I have food allergies including the protein gluten. Although I have completely converted my kitchen at home, I stress about traveling. I find myself thinking to the extreme, when will I eat next? I have never had the issue of going hungry but, I have had the problem of getting sick. As expected, sick plus traveling does not equal a fun time.
After I made the decision to study abroad in Italy, many other Americans were very confused. Why would a gluten free girl choose to travel to the land of pasta and bread??? Honestly, I was not sure of the gluten free accommodation. After doing a bit of research, I knew I would have an apartment with a kitchen and could survive.
So, I jumped on the plane and arrived in Torino. The first night at a restaurant, I felt embarrassed trying to explain I was gluten free without knowing Italian. Expecting an eye roll, to my surprise, the waiter knew everything gluten free on the menu… without asking the cook. It was odd to me the waiter knew what he was talking about. I did not believe him at first but after a few minutes of reassurance, I ordered. The food was delicious! The waiter taught me that many of the traditional Piemontese dishes and other options on the menu were naturally gluten free. For example risotto, polenta, gnocchi, any of the grilled meat dishes, etc.
I decided to search gluten free Torino, Italy online and found a few ENTIRELY gluten free places!! Completely excited, I hopped on a bus to a gluten free cafe in hopes of having my first croissant!!!!! Better yet, I found out I can eat anything they serve in the café! I now get my bread from this bakery every week and could not be happier.
Back home I am one of ‘those’ people who doesn’t eat gluten. But in Italy, I feel welcomed. I would never get an eye roll for ordering gluten free in this country. Contrary to the belief that the U.S. is excelling and is the goal for the future, I’d say Italy is winning in the gluten free food category. I decided to look up why there is so much gluten free food in Italy and discovered something interesting; Italians do not view gluten free as an inconvenience; it is a disability people take seriously. The government actually compensates gluten free people over 100€ a month to help balance out the food price difference. It is wonderful to go into any grocery store and walk out with all of the gnocchi, pasta, and fresh ingredients for dinner.
In Italy, I am not embarrassed to ask for ‘senza glutine’ nor do I feel like I’m eating a lower grade meal. So next time you think of Italy as the land of pasta and bread, do a bit of research and come visit! Every region has their own specialty (there are twenty regions!) and in every place you will find delicious food EVERYONE can enjoy.
Caroline Spezia is a student from Michigan Technological University studied abroad in Torino, Italy for Spring 2017.