Since my trip to Italy several people have asked the questions, “Was it hard to stay vegan in Italy?” and/or “What did you eat?” As I stated previously, I had no idea how to present my trip to Italy here on my blog but this question has sent me in a direction that I think is complimentary of each other. Let’s talk vegan food in Italy!
Be forewarned, this is going to be a long post…..
I absolutely did NOT go hungry in Italy and STAYED vegan with no issues. I will also admit that I indulged quite a bit. I didn’t stuff my face continually or eat to the point of getting sick, but pizza, pasta, and gelato were eaten on a daily basis. Heck, most days I had gelato twice daily and I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of it.
So how did I do it?
I wrote down phrases just in case I needed them.
“senza formaggio” without cheese
“Sono vegetariano” I’m vegetarian
“Vorrei un piatto di frutta” I would like a fruit plate
“Vorrei un’insalata” I would like a salad
“Posso ordinare questo senza carne o formaggio” Can I order this without meat or cheese?
“ma senze pesci” but without fish
“ma senza formaggio” but without cheese
“Ha delle verdure grigliate?” Do you have any grilled vegetables?
“Vorrei un piatto di pasta secca, non frescha” I want to order some dried pasta, not fresh (because fresh pasta has eggs in it)
Honestly I only used “senza formaggio” once in the entire time we were in Italy. The good thing is that many Italians know at least a little English and most restaurants had their menus printed in multiple languages. This made it easy to decipher what to order.
I also kept things basic.
Mind you, I don’t eat crazy, off-the-wall type of foods to begin with so although I could’ve sought out “fancy” dishes I was quite content with basic pasta/pizza dishes.
These were my go-to dishes:
Pasta al Pomodoro – pasta, olive oil, fresh tomatoes, basil, and other fresh ingredients
Pasta all’Arrabbiata – spicy tomato sauce usually with garlic and crushed peppers
Marinara Pizza – most locations actually had this listed so there was no need to ask for it without cheese. Pizza crust in Italy is made with flour, water and possibly yeast.
Vegetable Pizza – this is when the “senza formaggio” came in.
(Side note: every pizza we had was at least 12 in wide. That may seem large to us but Italians consider these “personal sized” pizzas. Be prepared to gobble down. No surprise, but I had no issue with that!)
The good and the bad is that most every restaurant has these items and most everything else of the menu is about the same too. Good that it’s easy to find something to eat, but bad that it’s the same thing over and over. But, something to keep in mind is that every restaurant had their own sauces and dough so really every time it was like eating something different. I never once got bored with it.
(Side note: this brought up the topic between D and myself about how lucky we are to live in the US and have more food options to choose from. To be honest I don’t know if I’d ever get sick of pasta or pizza but it is nice to have options. While inItally it seemed rare to see a restaurant with anything other than Italian fare.)
I researched and compiled a list of restaurants that specifically offered vegan dishes.
Although we checked out several vegan-friendly restaurants we ended up choosing regular ol’ Italian eateries for every meal. But my research wasn’t all for naught as it came in handy when seeking out vegan gelato.
I cannot speak for how good the vegan restaurant options are but I can speak for the gelato. Either way, I thought I’d share the research I compiled for those that would be interested in vegan eats.
Il Margutta RistorArte – $$$
118 Via Margutta
Not far from Piazza del Popolo and the Spanish Steps
Gluten free pasta on request and has a great lunchtime buffet
Ristorante Taverna Vegetariana
Via Trionfale 94
Traditional Italian vegetarian cuisine with many vegan options. Pasta and sweets are made-in-house. 15 minute walk from the Vatican. Accepts credit cards.
Il Gelatone – Gelato
28 Via Dei Serpenti
Blue Ice – Gelato
122 via Sistina
Multiple locations throughout the city but not all carry soy gelato
Il Gelatone and Blue Ice were both awesome and I highly recommend either. Il Gelatone has a few more flavors to choose from but Blue Ice has more locations throughout the city.
Via San Gallo, 92/r
Vegan, Italian, Beer/Wine, Bakery
Vegan bakery and small restaurant with limited seating.
Open Wed-Mon 10am-3pm, 5-11pm, closed Tue.
Gusto Leo – Pizza
Via del Proconsolo, 8-red
Birrificio Mostodolce – Pizza
Via Frà Bartolomeo, 211
Via delle Ruote, 30 r
Via Lucignano 15, Montespertoli
Vegan-friendly, Macrobiotic, Organic, Beer/Wine
Serves dinner only except on Sunday which is open lunch and dinner.
Via Giacomo Leopardi, 2r
Health food store and restaurant. Menu includes tofu, seitan, and vegetarian items.
Open Mon-Sat 12:30-3:00, lunch only.
Gelateria Dei Neri
Via dei Neri, 22
My favorite gelato in Florence. Had vanilla and nocciola (hazelnut) flavors.
Perche No! – Gelato
Via dei Tavolini 19r, off Via del Calzaiuoli
Had multiple flavors to choose from but not overly impressed with the serving size
Festival del Gelato
Via del Corso 75r
Vegan options weren’t labeled so I had to ask and they only had nocciola (hazelnut) and cappuccino. My least favorite option for gelato in Florence.
Fruit is widely available.
From open air markets to carts on the streets, and of course grocery stores, you can find it easily. I tasted some of the best strawberries of my life in Italy.
I also did research of vegan Italian food products.
One thing D and I like to do when we head to a foreign country is head to their grocery store, stock up on some of their products, and try them during our stay. Now that I’m vegan I have to be a bit careful as to what products I test out but once again, that’s where research comes in.
Some vegan companies/products I sought out were:
Coop – Bene.sì line (legume ice cream), gianduia con nocciole (hazelnut chocolate bar)
Valsoia - soy gelato, soy chocolate spread, Baci di Dama (known as Lady’s Kisses 2 cookies w/ hazelnut cream)
Misura – cornetti all’ albicocca (apricot croissants)
Bianco Forno – apricot croissants
I was only able locate a few of the products but found them to be yummy.
I also took food with me.
I took a stash of Larabars, Stretch Island Fruit Co. Fruit Leathers, EcoTrek Whole Food Bars, and pretzels. I knew I would have a ton of food options to choose from but it’s habit to carry something with me at all times, and I’m glad I did. Although airlines offer vegetarian dishes for longer flights it doesn’t mean they’re vegan. Each time I passed on the offered food and opted for my own. The food also came in handy when we just needed a quick bite to eat or while on the road, traveling between the different cities.
One last thing…I was asked if I decided to try some wine while over in Italy. As I stated, I usually stay away from alcohol and haven’t had any in well over 2 years. In that post I also stated that I wasn’t shutting myself off from tasting some local wine while in Italy. So, the answer is yes, I tasted some wine during our trip. I sampled a Montepulciano Noble, Montrpulciano Rosso, Grappe, and Chianti. I will admit I wasn’t a huge fan and have no plans to drink anymore alcohol in the near future, am glad I was open minded and tried it.
Obviously it is quite possible to stay vegan while traveling and indulge at the same time!
Keep Smiling and Be Grateful =)
Traveling and looking for some vegan-friendly eats? Check out my growing list of places to check out!