Gluten Free & Traveling

My sister & I are in our 60s & starting to plan our first European trip from the US. Now we are both creative & foodies. She is lactose-intolerant & I'm gluten-free. Which are the countries most tolerant of diet restrictions? Is this even a reasonable question? We will have 2 weeks & open to the possibilities but don't want to spend our travel being sick. Thanks, jj

Posted by June
Edmonton, Alberta
389 posts

Hi, Jan. I am a celiac, so I must follow a gluten free diet. I found Italy to be the most gluten free friendly; they are very aware of celiac disease. I cannot address lactose intolerance. In Italy, I had gluten free pizza a few times, and lots of gluten free pasta too. I visited Italy 2 years ago, did Venice, Florence and Rome on my own, then did a RS Sicily tour. I always find the gluten free cards online in different languages to show waiters. I did do a lot of homework, searching on the net beforehand to find restaurants and shops that had gluten free food. In addition to searching for gluten free, i also look for bio or natural stores which often have gluten free. Last year I visited France, Belgium, Amsterdam, Germany and took a Rhine cruise. I did not ingest any gluten, but I did not have as many choices of meals. I did find some shops with GF food, so I had snacks, or bread to take to breakfast to put Nutella on! I did have gluten free pizza in Berlin too, this was by fluke in a tiny restaurant right next to my hotel. I always take food for the air trip, fruit, fresh veggies, almonds, protein bars a sandwich from home. For the trip home, I try to do bring some gf food. Pm me if you would like more info. Have a great trip.

Posted by Jan
Spokane Valley, WA, USA
3 posts

You are a very brave lady! What a lot of success you've had. Thanks for sharing & the encouragement. I'm amazed that Italy was the most aware of the GF problems & would love to visit that area. The other area would be Belgium to see the lace production. Thanks again. jj

Posted by Nicole P
Truro, NS, Canada
1264 posts

Just wanted to mention when we were in Cinque Terre a few years back, there was a lady who brought her own pasta with her to the restaurant and asked them to cook that as she had gluten allergies...not sure how all restaurants would act, but they seemed cool with it when she explained (but I'm sure she was still charged the same amnt)

Posted by Lola
Seattle, WA
6175 posts

In Italy it is very easy to choose gluten-free and still eat delicious food risotto and polenta for carbs, salads and vegetable side dishes, and grilled fish and meats. I don't even try for substitutes for pasta and pizza; I just skip those as there are so many other things to enjoy. Unfortunately your sister won't be able to enjoy risotto; or maybe there is no lactose left in aged parmagiano? I don't know how that works.

Posted by D.D.
375 posts

If you want to pick up picnic foods in grocery stores, the stores in UK have "Free From" sections where they sell packaged foods that are free from various ingredients, such as gluten, sugar, etc. For lactose intolerance, you could buy individually wrapped Lactaid tablets in the drugstore or stores like Walmart in the US and take them with you. Just take one with any meal that has dairy products in it.

Posted by Keith
United Kingdom
906 posts

I don't think this will be an issue, at least in West or Central Europe. I would choose the places you wish to visit first; and, then check if they are OK for your diet (they will be). I wouldn't try and restrcit your places first and then check diet issues.

Posted by Jan
Spokane Valley, WA, USA
3 posts

Thanks to all of you for your encouragement! We will be reviewing every suggestion & making note of each website you are offering! jj

Posted by debby
Walnut Creek, CA
10 posts

Jan, I am a celiac and get severe reactions to any tiny consumption of gluten. I am on my way home. From a two week European vacation.... I generally found that the further East you go, harder it is(exception appears to be Italy, but I have no experience there) London: Very GF friendly. Leon, Pod, Carluccio's, Wahaca, Honest Burger all chains that cater in part to GF. If you go to London, DO NOT MISS Selfridge's food hall most amazing place ever! They have clearly labeled dishes to try and huge amounts of GF pastries and goodies! Also found good snacks in dedicated areas of Tesco and Sainsbury grocery stores. With no language barrier, there is lots to try. Netherlands: not much easily GF. Had to search and mostly limited in options. However, in Amsterdam there is A pancakes place that has. The most amazing GF crepes. Paris: struck out completely. Very difficult to find GF and a generally unhelpful service sector. Relied on naturally Gf foods. Beware of sauces and marinades. Poland: yikes. Celiac isn't really a concept here yet. Had the most amazing potato pancakes and gelato, but most everything else was relying on naturally GF products. Msg me if you want more info.... Always happy to share. Also, don't forget to print out the Celiac Travel cards from the website (can't remember http:// right now). They are invaluable!