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My top Gluten Free Holiday - Lake Garda, Italy - Coeliac Guesthouse

My top gluten free holiday in fabulous Fabio's Coeliac Guesthouse, Lake Garda, Italy

Fabio's gluten free guesthouse
Fabio's fabulous coeliac guesthouse

Gluten free pasta. Fresh, homemade gluten free pasta. Fresh, homemade gluten free pasta tossed in home grown olive oil, garlic and chilli. And that's just for starters.

This coeliac's heaven was what greeted us for dinner on the first night of our stay at Fabio Massimo's gluten free guesthouse on Lake Garda in northern Italy.

Gluten free spaghetti making
Fabio makes gluten free spaghetti

Now for me, personally, as a coeliac if someone is bringing fresh gluten free pasta to my table I could be eating it in an industrial estate in Slough and still be over the moon.

But this is Lake Garda, one of Italy's most famous, and beautiful, holiday destinations. And this is Domus Allessandra, the family home of Fabio Massimo for the last century and it's right on the shores of lake garda. (that's not 'right on the shore' a la Costa del sol - i.e. 2 km away - this is right-on-the-shore). Stroll through the olive groves to the bottom of the garden and you are on the newly-laid walkway that runs along the Lake Garda shore to the centre of Malcesine in one direction and off into the distance in the other.

Gluten free home cooking, Italian style

Gluten free pasta
Fabio teaches gluten free pasta making

We had found Fabio and his fabulous Italian location via the internet after yet another pleasant but cooking-filled week away. Locating not only an gluten free Italian guesthouse but one run by a fanatical coeliac cook in such a perfect place was surely too good to be true we thought.

But when we arrived at Milan Bergamo airport on a cheap but pleasant flight with Ryan air from Prestwick airport in Scotland, Fabio was there to meet us. And boy were we glad to have taken the offer of a lift. Iin Fabio's words, the way out of Milan Bergamo airport is 'complicated'. (His English is excellent having spent 3 years in Wales - why? He said he was studying but my guess is he was held hostage for his cooking).

A very exclusive coeliac guesthouse

I hope I haven't got you too excited with this description of gluten free coeliac nirvana, because Fabio's place has a few limitations. He only has one room (which is nice because you're the only ones there), but of course if you have a large family, you're out of luck. We spent the week there with our baby daughter which meant we took over Fabio's living room every evening, but he was fine with this, being an extremely gracious and considerate host.

The restrictions in holiday accommodation in Italy prevent Fabio offering a full board service, but he is more than happy to have you join him at the table for an always-scrumptious gluten free evening meal. He makes his pasta fresh every day and it has to be tasted to be believed. Our pasta machine is now in regular use after a few tips from our gluten free pasta guru.

Waking up to coeliac heaven

Read another coeliac's experience of Gluten Free Italy

Breakfast can be taken when you want it and usually involved gluten free bread - rather tasty wholegrain stuff that I'd never seen in the UK), plus gluten free croissants , freshly squeezed orange juice and fresh Italian coffee. (sob, take me back, take me back). The chocolate cake with breakfast one morning I think was a bit of a lucky one-off. But I'm guessing that most coeliacs will, like me, jump at the chance of gluten free chocolate cake whatever the time of day.

Stuff to do in and around Lake Garda

Our days mostly consisted of leisurely strolls, boat rides, a trip up Mount Baldo in the seriously impressive rotating cable car. However, Fabio is happy to drive you around for the cost of his petrol and he took us one day to Verona. A fabulous day out completed by a trip to a pizzeria for gluten free pizza. This Fabio ordered 2 days earlier as the pizzeria pre-prepares gluten free pizzas early in the day when the kitchen when the kitchen is clean of the nasty wheaty stuff. (The Italian coeliac society trains and monitors gluten free restaurants to ensure they know about all sources of gluten and how to avoid cross-contamination - listen up Coeliac UK). Oh what a joy to discover restaurateurs who know what 'gluten free' really means.

(When you think about it, it's really not that ambiguous - but there you go. Seeing as at the time of writing gluten free still means under 200 parts per million of gluten, it's almost understandable. Sorry, getting off track - a pet rant of mine.)

Eating out gluten free in Italy

Getting hold of a gluten-free lunch when you are out is easy - all Italian restaurants serve up huge fresh salads with no dressing for you to add your own olive oil and balsamic vinegar if you like. And Fabio will give you some bread to take out to fill in the gaps if you're a big eater like me.

Then, after a hard day in the shops & cafes in the beautiful old town of Malcesine, picture returning to Domus Allessandra to be presented with a Biaglut gluten free beer.

Gluten free beer for Roger
Gluten free beer = happy Roger

If you're into a bit of activity on your holidays, Lake Garda is famous for its windsurfing and kite-surfing, and if you're er..., well mental, you can jump off one of the huge mountains surrounding lake garda and float down on a big kite. Also known as paragliding, but as I say, mental.

Even in northern Italy the April weather was shirt-sleeves-warm and it just gets better from there. (Mind you, if you live on the west coast of Scotland like we do, anything over 10 degrees C is shirt sleeves warm. The Italians in arctic parkas were looking at us like they'd seen a ghost. Which, in fact, was not far off the mark considering the colour of us.)

Fabio decided to start a gluten free guesthouse not long after being diagnosed coeliac himself, and now has a steady stream of coeliacs coming for a gluten free break from all over the world. So if you fancy some 100% safe, super-tasty classic Italian cooking (and who wouldn't?), you'd better book ahead.

Help build the Celiac Travel.com coeliac-recommended gluten-free holiday destinations section

If you have been somewhere that catered fantastically well to your gluten-free diet (or at least didn't make you ill!) please send me your story. Unfortunately, we can't accept entries from proprietors, but if you run a gluten free establishment, get one of your guests to write us a review. You'll be sure to get more bookings as a result!

As of October 2008, Fabio is no longer running his gluten free guesthouse, so you may like to take a look at our other coeliac report about a holiday in Lake Garda

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