I first visited Rome with my dad and brother many years ago, a trip that was pre-Coeliac diagnosis and filled with pizza, pasta and all things gluteney. That and overwhelming heat as we visited in the summer!
This trip was to be four nights with Paul who had not visited the city and wanted to see the sights. Two of our friends, Shareen and Neil also joined us for the first two nights, on a return trip to the city for them. We decided to go in April for more moderate temperatures for sightseeing than on my last trip.
I know that the common misconception of many coeliacs is that Italy would be a terrible place to go on holiday in terms of trying to find gluten free food, but from a previous trip to Venice I knew that this is absolutely not the case. Gluten free menus are widely advertised and restaurants understood what being Coeliac meant. I mainly stuck to restaurants that work with Italian Coeliac Association (AIC) and by doing so I’ve had no problems in either city. Their website is an amazing resource, and available without being a member so invaluable for trips to Italy if you have Coeliac disease.
We decided to stay fairly central and that led to us staying at the Relais Fontana di Trevi based on the price as I wanted to use the free nights we had saved up from our South America travels on hotels.com This hotel was about seven minutes from a metro stop which is useful when arriving in the city. It was right near the Trevi Fountain for sightseeing, they supplied a mobile to use whilst there which would be really handy if visiting from outside Europe and it had a roof top terrace bar. This was an awesome place for getting an evening glass of wine and people watching. However, I wouldn’t recommend this hotel as it was extremely noisy as it overlooked the fountain.
Shareen and Neil instead booked a package and stayed at Hotel Condotti. This was next to Spagna metro station and the Spanish steps and the hotel itself was much quieter. Their hotel room was lovely, but the bathroom was all open so maybe not one for those wanting a bit more privacy when using the bathroom!
Nearest sight: Trevi Fountain
Located right next to the Trevi Fountain, and therefore our hotel this was the first restaurant we ate at when we arrived hungry! The gluten free menu was on the back of the normal menu and included pasta and pizza.
I decided to go for one of my favourites – carbonara, although I’ve heard that the pizzas are pretty good too! I was amazed when my pasta turned up and the waitress also changed my cutlery to ones that were wrapped to prevent any risk of cross contamination. I don’t think that’s ever happened to me before!
Shareen, Paul and Neil tucked into normal pizzas that they loved and the restaurant went down well with everyone. It was also very reasonably priced considering that it was located in such a touristy place. The service wasn’t the fastest though so I wouldn’t recommend it if you’re in a hurry!
Nearest Sight: The Vatican
Mama Eat was the restaurant I’d heard of from social media for being exceptional for gluten free food. It turns out that they have their normal restaurant located in Travestere and also Mama Eat Street Food which is conveniently located near the Vatican. Set up as a casual fast food place that is 100% gluten free this is perfect for lunch before or after visiting the Vatican.
For €20 Shareen and I shared cod bites and chips and chicken strips and chips and had two cans of Diet Coke. We only had the small portions and they were enough for us, and the chip portion was huge. The bigger size though would probably mean more cod bites and chicken strips as there weren’t as many of them as the chips! [Note: The boys went next door for €6 ‘normal’ pizzas! if any non coeliacs travelling with you don’t want to eat gluten free fast food!]
Of course I also had to buy some fried donuts topped with sugar and hazelnut sauce for dessert for us all to share! They were a bit denser than gluteney donuts but extremely good for something gluten free. I definitely left Mama Eat smelling of all things fried but extremely happy!
Nearest sight: The Vatican
Having been to Mama Eat when visiting the Vatican we actually went to La Soffitta Renovatio on a different day as it was located near Ottaviano metro station so still pretty easy to get to.
On entering the restaurant it looked deserted but once around the corner there were actually lot of occupied tables. I was handed the menu and when I asked about gluten free I was told pretty much everything could be made gluten free, including fried food as they had different fryers. Happy days, that immediately meant I had to order the fried calamari starter that I had already noticed on the menu as one of my favourite dishes!
The calamari was amazing, although I didn’t love that it came with fried prawns as they were fried whole – including heads, tails and shells so I couldn’t eat them.
For the main Paul and I shared diavolo pizza and amatriciana spaghetti. For me the stand out unusually was the spaghetti as I absolutely loved the flavour of it! The pizza was still excellent though for gluten free pizza and we were both far too full to contemplate dessert.
This restaurant was accredited by AIC and I felt at ease eating here.
Nearest Sight: The Pantheon
I was very excited to find that there was a 100% gluten free bakery located near The Pantheon.
They had all sorts of gluten free treats, but the stand out was definitely the custard donut. The biscuits and tarts were nice, but a little dry.
Nearest Sight: The Pantheon
An AIC accredited restaurant next to The Pantheon that provided a convenient lunch on one of the days. They had a €10 lunch deal that included bruschetta, selected pizza or pasta and a good sized glass of wine (or other drink options). We all had this deal but mine did have a €3 surcharge for gluten free. A lot of restaurants had a gluten free surcharge, something that annoys many coeliacs from what I’ve seen on social media so it is something to note though if you don’t ever pay the extra as it may limit some of your options in Rome.
The lunch deal was great value, but the pizza was very average. Totally fine for a quick lunch but nothing that stood out.
Alex (#theglutenfreesuitcase) messaged me to say that this restaurant had made her a gluten free gnocchi dish that wasn’t on the menu, and looked fantastic on her Instagram so if you aren’t going for the lunch deal it may be worth seeing what they will do for you!
Nearest Sight: The Pantheon (but there are several locations around the city)
Gelato is everywhere in Italy and being eaten by everyone, so Grom is the answer for all coeliacs wishing to eat gelato from an actual cone! Mine was not only a cone, but a chocolate dipped cone! I chose nocciola (hazelnut), pistachio and stracciatella gelato and it was delightful and way over the top! Paul and I ended up going for dinner about 9pm that night as we weren’t that hungry after all the pizza and icecream! Don’t miss Grom on a trip to Rome, or Italy. Even our Colosseum tour guide recommended it to the group without gluten free being discussed.
Nearest Sight: The Pantheon
This restaurant is unbelievable for gluten free and also accredited by AIC. Do yourself a favour and go here – and order pizza! We loved it! We had one of the anti pasti plates to share and I had a suppli (rice ball) which were all nice, but here it was all about the main meal, pizza! Honestly it was amazing, I even had that ‘is it gluten free?’ panic as it looked so much like the real deal. I actually chose a white pizza which doesn’t have tomato sauce – the bocciola which was yummy – white sauce, mushrooms, olives and really tasty sausage. Such a lovely change although I still think I prefer a tomato based pizza.
We also ordered desserts – three between the four of us as they were all gluten free. Tiramisu, cheesecake and panna cotta. The panna cotta was runny and not great. Both the cheese cake and tiramisu were nice though with the cheesecake being voted as the overall winner!
Nearest Sight: Castel sant’angelo
I first heard about this restaurant when researching for New York – a 100% gluten free restaurant with a menu based on rice, particularly risotto. I didn’t get a chance to visit when I was in New York so I was excited to get the chance to visit the Rome branch, especially as it meant a break from pizza and pasta.
I opted for the seafood risotto which turned out to be a squid ink based risotto filled with seafood and topped with incredible grilled squid. They were the star of the show! Paul had a creamy and comforting mushroom risotto that was also yummy and an impressive selection of different risottos were being brought out to the nearby table. Vegetarians and I imagine dairy free diets would be accommated easily here.
Due to overeating during our time in Rome we turned down desserts here, which I later regretted when I saw they had Nutella crepes on the menu!
Nearest Sight: This restaurant is located in Travestere and is the only restaurant we travelled to just to eat, everywhere else was near one of the attractions we wanted to see anyway.
Mama Eat has an epic gluten free menu, and one that you can eat at in confidence due to them having two kitchens so one is dedicated entirely to gluten free! All gluten free food is served on a glass plate so it’s easy to identify if a mistake has been made. They also heavily advertise lactose free options so should be a winner for anyone that is both gluten free and dairy free, it even mentions lactose free mozzarella. There was so much choice it was difficult to choose what to eat. In the end I went for gluten free aracini balls to start which we amazing!
My main course was lasagne, again to mix it up from pizza and the normal pasta dishes and it was nice for a change.
I then had crepes filled with Nutella and white chocolate for dessert which were lush and I highly recommend!
Paul ordered the fried pizza strips which were ok but really could have done with a tomato sauce rather than fresh tomatoes as they were quite dry, a burger and chips which was actually bunless and a delicious panna cotta.
So many items could be made gluten free (with lactose free options) that this restaurant is definitely worth the trip. Make the most of the fried food, and the desserts here were incredible!
Other Recommendations that I didn’t get to try out myself
*McDonalds – in Europe I try to eat at McDonald’s, just because I can! It didn’t go well in Rome though when I tried to get a burger at Termini station as the member of staff didn’t understand English, or my accent when trying to ask for it in Italian!!
*Obica mozzarella bar – our friends recommended this place and we didn’t get a chance to try the one in Rome so ate here when at Milan station. I would recommend it as an evening stop for a glass of wine and some mozzarella – the smoked mozzarella was unusual and epic! The staff weren’t the most helpful in Milan and it was expensive but we managed to get a plateful of mozzarella in the end whilst waiting for our connecting train to Lake Como.
*La Pilotta – restaurant located near the Vatican
*Fatamorgana – gelato with gluten free and dairy free options with more fancy and unusual flavours than at Grom.
*Celiachiamo – gluten free supermarket and bakery that I wish I had time to get to as the pictures look incredible!
*Sans De Ble – gluten free bakery, a bit further out but looked accessible by metro.
The Spanish Steps
Altare della Patria
Da Vinci Museum
Tips for Rome
*Wear the comfiest shoes you own – you will be walking a lot! I regretted not taking my running trainers as my feet were in agony after a couple of days!
*Book tickets in advance for the Colosseum and Vatican – the queues are long (or be prepared to pay to join a guided tour and skip the queues). Make sure you wear something that covers your shoulders to the Vatican to be allowed in.
*We got up to go out for 6:30am to get some photos and see the sights without the crowds (we went back to the hotel for a nap!) We really felt this was worth it as it got so busy in the day and most of my photos above are from this time.
*We bought 72 hour metro cards for €18 euros but didn’t get our moneys worth. The metro isn’t like cities such as London or New York, it is quite limited for how much of the city it covers so you end up walking everywhere.
*glutenfreemrsd is an amazing resource for gluten free travel with posts on Italy if you’re feeling nervous about travelling abroad with coeliac and lots of posts for specific restaurants. Jodi has also written about Italy on her Legal Nomads website. I would recommend following both blogs to help with overseas travel as a Coeliac.
*Along with #glutenfreemrsd and #legalnomads websites, thank you to #theglutenfreesuitcase #eatingoutgf and #theglutenfreefridge for Rome recommendations – follow these accounts for all things gluten free if you have Instagram. My account is #thesightseeingcoeliac where I post regularly.
*Take a translation card with you, there are many available – find links to them, as well as lots more resources on eating gluten free in Rome and Italy on my extensive gluten free in Europe guide.
I have used them all travelling, the celiac Travel ones are for a wide range of countries and ask for a donation rather than charging for the cards themselves. Coeliac sanctuary are great as they are wallet sized cards and not just paper. Jodi’s are more detailed in their description which I used in Japan where gluten free is pretty much unheard of. I have an Italian one but in Rome I managed everywhere without it, so much so I didn’t have it on me when I got to McDonalds at Termini station and the member of staff there didn’t understand me. It’s always handy to have it on you just in case as this taught me!
*For anyone using this blog post to help with a trip to Rome please make sure you check the menus and restaurants for yourselves that they are still safe for coeliacs and you are comfortable eating there as menus, staff and restaurants do change.
I wish you all a fabulous trip!