We understand the special dietary needs of those with celiac disease and others who need to travel gluten-free. We can provide gluten-free welcome baskets upon request, and we can teach you how to make gluten-free, handmade pasta (our local pasta called “pici”) as part of our Dolce Vita experiences. Furthermore, we know all the restaurants in our region that are able to provide gluten-free meals and we’ll contact the restaurant on your behalf and speak directly to someone at the restaurant to make certain they are aware of your needs.
In this link we are happy to provide the information and research provided by one of our returning guests, Michelle Kennedy, who has written a report carefully detailing how she learned to travel quite successfully in Tuscany on a gluten-free diet. We appreciate very much her permission to publish her report and feel certain you will find it to be invaluable.
First, we will provide some links you might find interesting.
TIPS FOR ENJOYING GLUTEN FREE TUSCANY
by Michelle Kennedy
I am a Hispanic female with celiac disease and a self proclaimed foodie and travel lover! With that being said, I rely heavily on my excellent research skills and the documentation/blogging of others to make my gluten-free living simple. Italy is a beautiful place and I have been privileged to visit Italy without the knowledge of being celiac and with the knowledge of being celiac. Was I anxious? Yes, but my husband was more anxious! Was it horrible to not have the breads, pastries, pizzas, etc? Not a chance! The gluten-free options were better and abundant!
Traveling with celiac disease (celiachia in Italian) is always challenging; however, it opens your palate to try new and exciting things. Don’t be surprised if you fall in love with something entirely different from what you are accustomed to. Nonetheless, let me recommend that you always plan ahead!
WHAT I HAVE LEARNED FROM MY RESEARCH OF CELIAC DISEASE WITHIN ITALY
Italians have the highest prevalence of celiac disease within the European Union. Italian children are tested proactively, rather than reactively (as in the United States) and Italian citizens receive a monthly stipend for gluten-free food (cibo senza glutine). In addition, the Associazione Italiana Celiachia (www.celiachia.it/home/HomePage.aspx), the Italian government and a few major Italian companies promote awareness and understanding to keep the restaurant industry well informed. It is also a requirement for all pharmacies to carry gluten-free foods. Gluten-free options vary widely, but Dr. Schar products were most consistently available and by far the best (pasta, baguettes, foccacia, lady fingers, ciabiatta, cookies etc)!
AN ITALIAN VACATION – GLUTEN FREE
I researched the availability of gluten-free food available via airlines and Air Canada had the best reputation. Well, the research paid off and I received a very good gluten-free dinner on the longest leg of my trip (more on that later). My departure point was LAX (Los Angeles, California) with one stop in Montreal. Because my research indicated that I wasn’t likely to find any safe food I had some gluten-free crackers and a protein bar on me. Well, I just couldn’t give up! I purchased some fresh fruit and a Diet Coke – hoping I would be satisfied until the next leg of travel which included meal service. My husband found a single salad! It was the last salad on the shelf (located at Boulevard Express) which included farm fresh lettuce, tomatoes, onions, and bell peppers. This was like a miracle…I ate that salad like it was the finest cut of beef! It was a very pleasant surprise as I had anticipated something having nothing or eating something quite horrible!
Shortly, after the final leg of my flight (Montreal to Rome) meal service began. I enjoyed chicken with gravy, wild rice, mixed vegetables, a dinner roll, and a ginger cookie for desert. Let me tell you it was great!
It was a lengthy journey, but we finally arrived in Rome in the morning. I decided not to think much about food for a while and wait until we arrived at our hotel. I researched hotel availability in Chiusi and the surrounding areas. I was fortunate to have found Villa Il Patriarca. The hotel was wonderfully beautiful and also very accommodating to my diet. My husband and I were exhausted and decided on a simple lunch of mixed meats (pork, chicken, beef, boar etc.), some house wine and acqua frizzante (sparking water). I had a lovely lemon sorbet for dessert and we were done! We awoke later in the evening completely disoriented not knowing if it was day or night! However, once we “got it together” we had an appetite for a tiny dinner. Dinner consisted of prosciutto, cantaloupe, pecorino, pear, and more sparkling water. Then back to sleep.
The next morning we awoke late for breakfast. Strangely enough they held my breakfast for me – it was so very thoughtful! I was presented with an enormous platter of breads, biscuits, and cookies! I really didn’t feel up to any toast that morning – still I was embarrassed to not take any! Again so very grateful and impressed! Could this really be soft, fluffy, delicious gluten-free bread? Oh yes! Indeed it was! Wow, I was thinking do we really have to check out today?
Off to our favorite agriturismo in Pienza: Agriturismo Cretaiole! We had waited two long years for our return visit! Ahhh bellissimo! We arrived at the farm very early…more than 2 hours prior to check in! We pulled up the long drive way and hit the brake…. I didn’t even turn the car off! I greeted Luciano with a gigantic bear hug! I am sure he was thinking “what the heck???” as Italians greet each other quite differently! On the other hand, I didn’t care! If you ever have the opportunity to meet Luciano you will immediately understand my adoration!
Life on the farm is lovely and very accommodating to the gluten-free diet! Fresh water, eggs, pecorino, prosciutto, a beautiful vegetable garden, and of course Luciano’s wine/olive oil! Isabella and Carlo shouldn’t be left out of this – they make the magic happen. It is a wonderful place to live and eat safely while visiting Pienza (in the Val d’Orcia) and the surrounding Tuscan countryside.
With research prior to our departure from the US, I learned that Dr. Schar has “DS Pizza Points” (http://www.dspizzapoint.com/en/) throughout Italy! The DS Pizza Points designate restaurants and pizzerias serving gluten-free (senza glutine) pizza! And, fortunately there was one very close to the farm – 10-15 min. drive! The restaurant is Ristorante La Taverna Della Barbarossa located in San Quirico d’Orcia. To our surprise there was more than pizza on the menu! The gluten-free options were plentiful! I have never seen a menu with more gluten-free options. Therefore, the first night we didn’t have pizza – I had lamb and my husband who supports my gluten-free diet had pasta! We visited the restaurant on two more occasions for the wood-fired, gluten-free pizza! WOW!
Isabella also recommended a local restaurant in Pienza serving gluten-free options – Delicious! Ristorante Dal Falco located at Piazza Dante Alighieri 7, on main road next to the park, just outside of the old town.
Following our week’s stay at Cretaiole, we stayed at Le Casine di Castello located in Castelmuzio (also owned by the Moricciani family). I realized dining was going to be a little tricky as we did not have Luciano’s garden at our finger tips. Don’t get me wrong, we had access to it, but we had to drive rather than walk outside our door. But, then my creativity kicked in! We stocked up on our vegetables and decided to make a trip to the local market (not the Coop, but a market place where the local producers congregate and sell their items and we also frequented other butcher shops. Each sold wonderful steaks, sausage, and ribs (bistecche, salsicce, e costolette). Le Casine di Castello has a barbecue grill located within the private garden and my husband prepared beautiful meals for me there. One meal which comes to mind included Caprese Salad (tomatoes, mozzarella, basil, and olive oil), eggplant grilled with olive oil, gluten-free bruschetta, and Bistecche al Fiorentina!
While staying in Castelmuzio other guests familiar with my diet noticed a restaurant located in Montisi had a menu with gluten-free options. The restaurant was Da Roberto Taverna. My lunch consisted of prosciutto, pecorino, and pears-lovely! I will definitely be back as our time was limited that afternoon. My husband had the pot roast with roasted potatoes which he claims were the best ever!
I would like to add that Pienza also has a very nice supermarket known as the Coop (located at Via S. Gregorio, 13) where you can find additional provisions. Note: There is a larger Coop in San Quirico d’Orcia and a smaller Coop in Castelmuzio. All of them had an assortment of processed gluten-free products.
We left beautiful Castelmuzio a day early in an effort to accomodate our early train departure from Chiusi. Since our train was leaving earlier than Hertz opened, we even had to return our car a day early. This gave us a wonderful opportunity to explore Chiusi, which I might say is quite nice! I really loved it! We went for a stroll as most shops were open and stopped in at a very elegant gelato shop located by the church. I was pleased to have a pre-packaged gluten-free dessert as I enjoyed the local scenery. We took a taxi back to Ristorante Nonna Rosa and enjoyed the most fabulous meal ever! It was here that I completely forgot that I was celiac! Can I say it was a foodie’s delight? I have never had a better gluten-free meal! The service was just as wonderful! I love pizza – but, I prefer fine dining and I had a gourmet steak salad, grilled peppers, roasted potatoes! My husband also had a beautiful steak with black truffle butter.
One final note: Drink the wine! The Diet Coke manufactured in Italy is not gluten free. In case this has changed, I recommend that you investigate further by contacting the Coca Cola Company Division Office for Italy at: Coca-Cola Italy and Alpine Division, Casella Postale 214, 20099 Sesto S. Giovanni, Milano, Italy, Tel: +39 800.836000.