Eating Vegan in a Land of Cheese: Italy

 

AH, Italy

The land of culture, class, charm, and.... cheese.

Lots and lots of cheese. 

 

Italy is a dream destination for people all across the globe - with nearly 50 million tourist visits a year, it is the fifth most visited country in the International tourist arrivals. 

 

With a little something to offer for everyone, most people visit Italy for it's rich cultural history, ancient resorts, bold fashion, enchanting vineyards, warm climate,

AND i n d u l g e n t cuisine. 

 

Yes, Italian cuisine is a highlight for many.

Basically, pasta, pizza, ciabatta, focaccia, gnocchi, lasagna, ravioli, risotto, biscotti, pastries, espresso, wine, and gelato galore.

EVERY MEAL is like a dream from your childhood.

 

Seems like a vegans worst nightmare, not just because you would think there is nothing for a vegan to eat - but even worse - a vegan might be tempted to just say "fuck it, give me the biggest slice of that pizza in the window, and a canolli while you're at it." (This didn't happen... but damn did those pasties look goooooood)

 

Being a vegan doesn't mean you need to skip out on all this fun....

or that you need to starve.

Italy provides to all.

You just need to know how to navigate around in a land where cows breast milk is thought of and used in every damn way but that.

 

so here are my personal

TOP 10 TIPS FOR TRAVELING VEGAN IN ITALY:

 

1) THINGS TO AVOID: 

 

Learning important words in Italian will help you out, BIG TIME! It's never too reassuring when you ask for something in English "Is this made with Milk?" and they just smile and nod.... mmmhm. right. so, its made with milk or no?

 

There are a handful of words that you'll want know because you are intentionally trying to avoid them: 

 

Latte- Milk

Formaggio - Cheese 

Burro - Butter 

Uovo - egg

Carne - meat

Pollo- chicken

Prosciutto- ham

pesce- fish

delle carni bovine - veal

Agnello - lamb

 

2) THINGS TO KNOW:

 

First things first, now you know the words of the nasty stuff. Now we need to learn how to use them properly. Just saying "milk" could get confusing for the both ends of the party. 

 

To ask for something "without" a particular thing, you would say "Senza" and then ​

​whatever you might be asking to have without. "Senza Formaggio

 

And to ask for something in a full sentence you would begin with:

"Ha delle" - Do you have any? 

 

To let them know you are a vegan 

"Sono Vegano/Vegana"

(everyone knew what I meant when I said this! AMAZING!)

 

To say you don't eat something

"Non mangio..."

 

In addition here are some Italian words for things you might be looking for if all else fails:

 

"Soia" - soy (for your coffee in the morning, yogurt, etc.)

"Verdure" - vegetables 

"Frutta" - fruit 

"Insalata" - salad 

 

3) COMMON VEGAN DISHES ON MENUS: 

 

Surprisingly, there are a few dishes on classic Italian menus that are highly likely to be vegan! Check the appetizer or "Antipasto" section in addition to the Side Dish or "Contorni" section.

 

Here you'll find options such as Bruschetta, marinated olives or mushrooms, antipasti, and grilled veggies. 

 

Also these are classic Italian dishes that are commonly found on all Italian menus: 

 

Spaghetti aglio, olio e peperoncino - spaghetti with olive oil and red chillies 

 

Spaghetti pomodoro -

spaghetti with tomatoes 

 

Pizza marinara -

a pizza WITHOUT cheese. Yes! this is a very real thing on menus! 

 

Also: Focaccia bread is vegan! I found this out after my visit to Italy so unfortunately I didn't indulge in any - but I wish I had known!!! (next time, because I absolutely WILL be back)

 

4) KNOW YOUR PASTA:

 

Not all pasta is created equal (i'm talkin about equality to all living beings!!).

Fresh pasta is very common in Italy and is made with eggs - so when you are ordering pasta and pasta dishes make sure you clarify NO EGGS.

Dried pasta is made from durum wheat and is always vegan.

 

5) WHEN IN DOUBT, PIZZA IT OUT:

 

If the fresh pasta they are serving does have eggs - opt for a yummy vegetable pizza. Pizza dough, if traditionally made, is always vegan

 

YES. 

 

Pizza marinara is common and usually the first pizza listed on menus - its a pizza without cheese on it already.

Um how easy is that?!

 

You don't even need to ASK for it without cheese or get a funny look when you do. 

 

Problem solved and who isn't happy with pizza?! 

 

6) BUTTER IS FOR PEASANTS:

 

One thing you wont have to worry about is butter! Most traditional Italian cuisine uses oils such as olive oil instead of butter. The only thing you'll really find butter in is in pasties.  

 

7) GET YO' FRUIT GELATO ON:

 

Yes! Vegan Gelato does exist. and it's easier to find than you might think.

Most of their simple fruit flavors do not contain milk - I walked into a random Gelato shop in Milan and they had 5 different flavors to choose from. Mango, Raspberry, Strawberry, Lemon, and Pineapple. AMAZING! ​

 

8) KEYWORD SEARCH: VEGAN

 

It's true, I CAN CONFIRM, completely vegan restaurants do exist in Italia!

In Milan I just typed in "vegan" onto the google maps app and so many different places showed up. The revolution is happening and people are recognizing this. There were 6 strictly vegan places I found:

Universo Vegan, Flower Burger, RistoVeg, Radicetonda, B12, and even a raw vegan cafe called Mantra Raw Vegan!

 

And these were all within a 20 minute walking distance to where I was. 

 

There were also tons of vegetarian places that showed up as well as restaurants and cafes that cater to vegans and have either their menus labeled or separate vegan menus.

 

Times are changin' my friends. 

 

9) DIY IN THE GROCERY STORE AISLES 

 

If you are feelin' inspired to create some of your own Italian magic in the kitchen yourself (or you're just trying to save some cash!!!) go visit the local grocery stores. All of the stores I went in had everything from soia yogurt, to vegan cheese, to oat milk.

And these were tiny 3 aisle grocery stores i'm talkin' about... nothin' special. 

 

There was one particular brand "Bio" (organic!) had a ton of healthy stuff and even gluten free if that's your thing too.

 

10) JUICE BARS + HEALTH FOOD CHAINS

 

Juice bars, smoothie shops, and health food chains have grab and go options in a fridge. These are good for snacks on the go or when you really need something fast. Granola, fruit cups, chips, smoothies, juices, coffee, and sandwiches. 

 

Italy was no London with the health food chains, but I was still impressed with what I saw. 

 

SO THERE WE GO: PROBLEM SOLVED. 

YOU ABSOLUTELY CAN (AND QUITE EASILY) EAT VEGAN IN ITALY.

I hope this helped!!! 

 

Choose Compassion. Choose Kindness. Choose Pizza. 

~T. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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February 16, 2018

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