Two years ago, I decided to give up meat. The decision was fueled by mostly environmental and health reasons, and I've been on a vegetarian streak ever since then. This summer, I jetted off to Italy for a vacation with my parents and my boyfriend. There were a lot of things I was looking forward to; the beautiful castles, the romantic language, and (most importantly) the cuisine.

The small village we'd be staying in was celebrating the Festival of Wild Boar, and I love all things pizza and pasta. However, I was worried being a vegetarian while traveling would cause me to miss out on things come mealtime. To avoid the serious FOMO, I decided to forgo my diet for my week abroad; I would become a carnivore during my time in Italy.

Alivia McAtee

As soon as I was through customs, I ordered a sandwich from a deli topped with arugula, goat cheese, and prosciutto. I’m not going to lie, it was a delicious start to the trip. I also felt much more satisfied than I remembered feeling after a veggie or cheese sandwich. I was feeling pretty confident in my decision to not be a vegetarian while traveling.

We'd be spending most of the trip in the countryside, where English-speakers would be few and far between. Luckily, my Uncle was there to be our guide and take us to the best and most authentic attractions and restaurants. We dined with contessas in castles and in restaurants so intimate we felt more like house guests than customers.

mushroom, sauce, ravioli, cheese
Alivia McAtee

As the week went on, I was (pleasantly) overwhelmed at restaurants when I chose what to order; the world was my oyster (literally!). I chowed down on meatloaf, smoked charcuterie, wild boar, and so much more

bacon, cheese, salad
Alivia McAtee

For the most part, I was happy with my decision to eat meat while in Italy. However, I quickly realized when I got there that for the most part, remaining vegetarian would not have been that hard. There were always plenty of meatless pizza and pasta options, and gelato is always vegetarian, but it was nice being able to share with everyone else at the table.

Alivia McAtee

There was one meal that completely reminded me of why I was vegetarian in the first place. It was pappardelle with a plum rabbit sauce, and I felt sick immediately after eating it. Thankfully, this was the only time I got sick from eating meat. But other than that, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the cured meats and ragus, even though my inner vegetarian was always a little squeamish (until I drowned it out with some wine).

By the time I got back to the U.S. and back on campus, I was happy to go back to veggie burgers, tofu, and lots of salads. In the future, I think I'll have a different outlook about being a vegetarian while traveling. I'd never want to miss out on any experiences abroad, but I don't think that meat is always necessary to experience a culture