Italy is one of the most gluten-free friendly places to travel. Our family had a great time in Venice and I’m going to tell you what we packed, where we stayed, and what gluten-free foods we enjoyed along the way. Oh! and how we did it all on a budget!
I’ve heard from several bloggers how traveling to Italy when living a gluten-free lifestyle is easier than traveling to most other places. I couldn’t agree more. We found several restaurants, hotels, and grocery stores that offered safe, dedicated, gluten-free options. I’m going to share our journey with you starting with our flight, through the restaurants we ate, and what snacks we brought with us.
We started our vacation in Venice, took a train to Florence, and then another train to Rome. We spent three nights in each city and stayed in major touristy areas (in quiet hotels though).
What if I told you that I paid $5,000 total for the four of us for our entire vacation? Travel, hotel, food, site seeing, EVERYTHING! I’ll share EXACTLY how I did it. It’s no secret, just some searching and a bit of luck. The exchange rate when we went was high ($1.89 US for 1 EURO), so you know we got good deals.
Air – ($2400 total) Airfare was$600pp on British Airways flying out of Portland, OR. I’m not joking. I started searching for prices for June, but traveling to Italy in June was way out of our price range. I signed up for Travel Zoo and received a notice that they were having a special for March travel. I searched prices for my girls spring break, flying into Venice and out of Rome, and viola! The tickets were only $600 each with tax. And the flights were really good, we only had one two hour layover.
Train ($110)- We took trains between the three cities. I paid $25 each for my dear husband and I on one train, and $30 each on another. The girls were free.
Hotel ($1350) – We paid an average of $150 a night for our apartments and the hotel in Florence. That price includes taxes, and the exchange rate fees. The hotel in Florence included breakfast, and the apartment in Rome included a fresh made breakfast.
Food and Sightseeing ($1100) – We bought a membership to the museums in Venice to save us from having to wait in a three hour long line at the Dodge’s Palace, which was the most expensive thing we paid for ($200 I believe). We also bought tickets to see the David in Florence for $35. The rest of the money was spent on outstanding gluten-free food, tons of Gelato, and souvenirs – including a couple of glass rings that my girls accidentally knocked off of a table in Venice and broke (yes, we had to pay for them).
What we packed:
I had planned on bringing more gluten-free snacks but we limited ourselves to hard sided carry on’s and a backpack and had to pack more clothes than expected. We went to Venice in March of 2014 and it was one of the coldest March’s in history. So, instead of packing all the snacks we had planned, we packed extra warm clothes, which apparently take up more room than snacks (boo!).
We still managed to bring some of our favorites though:
- Glutino’s Pretzels and Crackers
- A box of Annies Gluten-Free Mac n’ cheese (because we had an apartment, but I’ll get to that)
- Fruit Snacks, Fruit Leather
- Beef Jerky
- Enjoy Life Foods Bars
- Kind Bars
- Udi’s Bread
Although we didn’t pack all the snacks we wanted, we discovered Schar gluten-free foods while in Venice. Almost every grocery store carried Schar. I wish we had room in our luggage, I would have stocked up on some of our new found favorites.
Tips for ensuring a food-safe flight:
I wrote a post for Gluten-Free & More Magazine that covers airlines that offer gluten-free meals and top tips for eating safe on a gluten-free diet. Here are a couple of things that I shared.
- Fly with airlines that offer allergy friendly/gluten-free meals.
- Select the gluten-free meal when you make your reservation online or within 1-4 days of your flight. If you don’t see the option try going into your reservation after it’s confirmed. Sometimes airlines give you additional options like meal type, seating, and upgrades after your reservation is confirmed. If you go to your reservation and you still don’t see the place to update your meal preference, call the airline.
- Bring your own food just in case they make a mistake – they are only human! I have heard stories where people received a gluten-free labeled meal only to open it to gluten-containing food.
- If it doesn’t look right, don’t eat it. That’s why you brought some of your own food right?
- Call your airline (or check online) in advance to make sure they have your request noted. I made a request in advance once and found out when we got on the plane that the request was “reset” because the flight number changed. It was an annoying error on the airline’s part, but I should have double checked to make sure it was still noted.
You can find the whole article on the My Life With Food Allergies site here.
Where we stayed:
We rented the cutest apartment in Venice. We made breakfast in the apartment each morning, usually scrambled eggs, fruits and Udi’s bread toasted in a pan, and ate at restaurants for dinner. During the day we stopped by the market and picked up sliced cured meats, fresh fruits, cheeses, and chips and had picnics in the squares or by the water. My girls loved having picnic lunches, even though it was cold.
We stayed at CA’ SANT’ANGELO Apartment #4 and absolutely love it. It was updated, clean, spacious, and just what we needed. You can book directly through their website at www.casantangelo.com. We had a one bedroom apartment with a large bathroom, washer, and drying rack. Having a washer made packing easier, and we were able to move onto our next destination, Florence, with clean clothes. Our apartment overlooked a stunning and rustic garden and was right on a square, within a ten minute walk to everything that we wanted to see, and a grocery store.
What restaurants we ate at:
Like I mentioned further up, we only ate in restaurants at night. We loved having a European style lunch in the middle of the day and our larger meal at night. We always finished our evenings with a stroll along the water and some Gelato!
One of the things I love about Italy is that most restaurants offering gluten-free foods put a sticker in the widow or on their door. Gluten intolerance and allergies are well known in Italy, and they take great pride in being able to serve delicious Italian meals that are also gluten-free.
Rosa Rosa (near the apartment) – We had gluten-free wood fired pizza and pasta. It was so good that we ate there once more.
Osteria Antico Dolo – We had gluten-free pasta a bread. It was to-die-for. Everything was fresh and perfectly cooked.
Mea Libera Tutti
We stopped by this store after we read about it on another site. It sells only gluten-free products. www.glutenfreeroads.com
We were only in Venice for three nights, then we packed our bags, a fabulous gluten-free picnic lunch with sparkling water and wine, and took a train on Rail Italy to Florence (post coming soon).