, right? Wrong. Eating out in Rome was easier and more pleasurable than I could ever have imagined. I would go as far as to say that restaurant dining in Rome was easier for me than it is in England. Granted, online research was difficult because there are only a selection of restaurants with an obvious online presence but with a combination of my research prior to going and then also stumbling upon gluten free food whilst physically there, I had a wonderful time eating gluten free in Rome.

The main body of this post is dedicated to the three restaurants that I visited and enjoyed most during my five days in Rome but there will be brief mention of a couple of other places that I stumbled across, too. The main thing to remember is that you should not be afraid to enter restaurants you pass in the day and ask if they offer gluten free food because I found that many offered at least gluten free pasta. You may also spot GF offerings on chalk boards outside. I cannot speak Italian but "Senza glutine, por favore?" (gluten free, please?) was easy enough for me to say and seemed to be understood by every restaurant that I approached, even if they couldn't cater for me. The loveliest thing, though? The staff at most restaurants understood what I meant. They didn't look perplexed and confused or make me feel like I was an annoyance. They didn't make me feel like I was putting them out of their way to cater for my illness. They made me feel like a normal, valued customer. 

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