Heads up before going any further with this post: I didn’t succeed in keeping to my dairy free diet during my recent visit to Italy however, in detailing my mistakes, hopefully others can be more successful!
I have to admit, I did feel pretty frustrated with myself because I totally ignored my previous post detailing my top tips when dining out with an intolerance and I put that down to my lack of preparation. In July, I will be returning to Italy (Venice this time) and I am determined to be better with my diet! Over the next couple of months I will be doing a lot more research and learning more of the language to help me in situations of uncertainty around the ingredients contained in certain dishes.
However, for the sake of this post, I’m going to outline some of the dishes I ate and mistakes that you can hopefully avoid if you’re in a similar boat to me.
First stop: Pisa. I stuck to fruit for breakfast as the alternatives were yoghurt, cheese, bread, butter, cakes…you get the jist! We then headed into the centre of Pisa and stopped at one of the many restaurants with an outdoor eating area. The menu was typically italian with cheesy pizzas and creamy pastas on offer so I thought I would keep it safe and opt for the grilled chicken salad. I asked the waiter to confirm it was ‘senza formaggio’ (without cheese). He clearly didn’t understand my terrible attempt at speaking his language as he replied ‘you would like parmesan?’. Absolutely not, I replied!
The dish arrived. On first glance, it looked dairy free so I sprinkled over balsamic vinegar and tucked in. I get nearer to the bottom of the bowl and I thought I tasted something cheesy however I couldn’t see any so thought my taste buds were playing tricks on me. However, the more I ate, the more cheesy it got and I realised that it did have thin shavings of parmesan in after all. Mistake number one!
That night, we drove to our rural retreat up in the hills of Rivalto, near Chianni. A beautiful setting and I’m keen to write more about the place in a future post for anyone else who is looking for a really chilled break. Fortunately, the restaurant within the Palazzo was open so we decided to give it a try. Bread is served with every meal in Italy and I have absolutely no idea if it contains any milk or other dairy products so it probably is best to avoid it unless you are certain. Mistake number 2…
Because of the bread, I decided against a starter and opted to go straight in with a main. Pizzas were a big feature on the menu, as well as pasta (again!). Promising my boyfriend that he could have a pizza another night, he agreed to share the Fiorentina Steak with me – 1 kg of meat! It really was delicious and clearly dairy free so I was happy with the choice (even if it was a bit outfacing!).
Next morning and we only just made it up for breakfast. Walking into the cave-like restaurant at our Palazzo, we were greeted with a feast! Meats, cheeses, cakes (lots of cakes), fruit, yoghurt, cereals…the list goes on!
I obviously avoided all the cakes (much to my disappointment) and cheeses and I’m not really one for eating meats for breakfast so I opted for the cereal. Cereal is one of those foods which does have the potential to contain milk products but without the packaging there, I just went with it. I was really pleased to see they had milk alternatives on offer too with rice milk and soya milk.
I sat down to a nice large bowl only to find that what I thought were raisins in the muesli, were actually chocolate drops (did I mention it was quite dark in there?!). Mistake number three…I still ate it.
My next mistake? Not wanting to seem ungrateful / offend anyone! The lovely owner where we stayed knew from the night before that I have an intolerance to dairy. She therefore brought me two yoghurts which contained the words ‘senza lattosio’ and explained that she bought them specifically for me. I had an inkling that ‘lattosio’ was actually lactose, not dairy as a whole. If you’ve read some of my other posts, you’ll know that I’m intolerant to the proteins in dairy, as opposed to the lactose meaning that lactose free is still no good for me. However, to show my gratuity, I felt I needed to eat it and therefore tucked in. This goes completely against my top tips so please don’t be like me!
Potentially one of my happiest dairy free food moments of our time in Italy was when we found a gelateria offering chocolate sorbet in Florence (and yes, she promised me it was dairy free!). Of course I went with the chocolate option and also went with the server’s suggestion of Mango sorbet. Absolutely delicious!
Safe to say though, after my first three mistakes (and probably also eating other dairy products unknowingly), my stomach had already doubled / tripled in size since I first arrived in Italy and I was extremely uncomfortable. So much so that on the final day, I took any opportunity I could to undo my shorts and let it all hang out!! Despite this, I didn’t succumb to temptation of knowingly indulging in any of the obviously milk / butter / cream containing delicious looking gelato / cakes / desserts on offer (call me stupid!). Even when the other half was so kind as to rub this white chocolate cheesecake in my face…
As I said, I downright failed this time in Italy with my dairy free diet and I’m actually looking forward to researching further and learning more of the language before we head to Venice. I’ll be sure to share my findings with you so make sure you follow me on my social channels if you are interested!
I’ll leave you with a few more images to whet your appetite!