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Gluten Free Italy with a Coeliac Husband!

My experience of Gluten Free Italy with my coeliac husband - by Julia Ionides

“We have just spent three weeks in Italy and during our visit managed, just at times, to find gluten-free food for my ceoliac husband. For the first ten days we stayed in guest houses and budget hotels and for the next week we were in a self-catering apartment which meant there was not problem.”

“We took with us emergency supplies such as crackers and fruit bars and food for the journey and the first day in Naples. We found that frittata and vegetarian patties made of feta and mixed grated vegetables and chestnut bread kept well in a cool place; our room in Naples had a convenient shady balcony but in summer this would be more of a problem. This gave us time to find out where we could find other food. The menus in the restaurants gave a rather restricted choice, despite the willing help given by the owners, but this was not surprising in the home of pizza. Anti-pasta and risotto were the most suitable dishes; chips were not readily available and when we did order them, came from another café nearby.”

“In Naples we bought cheese and tins of chickpeas and beans and mixed them with anchovies and these proved to be staples throughout the trip; the tins were ring-pull ones. We also bought a thermos in a ‘pound’ shop so that we could travel with soup when we were able to make it.”

“On our final morning, we found more crackers and some sweet biscuits at the central station Pharmacy and had lunch at a self-service restaurant near the station, da Giuliano, 1d Corsa Norvara which offered a variety of potato and rice dishes.”

“In Palermo we stayed at an albergo which had a fridge in the room so we shopped in the market for fruit, salad vegetables, cheese and salami. The price included a light breakfast where Peter took his own biscuits and as he could not eat the roll, the waitress gave him extra jam! We found maize and rice biscuits at the supermarket and a Bangladeshi take-away supplied us with rice to mix with the beans. Dinners were anti-pasta and wonderful grilled fish and sauté potatoes in a family run restaurant in the market place. Before we left to catch the train to Agrigento, we went to a very small café near our albergo where they cooked rice specially for Peter and grilled him some beautifully fresh mackerel, as well as giving us raw baby broad beans and a liqueur from western Sicily to try.”

“In Agrigento we stayed in a bed and breakfast owned by Ruggero Casesa who was very helpful. We ate out one night at a restaurant recommended by him and the owner made sure that we had something Peter could eat. The supermarket had rice cakes and by buying take-away cooked fish and ham we managed very well. We picnicked by a Greek temple on a bean and chickpea salad and rice biscuits and cheese and fruit.”

“By the time we set off for Syracusa and the apartment we were old hands and I even found that my minimal Italian was being understood. Being in the apartment meant that we could take full advantage of the splendid market five minutes away - just past the ruins of the Temple of Apollo! In the market was a wonderful shop selling a wide range of gluten-free products as well as herbs, spices, honeys and all sorts of exciting things. We bought gram, or ceci (chickpea) flour and made pancakes which were useful for taking on the next stage of our journey which was from Siracusa to Bologna - a thirteen hour train ride. We needed to take all our food with us and that is where the thermos came in useful for soup.”

“In Bologna we visited a friend so there was no problem there and she loaded us up with rice biscuits! Our last stop was Pisa and here we found several small shops selling gluten-free products, especially near the market. We bought a kilo of chestnut flour and some chickpea pancakes from a baker near the market. This was sufficient to get us home.”

“Everyone was most helpful everywhere we went and we managed with very little Italian and lots of body language and smiles and laughter. It was a great holiday!”

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