By Lauren Yakiwchuk
I returned recently from a trip overseas to Italy for three weeks and it was incredibly simple to maintain a vegan diet during my travels. With a little preparation, you’ll find that eating a plant-based diet abroad is not only easy, but also very delicious. Here are some helpful tips to assist you on your journey!
Before you go, do some research
Be sure to look up restaurants ahead of time in the places that you will be visiting. You can find lots of amazing vegan, vegetarian, and veg-friendly restaurants using Happy Cow, Yelp, and Tripadvisor. There are also tons of vegan travel blogs online that you can find by searching for vegan food in Italy on Google. I’ve also compiled a list of vegan travel blogs on my vegan travel site, so be sure to check those out if you’re taking any upcoming vacations. It’s best to be armed with a list of places to eat ahead of time, if possible.
Learn some phrases
We were able to use English the entire time we were in Italy and didn’t have any difficulty ordering food in English. However, you might want to have a list of Italian phrases to use to ensure that your order is correct. Furthermore, Italians may appreciate if you at least attempt to speak some Italian while you’re there. Here is a short list of phrases to keep handy:
Sono vegano / vegana – I’m vegan (masculine and feminine)
Non mangio… – I don’t eat…
Il carne – meat
Le uova – egg
Il formaggio – cheese
Il pollo – chicken
Il pesce – fish
Il burro – butter
I latticini – dairy products
Avete latte di soia? – Do you have any soy milk?
Senza – without
Le verdure – vegetables
La frutta – fruit
Con – with
Con latte di soia – a latte with soy
Pizza rossa – pizza without cheese
Un piatto di pasta con verdure – pasta with fresh vegetables
There are vegan travel groups online where fellow vegans can help you find vegan food in a particular country. For instance, members of the Facebook groups, Vegan Travel and #vegantravel, made some great suggestions for restaurants to try in Italy when I asked for some ideas. There’s also a weekly Twitter chat every Monday at 2:00pm ET that you can join by following the hashtag #vegantravel.
You Can Find Vegan Food Almost Anywhere
At nearly every restaurant that I visited, you could order a pizza marinara (pizza with tomato sauce, spices, and garlic without cheese) directly off the menu. You can also add vegetables of your choice to the pizza. Also, there was usually pasta with tomato sauce in some form on the menu, though be sure to ask if it can be prepared without egg as fresh pasta in Italy generally contains egg. Sometimes the restaurant will have boxes of pasta without egg that they can use for your meal, or they can use a gluten-free dry pasta that has no animal products. Many large cities, such as Rome and Florence, have lots of vegan and vegetarian restaurants as vegan food is growing in popularity. I actually stumbled upon a vegan-friendly restaurant that wasn’t even on my list in Florence – I happened to be walking past and saw the word, “Vegana” written in big letters in front of the restaurant!
Ask Your Tour Operators
There are some tours in Italy that will include a meal. Be sure to ask your tour operators in advance if they can accommodate a vegan or vegetarian diet. We took a tour in Tuscany with Florencetown where we asked if vegan food could be prepared and were delighted by the huge buffet of vegan dishes that were created just for us! We were also very pleased with a vegan cooking class in Ferrara, Italy where we learned how to make fresh pasta without any animal products.
Dine With A Local
In many Italian cities, you can dine with a local who specializes in vegetarian or vegan cuisine. You can search on the website, Bonappetour and find a local who will cook a meal for you at their home. It’s a great way to connect with a local citizen on a more personal level and you can enjoy a home cooked meal with them.
Rent an Apartment with a Kitchen
We only rented apartments while we were travelling so we could have the option of cooking our own food. There are lots of fresh fruits and vegetables to be found at local markets, and it’s easy to whip up a pasta dish in your Italian kitchen. This can help you save money on a longer trip, even if it means only preparing breakfast for yourself each day. There’s the added bonus that staying in apartments can help you to “live like a local” in a less touristy neighbourhood for a more authentic experience.
It’s even easy to find plant-based milk products at the grocery stores in Italy. One particular brand called Valsoia can be found in many supermarkets. Be on the lookout for their vegan versions of milk, yogurt, gelato, and even Nutella!
Some of My Favourite Restaurants
Though I enjoyed many delicious meals throughout Italy, there are a few restaurants that were excellent and I highly recommend that you dine there.
OKE Venezia – http://okevenezia.com/en
This pizzeria was around the corner from our apartment in Venice. They place an emphasis on fresh, organic ingredients, as well as assisting anyone with dietary restrictions or food allergies. Needless to say, we ate some amazing pizza here…and more than once!
Dolce Vegan – http://www.dolcevegan.it/
This is a completely vegan restaurant in Florence where we ate the most delicious veggie burgers. There are numerous menu options that will give you a break from the numerous pizza and pasta dishes that you’ll be consuming. Be sure to try their vegan tiramisu for dessert!
This is a delightful vegetarian restaurant in a quaint piazza across the Ponte Vecchio in Florence. It’s easy to ask which menu items are vegan. I loved the vegan risotto with fresh asparagus.
Konnubio – http://www.konnubio.it/
This restaurant we stumbled upon while walking down the street in Florence. About half of the menu is vegan, and the other half is not (the vegan items are clearly marked). I recommend that you try one of their vegan soups, as well as the seitan & rice milk cream lasagna.
Perche No! – http://www.percheno.firenze.it/index.php?lang=en
This gelato shop has been open since 1939 in Florence, and you’ll find a variety of vegan treats there! Not only are there fruit sorbets, but there are also a few varieties of gelato made with soy milk, including chocolate, vanilla, and hazelnut. I suggest that you combine all three flavors in a cup – it’s heavenly!
Universo Vegano – http://www.universovegano.it/en/
Universo Vegano is a vegan “fast food” chain in several cities, though we visited the one in Rome. You can find burgers, wraps, salads, and sandwiches here, as well as a huge variety of vegan desserts.
CamBio Vita is a cafe offering many vegan options, including rice dishes, burgers, smoothies, and pasta dishes. They also had a large selection of vegan cookies, as well as numerous gelato flavors. Everything was very fresh and healthy, and the staff was very friendly!
Lauren is the writer and photographer for the vegan travel blog, Justin Plus Lauren, which follows her travels and adventures with her partner, Justin. Lauren is slowly making her way around the world and searching out the best vegan food as she travels. For most of the year, she lives in the Toronto area with Justin and their two cats, Chickpea and Peanut.