I’m so honoured to have been shortlisted for the Post Office Travel Blogger Awards 2018. Check out the blog below, and if you love the sound of it as much as I do, vote for me here to help make my Italian Riviera dreams come true!
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“A bottle of red, a bottle of white
Whatever kind of mood you’re in tonight
I’ll meet you anytime you want
In our Italian Restaurant” – Billy Joel
You may have seen I recently posted a review of Italian Club Fish, a family run restaurant in Liverpool with gluten free pasta to die for! I always find it interesting how smells and flavours can take you back to certain memories. Kind of like that scene in Ratatouille where Ego eats the eponymous dish!
Sitting at a table, with sun streaming in through the windows. The air around us filled with chatter, and a plate of steaming aromatic spaghettini in front of you. The aftertaste of a crisp house white lingering on your tongue. It’s pretty easy to forget the place is tucked away at the top of Bold Street and not in some quaint Italian cittadina.
I’m lucky enough to have had a few fleeting visits to various places in Italy on cruises. In fact, Italy was the first foreign country I visited after going gluten free. We were on a P&O cruise, Oceana – and our departure port was Genoa, right at the centre of the Italian Riviera. Our first priority was to stock up on some essentials for the cabin, by which I mean gin & tonic. It was pre-prohibition days so you could take unlimited alcohol on board P&O ships!
Italy is a gluten free paradise!
I love nosying at things in foreign supermarkets – from the delicious looking meats to the stinky cheeses and fresh bread, it all makes you hungry! No fun for me this time, I thought to myself. I wasn’t used to being gluten free, and had thought this trip would be a real challenge.
No sooner had I thought this, that crossed grain symbols were calling to me from items all over the shop! Several naturally gluten free items declared their availability, and then I discovered a section containing Schar, as well as some unfamiliar Italian brands. It’s where I first came across gluten free Peroni! I eagerly stocked up on some beer, cookies and corn crackers (which are still the nicest crackers I’ve tried!)
Later in the trip, wandering the streets around Florence’s Duomo, I was complaining about how I wouldn’t be able to eat great Italian pizza or pasta when suddenly, there was the crossed grain symbol again! Suddenly, every other rustic restaurant chalkboard seemed to be exclaiming availability of “senza glutine”. We found several restaurants – both flashy franchises and quaint independent places offering gluten free pizza and pasta. We settled on Mister Pizza, where I had an amazing taste of Italy that was safe for my stomach!
So why is Italy so good for gluten free? Well, according to some articles I’d come across in the Telegraph and the Independent, much of the availability is thanks to a national coeliac screening programme introduced in Italy in 2005 which tested school children for the disease. The Italian Coeliac Society strongly advocates the rights of sufferers, ensuring Coeliac Disease is put firmly in the spotlight. Restaurants offer allergy guides pretty much as standard, with many offering gluten free option – the knowledge of cross contamination seems to be much higher as a result of the national awareness. As gluten free food is considered medicine (the gluten free diet considered the only treatment at present for coeliac disease), you can find foods in pharmacies as well as gluten free supermarket aisles.
As I’ve said elsewhere on the blog, I don’t have coeliac disease, however I do get quite ill from being glutened – brain fog, stomach pain and spending the day on the toilet. So for me, the awareness and standard practices in Italy make it very appealing for gluten free travel.
So, where would I visit on my mission to eat gluten free on the Italian Riviera?
I would love to revisit Genoa for a bit of wander, it’s where you fly or cruise into at the very least! Although we started a cruise from there, it being October meant we were hindered somewhat by torrential rain. Although of course the booze shopping didn’t help!
Genoa is the capital of the region of Liguria, home to a rich cultural history in art, music and cuisine – it’s also the birthplace of Christopher Columbus!
The city has two connections to home – first, the flag of Genoa is a St. George’s Cross, identical to the flag of England! Secondly, the city’s history led to it being named European Capital of Culture in 2004, 4 years before Liverpool would be awarded the same title!
There’s lots to see in the city – I love me a good cathedral, so I’d love to visit Genoa’s cathedral, the Church of San Lorenzo. I’d also love to see the royal palace and the beautiful mirror gallery.
A combination of my parents visiting here and numerous pictures on Instagram have made me long to visit this place. The village of Portofino is located not far from Genoa, and is renowned for its picturesque scenery and coloured houses. This place also has a connection to the shores of the UK – it’s thought by many to be where Sir Clough Williams-Ellis got the inspiration for Portmeirion, a Mediterranean style village in North Wales. (That reminds me, I still need to visit the place, I sold day trip tickets for 18 months when I worked at a coach company!)
The place is so beautiful, it apparently also inspired areas of Universal Orlando Resort and Tokyo DisneySea. Also places I haven’t been to – hey, I may as well visit Portofino itself.
The Cinque Terre area is a UNESCO World Heritage site, made up of five beautiful fishing villages – Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso. Each has the same vista of colourful houses and quaint bays, but all have something different to see.
There’s a challenging sounding hike between the villages, along the Sentiero Azzurro path. You’d no doubt get a sweat on but the views must surely be worth it.
On a more relaxing note, I personally love the idea of taking a boat trip between the bays – I found a gorgeous sounding Evening Tapas trip from Angelo’s Boat Tours which would definitely be on my must do list! Good food, fine wine, stunning sunsets and a dip in the Mediterranean sea – what’s not to like? Just look at Manarola at sunset!
The gorgeous Manarola at sunset. Photo Credit – mondayfeelings.com
A Taste of Eating Gluten Free on the Italian Riviera
The Liguria region is known for its great food, and with the Italian being as understanding as they are with gluten free options, I’m hoping I would be able to taste a couple of the regions best dishes. Walks of Italy lists some mouthwatering recommendations, as do Cultural Foodies in their Cinque Terre blog post. One bread, Farinata, is made from chickpea flour, so is apparently naturally gluten free. So too is Pesto alla Genovese, provided you eat it with gluten free pasta.
And of course, a visit to the above beautiful fishing villages just has to include some fresh Italian seafood. Washed down with a glass of Pigato overlooking a summer sunset – yes, I think the Italian Riviera would suit me just nicely!
Fancy making my dream a reality?
I’m very excited to have been shortlisted for the Post Office Travel & Food Blogger of the Year award for 2018 – it’s a great honour to have my little blog recognised after only being going for 6 months – I hope in that time I’ve been able to give my readers some ideas of where to eat and how to travel gluten free.
Voting for The Post Office Travel Blogger Awards is open from 4th July. The top five in each category after the public vote will go through to the judging panel, featuring award-winning travel blogger Emily Luxton, and freelance travel journo Lucy McGuire.
Thank you to Fernanda at Monday Feelings for the pictures of Cinque Terre. Check out the blog they came from here >>
Thank you also to Lisa at Cultural Foodies for the mouthwatering food pictures! Check out the blog they came from here >>