In the homeland of spaghetti, pizza and gelato, it is impossible to eat vegan...right? So wrong. Italy is beautiful and filled with historical sites, but let's get real: it is all about the food tour. I was slightly nervous about eating vegan in Italy and missing out on the cultural food experience, let alone communicating my dietary restrictions with the language barrier while traveling through Italy.

Petrina Pinto

Lifesaving Phrases and Words

Each dish and baked good was made from fresh, simple ingredients. Most restaurants provided English menus, which listed out every ingredient making it easier to recognize the foods I needed to avoid. However, in the few places that did not offer English, I found it crucial to know a few words and phrases.

Mastering the phrases " prego" (without...please), "questo ha...?" (does this have...?) and the words "latte" (milk), "uova" (egg), "formaggio" (cheese), and "carne" (meat) saved my stomach from havoc. My repertoire grew quickly of animal based products. After I ordered any meal the words, "ah vegano" followed. The Italians probably still don't understand why, but at least they are accommodating and eating vegan in Italy was easier. 

Dessert First, Always

One word. Gelato. Two words, vegan gelato. Now I'm listening. Initially, I thought I would be limited to the few fruit sorbet flavors, but I was wrong. In the 10 days I spent abroad, I tasted a different combination each day and still didn't try each flavor. By ultimate flavor combo was dark chocolate with pomegranate. Both were water based, but the Italian gelato gods worked their magic and made it creamy, rich, and drool-worthy.

The best tip I learned was if you aren't eating gelato at least once a day, you're doing it wrong. I think everyone should adopt this belief because calories don't count when you're in Italy.

cake, peanut, peanut butter, buttercream, butter, chocolate, cupcake
Petrina Pinto

Wait...this is Breakfast? 

Breakfast is the most important meal, but not for Italians. You would think if you walked 10 miles a day you would eat a huge morning meal. Nope. Locals casually toss back an espresso shot and start their day. That concept did not fly with me because: A. I don't like coffee, and B. I need food to walk the half marathon of a day. Thankfully, there were plenty of fruit stands where I bought local produce for the a.m.  

berry, strawberry
Petrina Pinto

Let's Lunch

Food begins to come into the picture around 2 p.m. for the boot of a country. Boy, do they know how to eat when they decide to eat. The options of carbs were endless and I wasn't complaining. Typically locals stuck with a panino or meter pizza and left the pastas and bigger dishes for dinner. In Florence I had hands down the best veggie sandwich of my life.

All' antico Vinaio osteria had countless options such as grilled eggplant, zucchini, sun-dried tomatoes, fresh arugula, basil, tomatoes, artichoke hearts, asparagus spread and many more lip smacking spreads. My Michael Angelo-esque masterpiece included eggplant, arugula, tomatoes, and basil between two pieces of focaccia bread painted with sun-dried tomato spread and drizzled with olive oil, balsamic, and salt. Yeah, my mouth was watering too.

tomato, spinach, sandwich
Petrina Pinto

Al Dente Dinner

Now for the best meal (besides gelato) of the day. Italians don't normally eat dinner until my usual weekday bedtime, 9 p.m. but after a long day filled with walking and site seeing you are bound to be ravished and ready to eat your body weight in carbs.

At dinner I usually chose between pizza, pastas, bruschetta, or salad and most the of the time my mom and I ordered all four. Life's short, eat everything. Ordering pizzas was simple because all you ask for is no cheese and any topping you desire. 

Pastas were a bit more challenging. I had to make sure the homemade pasta was made without egg and the sauces were made without meat and cheese. Thanks to the key phrases, I managed to eat flavorful, savory, fresh pasta such as pasta primavera, marinara pasta and pesto gnocchi. 

tomato, pizza, eggplant
Petrina Pinto

Vino, so fine-o. Wine was served like water and Prosecco was served as I entered each restaurant. Italian's know how to get a food party started. America, take note. 

Eating vegan in Italy was surprisingly easier than I thought. It just took a few memorized phrases and words to assure my dietary restrictions were met. Nevertheless, I came back from my 10 day food tour full, happy, and no animals were harmed.