I have a severe and fatal dairy allergy that would cause me to go into anaphylactic shock if I consume a lot of dairy. This means I have never tasted cheese, milk, yogurt, or any heavy dairy foods. I have epi-pens (epinephrine shots), which I’ve thankfully never had to use. Because of this, of course I was worried about travelling to Italy. If you tell someone you stayed in Italy for a month and never ate any cheese, they’ll think you’re crazy, say you’re missing out and that they feel bad for you, and that it must be very hard. These are all wrong!
I was amazed at how easy it was for me to eat out. One of the biggest reasons I love to travel is for the food, and I tried some amazing things. First of all, Italian food is simply not as cheesy as Americanized Italian food, which surprised me. In America, you will never find a pizza without cheese unless you custom order it. In Italy, there were many pizzas that came without cheese. I had meat and olive pizza, tuna pizza, and simple marinara pizza. I even saw shrimp pizza. I didn’t have to miss out on eating pizza in its birthplace, Naples! Another food I was so glad I could eat was gelato. I thought that I would never get to try it, but there were several gelaterias with many vegan soy milk or ice gelatos, not just in Rome, but in Sorrento and Florence as well. My favorites are pistachio and hazelnut!
ISA was also very accommodating. During the welcome dinner, instead of the caprese salad (tomato and mozzarella), the restaurant made me an eggplant and zucchini appetizer. We went to a winery castle in Tuscany for one of our excursions and in place of the cheese samples, they gave me a plate of fruit. There were always alternatives and safe meal options for me, including simple oil pasta, seafood pasta, seafood gnocchi, spaghetti, pizza, and mushroom pasta. I also tried many new foods for the very first time in Italy including rabbit, clams, mussels, cow cheek, wild boar, swordfish, risotto, and octopus! I could even get soy milk lattes in a few cafés, which was a wonderful surprise that I definitely didn’t expect.
I didn’t feel like a burden, and all of this made me love Italy so much more. Whether you’re lactose-intolerant, vegan, or vegetarian there will be options for you, and you should never let that hold you back. I was so happy with my experience in Italy through ISA, and I don’t feel like I missed out on anything. I am still learning Italian and can’t wait to go back to Italy!
The world awaits…discover it.