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My Way or Structured and Gluten Free

My husband & I are planning a trip to Italy this spring and are torn between the My Way or the more structured tours. We are used to planning and doing everything ourselves, but I am looking on a less stress of a situation! LOL. Since we've never done a full on group tour before, it may be fun. In addition, I am celiac sprue - no wheat or similar grains. I have read that Europe is more GF friendly than the US and that is my hope. But the group meals do concern me. Will there be options? (I can usually find something to eat - even if its a piece of fruit. What say you?

Posted by
9914 posts

My experience is not with GF but with being vegan. I have not taken a my way but have done 5 other tours. The one I was most concerned about was the 21 day tour as altho I had been to Italy before and knew how to handle that I was unsure about Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Switzerland and France. I spoke with my guide the first night after our initial meeting, just to let him know I was vegan and basically asked if he could tell me when there were group meals where they would not be able to accommodate me. In that instance I have no problem foraging for myself. He looked me directly in the eye and said "Do not worry about this. I will take care of you. It is my job." Um, OK, I thought, but I didn't want to make more work for you. Well, he was awesome. Every group meal he had spoken with the restaurant to let them know of my needs. Every group meal he either came over to me or in some way signaled to me to ask if my meal was OK and suitable. Every meal it was. I also had excellent luck with 2 tours in Italy and the Paris City tour, altho on that one there were only 3 group meals. The guide threw in an extra lunch and very kindly got me a veggie sandwich! BTW in Venice as we sat for the group meal I saw a waiter come out and talk to the guide. He came back with a package of pasta a few minutes later and I could see Dimitri reading the label. It was gluten free pasta in addition to being vegan.

If you are not so sensitive to gluten that it bothers you to be around others eating it I think you will be fine. If you do opt for a full tour, I would just plan to talk with the guide right after the first meeting. There is also a personal information form you will complete for the RS office which asks about dietary needs.

Is there a particular area you are thinking about touring?

Posted by
3580 posts

I've been on a few RS tours of both types. You might do better with the more structured tour. If you let your guide know of your food limitations, he/she will make a point of taking care of you at group meals. On my last tour we had several people with limitations and we were all steered in the right direction.

Posted by
2 posts

thank you ladies! That's what I was thinking - just let them know.

I am thinking of this one: Best of Venice, Florence & Rome in 10 Days Tour. We did a family vaca for 18 days in Taiwan - travelled with some folks who used to live there. We were exhausted! And recently, we did a 30 day drive through the US south. Again - exhausted. I think this is good length of time. We would probably go up a few days early to Venice to get through the jet lag and to have an extra day in Venice. I've been drawn there since I was old enough to know about it. We were supposed to go a few years ago, but our daughter announced her engagement with an intention of the wedding happening that year. So, our travel fund turned into a wedding fund! Just as much fun!

Thanks again fellow travelers!

Posted by
220 posts

We went on the Heart of Italy 2 or 3 of the folks on our tour preferred to eat GF. One had celiac the other two just felt better eating that way. In all cases our guide had made arrangements with the restaurants in advance. Even a spur of the moment wine and truffle tasting that we happened to get invited to had GF bread to eat between the wine selections.

Posted by
9914 posts

I think that tour would be great for GF. At most Italian restaurants I noticed GF pasta available upon request. Definitely go a few days early to have some recovery time!

When you say up a few days early are you thinking to fly in to Rome? It may be a similar price to fly open jaw in to Venice and out of Rome.

Posted by
31521 posts

With a My Way tour, there are no group meals so you'll be on your own and can choose meals appropriate to your situation. With the fully guided tours, as I recall there's a question on the application regarding food allergies so you can specify your preferences there. On the fully guided tours, I've noticed that the guides do an exceptional job in making sure that special food requirements are taken care of for tour members.

My suggestion would be to book whichever tour interests you the most, as I'm sure that your food requirements will be addressed.

Posted by
223 posts

I believe you will have no trouble. Italy rarely has hidden flour, choosing cream for a thickener. I travel with gf folk and if you pack your will power you will really enjoy what is offered. The groceries have so much to offer you. I am coming home tomorrow and I will miss Roman Cauliflower so much!
Have a lovely experience.

Posted by
776 posts

I have done Italy myself and did the structured Village Italy & Sicily tours. I did fine by myself, but I did a lot of research on the net beforehand, looking for GF shops, or products in shops, and restaurants. I printed lists to bring with me, by city, so I could throw pages away when I left a location, freeing up a tiny bit of room.

The RS tours were very accommodating, never a problem. I listed gluten free on my information, then spoke to the guide on the first meeting, they bent over backwards to acomodate me. On the Sicily tour, there was another celiac. Both guides were very well versed and I was only served gf food at group meals.

Italy is especially accomodating, more than A few other countries I have been. Grom gelato is fabulous, with signs indicating what has wheat. A bit more expensive but fabulous. Several locations, google Grom. Billa or Coop grocery stores most often had GF products. I mapped them out from where I stayed when still at home. Another tip is you go on your own, I stayed at Monastery stays in Venice, Florence & Rome. I was very pleased with the properties. I chose carefully for a walkable location and 2 properties of the 3 had marvelous breakfasts, not specifically gf but I had bought gf crackers or bread and brought some to breakfast with cheese or small packages of Nutella. I did the same on the tour.

On my first RS tour, I brought a box of dry gf breakfast cereal and asked for a bowl and milk was usually available. That worked ok, but I preferred more protein, so usually brought to breakfast a slice of bread or crackers. I always bring some gf crackers from home for the plane and to start. I put them in a plastic yogurt container, so they will not get smashed, and it is small enough to bring down to breakfast in a thin reusable bag I use for groceries. This has come in handy so often; I can always find cheese or ham to put on the cracker. I bring some ziplock bags to hold bread and other goodies. I had wonderful GF pasta and GF pizza once, so delicious!

Hope that helps. Feel free to pm me. Have a great trip.

Posted by
13 posts

Hi! I work in the Tour Department and I am a lead guide for Rick on our Fully guided tours. Gluten Free is really not a problem these days as most restaurants and Europeans are used to this. On our Tour Medical Information you will have the opportunity to list this under "allergies" and "dietary restrictions" areas. The guide gets this information directly and will make sure to check in with you at the Welcome Meeting the first evening to verify the details. As a guide myself in Germany (and having assisted guides in other countries), I have not had any issues with requesting gluten free for my tour members. It is very common and I get this request almost as often as those who request vegetarian meals. When I have a dinner with a few options, I always show my tour member the list and ask what if one of the choices will be safe for them and if not, I will get a nice meal that will be. Most restaurants also have options on their menus these days as well.

Posted by
5 posts

I have celiac disease too, and my husband and I took the My Way Italy tour this past summer. I was a little concerned but my concerns were unfounded. I ate better in Italy than I do in the US! Almost every restaurant we went to has gluten free pasta available - some even had gluten free bread available. I would approach a waiter and ask "senza glutine?" and almost all replied "but of course!" GF products are also available at most pharmacies, but you may need to ask for them as they are not usually on display. We stayed at one hotel before our tour began. I spoke with the desk clerk and asked about having something gluten free for breakfast. He assured me there would be something but I had my doubts. The next morning when I arrived at breakfast they brought out packages of cookies, crackers and cakes - it was apparent they had gone out to purchase them just for me!

You are on your own for most meals on the My Way tours and I found that this worked best for me. Be prepared to enjoy gluten free bread, pasta, polenta, tiramisu, pizza and farinata (a pizza-like crust made with chick pea flour) as you eat your way through Italy!