How to Enjoy Italian Food in Rome with Food Allergies

Are you planning a trip to Rome with food allergies? We took our family to Italy and were pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to enjoy delicious, authentic Italian food that was free from our allergens. Everything from dairy free pizza to vegan and gluten free gelati. Discover our tips for managing food allergies in Rome, including allergen labelling, grocery shopping and eating out.

Collage of restaurants and food in Rome with text "enjoy Italian food in Rome with food allergies"

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Planning for Rome with food allergies

When you travel with food allergies, a little planning before you go really helps to ensure you can find safe food options. Before we went to Italy, we made sure to check the European food allergy labelling laws. European law requires allergy labelling for 14 allergens, instead of just the 10 we have here in Australia. As my Italian language skills are very limited, I was confident to communicate about allergies in Italian. We downloaded the Google translate app before we left so it wa ready to go. And we ordered Italian/English food allergy translation cards from Equal Eats in advance (more about these later).

We manage multiple food allergies, including milk, egg, tree nuts, peanuts, sesame and some fish. Italy is famous for pizza and pasta, delicious cheeses like mozzarella and parmesan, and local seafood. So I had some concerns about whether we would always be able to find food allergy friendly options when dining out.

With that in mind, we booked to stay in an apartment in Rome with its own kitchen facilities. We booked a wonderful apartment in Monti. near the Colosseum. It had a fully equipped kitchen so we could cook if needed as a backup. The apartment was close to a supermarkets so that we could shop for ingredients and snacks. .

As with all our trips away from home, we carried multiple extra EpiPens and our travel and anaphylaxis action plan. I had found out the location of the local hospital and the number for emergency ambulance in advance in case of a reaction.

Food allergy labelling laws in Italy

European food labelling laws require food providers in retail and catering to provide allergen information and follow labelling requirements. Food allergy information must be provided for both pre-packaged and non-pre-packaged foods.

Top 14 allergens

Italy follows the European Union food labelling laws, which means the following 14 allergens must be included in allergen information for food ingredients:

  • celery;
  • cereals containing gluten (such as wheat, barley and oats);
  • crustaceans (such as prawns, crabs and lobsters);
  • eggs;
  • fish;
  • lupin;
  • milk;
  • molluscs (such as mussels and oysters);
  • mustard;
  • peanuts;
  • sesame;
  • soybeans;
  • sulphur dioxide and sulphites (if the sulphur dioxide and sulphites are at a concentration of more than ten parts per million); and
  •  tree nuts (such as almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, brazil nuts, cashews, pecans, pistachios and macadamia nuts).

This labelling is also required for food additives or processing aids that are present in the final product.

Labels need to emphasize the allergens present. Like Australia, precautionary labels like “may contain” are voluntary in Italy.

Food allergy awareness in Rome

Eating out in Rome was quite different to our experience in London, where allergy awareness is generally high. Staff would not ask about allergies up front, but were usually very helpful and accommodating when we disclosed our allergies.

Allergen menus

The menus in Rome were very similar to what we are used to at home. We didn’t come across specific allergen menus (or apps) which are prevalent in London. Menus didn’t have the same detailed listings of top 14 allergens like we experienced in other places like Vienna. However, vegan/vegetarian and gluten free options were often noted on menus. Some of the menus we saw did have a general note asking you to let staff know of any allergies.

Allergy translation cards

I always try to learn at least a few phrases in the local language when travelling to another country. Even if it is just some polite greetings and please and thank you. My Italian phrases are very limited and mostly learned from Italian friends or, oddly enough, music terms. One of those words is “senza“, meaning without, which came in quite handy with ordering food in Italy. Especially “senza formaggio” – without cheese. Despite this, I still found that it was essential to have food allergy travel cards. Most of the places we went to had staff who spoke English, but there were still some that did not. Having clear and correct Italian words for our allergies and an explanation of their seriousness helped ensure that nothing got lost in translation.

Straight after we booked our trip to Italy, I ordered customised digital cards from Equal Eats with our multiple allergens translated accurately into Italian. Our cards have English on one side and Italian on the other. They also have a request make sure our ordered meal is free from the listed allergens and notes on avoiding cross contact. The digital cards are great to keep on your phone, but I also like to print a hard copy from the provided files. Printed copies are great to give to serving staff with your order so they can take the information back to the kitchen staff. (Having multiple copies is also a good idea in case it doesn’t come back from the kitchen!)

Equal Eats Italian food allergy translation card
Our very well used food allergy translation card from Equal Eats

We used our Italian translation cards everywhere we ate in Italy. They were very effective in helping us communicate allergies clearly and well received by the restaurant staff.

Traditional Italian foods

We found it relatively easy to navigate traditional Italian foods with multiple food allergies. Except perhaps for desserts which often contain dairy and nuts, but that’s the same when we eat out at home in Australia.

Italian food is known for it’s simple fresh ingredients and flavours. When I think of Italian food, I think of ingredients like ripe tomatoes, garlic. olives, olive oil and herbs like basil and oregano. Common menu choices include the popular pizza and pasta dishes Italian is known for, but don’t overlook the wonderful meat dishes, local seafood for those able to enjoy it and fresh salads and vegetables.

With allergies to milk, egg, peanut, tree nuts and sesame, we were easily able to order from most menus, or ask for some small changes to accommodate. We ordered Marinara pizza, a simple tomato based pizza that is made without cheese, and may restaurants were happy to add additional toppings such as some olives or mushrooms. Bruschetta with fresh tomato, basil and olive oil, or olive toppings. Beef tagliata and Straccetti con Rughetta (sliced beef with fresh rocket). Wonderful fresh salads, being careful to ask for them without any cheese, egg or nuts added in either the salad or the dressing.

allergy friendly meals from Rome including straccetti (beef), bruschetta, salads ad pizza marinara wit ham
Some of the allergy-friendly meals in Rome

Pizza and pasta

We don’t need to avoid wheat or gluten, but for those who do there are so many options other than pizza and pasta. However if you do want to eat these Italian classics, the you’ll be pleased to know that there are gluten free pasta and pizza options in Rome. Many of the restaurant menus listed gluten free options, which was great to see.

If you have an egg allergy. you will also need to take care in ordering some types of pasta and pizza and as always, always ask about ingredients. Many fresh pastas, especially flat pastas like fettucine, tagliatelle and pappardelle, are made with eggs and flour. Others pasta shapes may be made with just semolina flour and water. The ingredients can be regional too, with eggs more commonly used in the North and Central parts of Italy. Most traditional pizza dough is made without eggs, but always ask. Our family member with egg allergy safely ate pizza but avoided the fresh pasta options.

Italian desserts and sweets

We also tended to avoid desserts when eating out, as needing to avoid milk, egg and nuts makes desserts difficult at the best of times. So we didn’t order Tiramisu or other famous Italian desserts or cakes.

You can’t visit Italy without tasting gelati, and we managed to find egg and dairy free, vegan gelati. I was a little concerned about cross contact with nuts, as many gelato shops sell pistachio and other nut based flavours, and often serve them in chocolate and nut coated cones. To our delight we came across a gelati shop called at Gelateria dell’Angeletto in Monti. It sells a wide rage of vegan gelato flavours and has individual colour coded serving spoons for each flavour to avoid cross contact. The cone wasn’t an issue as we were able to order gelati in a take away cup.

As we were in Rome in summer, another great ‘dessert’ option was beautiful fresh fruit. We found many shops and stall holders selling cups of fresh ripe fruits that were a perfect treat on a hot summer day.

cups of fresh fruit with watermelon, strawberries, kiwifruit for sale in Rome

Where we ate in Rome and Italy with food allergies

As we were staying in Monti near the popular attractions like the Colosseum, Pantheon, Forum and Trevi Fountain, we tended to eat around this area. No doubt many of the places we ended up eating were ‘tourist’ venues rather than popular restaurants with locals, these are some of the restaurants and cafes that were happy to cater to our multiple allergies:

  • Gran Caffe La Caffetiera, a cafe in walking distance of the Pantheon, where we stopped for a late breakfast. Known for its Neopolitan coffee and beautiful pastries, they were very happy to assist with an allergy-friendly serve of avocado toast.
  • Ristorante Due Colonne, for traditional Italian fare, where we ordered delicious bruschetta and Straccetti con Rughetta (sliced beef with fresh rocket);
  • Diadema Restaurant, delicious traditional Italian food including pasta and pizza, on Via Palermo in Monti;
  • Ristorante Da Trani, more traditional Italian food in Monti, where our allergy friendly choices included wonderful bruschetta and salad enjoyed at an outside table;
  • Gelateria dell’Angeletto, where indulged in amazing vegan gelati without milk or egg. This gelateria has plenty of gluten free options and colour coded individual scoops for each flavour to avoid cross contact.
  • Vincenza Alla Lungaretta, a restaurant in Trastevere, where we ate lunch after a very hot walk across the River Tiber and Tiber Island. We enjoyed simple but tasty wood oven pizzas, including a pizza Marinara (which has no cheese), in the welcome cool of air-conditioning. Had it been cooler weather, there were some tables outside.
Diadema Restaurant in Monti, Rome

Outside of Rome

We took a day trip South from Rome to visit historic Pompeii and then on to beautiful seaside Positano on the Amalfi Coast. We booked lunch right on the Beach in Positano at La Pergola restaurant. It was a scorching hot day, so our family member with allergies just felt like a cold salad instead of a hot meal. The staff were happy to take our Equal Eats translation card to the kitchen to request the chefs adapt the chicken salad on the menu to remove any dairy or nuts, and provided us with a substitute olive oil and balsamic dressing. The rest of us had delicious pizza and seafood.

Of course, when in Positano on a hot day, you can’t go past a refreshing granita. These icy treats are made with water, sugar and fruit. We indulged in strawberry and the famous lemon (granita limone), which were not only allergy friendly but delicious and just what was needed on such a hot day.

orange and lemon juice for sale in Pompeii, Italy
Fresh lemon and oramge juice for sale in Pompeii, Italy

What about fine dining?

As we were on a family trip, we didn’t eat out at any very fine dining restaurants in Rome. We chose restaurants and cafes with more family friendly food options that we knew would be more likely to be able to accommodate allergies. If we had chosen to go to more upmarket restaurants, we would have taken the same approach as we do at home in Australia and asked about allergies at the time of booking. This gives the restaurant time to prepare a safe meal or alternatively let you know that they can’t or won’t be able to accommodate your allergies (which can sometimes be the case with particular degustation or set menus).

Food shopping in Rome

As we travel with multiple food allergies, we always choose to stay in an apartment with its own kitchen. This gives us the option to prepare our own meals. Our apartment in Rome was in Monti, in walking distance of so many ancient attractions including the Colosseum. There was a small Conad grocery store a short walk from our apartment where we could stock up on ingredients for cooking, breakfast options and snacks. As it turned out, we really didn’t do a lot of cooking in Rome as we were easily able to find allergy friendly options at the restaurants around Monti and beyond.

Final thoughts about Rome with food allergies

Our experience of eating out in Rome with food allergies was very positive. General allergy awareness wasn’t as high as we experience in places like London for example, but we did find restaurants to be accommodating when asked for allergy information and safe menu choices. The main thing that made it easier for us to find allergy friendly options was the nature of Italian food. Many Italian dishes are made with a few simple, fresh ingredients and flavours. It was often easy to adapt a meal by leaving out an ingredient. While we had our own kitchen at the apartment as a backup, we didn’t really need it in Rome.

If you are travelling in Europe with food allergies, make sure to add Rome to your plans. We have plans to go back and explore more of Italy soon. As with all travel, make sure to plan well, pack your allergy translation cards and have your Google translate app ready to go if you don’t speak the language.

Roman landmarks. Gelato, pizza, salad, pasta, tiramisu with text "enjoy Italian food in Rome with food allergies"

More tips for travelling with allergies

Does your travel insurance actually covers your allergies including anaphylaxis? We take out insurance for pre-existing medical conditions at the same time as we book our trips. Read more about how to check your travel insurance for allergies in our post on travel insurance for allergies.

We also never travel without our amazing allergy travel cards from Equal Eats. These were a must have in Italy and we’ve written about them in detail in our review. You can also use our discount code ALLERGYSPOT for 10% off your order at Equal Eats.

If you are planning to visit other European destinations, see our travel tips for eating out with food allergies in London, Vienna and Paris too. And for more practical tips for holiday planning and staying safe while you are away, have a look at our tips for safe travel with allergies.

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