My one- week journey through coeliac heaven & hell- Rome, Italy.
Rome. The first thing that comes to my mind is the colosseum, creamy succulent carbonaras, thin crispy pizzas, and endless scoops of gelato in sugary waffle cones. Basically, a coeliac’s nightmare. To my utmost surprise and delight, it was not a nightmare, in fact Rome, was a coeliac friendly delight.
After a long flight I was starving and quite typically for me, hangry (when you become so hungry, you turn angry). In desperation, I headed to google for answers, praying that someone would kindly have translated I am a coeliac into Italian for my unorganized self. It was my lucky day- “Io sono celiaci” was the phrase, and with that in my arsenal I made my way to the first restaurant I could find.
The waiter approached and commenced a very fast spiel in Italian. Shocked and bemused, I burst out “Io sono celiaci” and what happened next blew me away. No strange looks, no questions, just a smile, a nod, and a few seconds later I was presented with my own “senza glutine” menu- aka GLUTEN FREE menu. I was so overwhelmed and excited, Rome was already exceeding my coeliac expectations.
After ordering, devouring and truly enjoying my first traditional Italian pasta dish- penne arrabiatta, I set off to search for more gluten free delights. I wandered the cobblestone alleys of Rome with little direction, other than the incredible aromas tantalizing my nostrils, and the frequent signs stating “gluten free pizza available, senza glutine, gluten free menu available”… After three months of travelling, no country or city had been nearly this accommodating, and I had only been in Rome for a few hours.
Another lane led me to the incredible Trevi Fountain. I had seen so many pictures of this beautiful monument, to finally see it in the flesh was invigorating. I wanted to sit and take it in, and if I was truly to appreciate a roman sight, what better accompaniment than gelato!
A line protruding out of the door of a gelato shop a stone throw away from the cascading water caught my attention, and within minutes I was inside, struggling to choose one of the 30 flavours to have in my cup. The smell of sweet waffle cones was almost unbearable, but a small sign reading “senza glutine” above the counter, thankfully, caught my eye. Yes, they had gluten free ice-cream cones. Not the pale white, crumbly, flaky concoctions I was used to in Melbourne, the real stuff.
Golden brown, crimped, exuding a syrupy scent, and calling my name- I opted for pannacotta gelato, and a second scoop of fragola (strawberry) in honour of this find. It tasted even better than it looked, and as I sat and watched children running around and tossing coins into the fountain, I thought to myself, there is no need to make a wish, I could not be happier right now, as I took a big delicious bite.
The final piece de resistance of my 5-day foray into Rome was a restaurant I came across on Trip Advisor, and even though Google maps advised me it was a 45-minute walk away, through winding lanes, nothing could deter me. It came with an outstanding reputation, “The best pizza I’ve ever eaten” & “a coeliac’s dream”, so needless to say, I was excited.
It was a tricky find, I warn you in advance, but it was more than worth the effort. I arrived huffed and puffed from my quest, only to be presented with ice-cold water and an entire gluten free menu, with everything you could dream of. Pizza, pasta, risotto, arancini balls, garlic bread, and of course, desserts. Ten minutes later, a sizzling, glorious pizza was rushed over to my table.
My expression showed such elation, the waitress couldn’t help but smile and say, "I love when coeliac’s find us", in very cute broken English.
It was not a tiny pizza with a thick chewy crust, but a thin, crispy crust on a full sized pizza, with rich tomato sauce, fresh salami, and just the right amount of stringy oozing mozzarella.
Don’t believe the stereotype, the piles of pasta, pizza and garlic bread we dream of are not off limits to our fussy tummies. Rome loves coeliac’s as much as we love good gluten-free food.
What are you waiting for? Get packing, and bon appetite!