No Italian? No Problem! My Allergy Translation Cards were key during my trip to Rome.
I love vacation. I always have such a hard time checking out of “work-mode”, but once I’m officially on vacation, I embrace it and never look back! Such was my one week “Roman Holiday” to kick-start my summer.
As I noted in my top ten travel tips blog, food is really not a big deal to me and I don’t travel for the sake of trying local cuisine. But…I was a bit curious on this trip as Italy is so well known for food.
Determined to eat more than McDonalds on this trip, I really planned ahead with my usual preparations including buying travel insurance and packing nearly a quarter of my suitcase with non-perishable snacks.
Stands selling nuts in open markets were around, but I stayed clear of “street food” altogether.
The Whole Language Bit
The most important thing that I purchased in advance was an Italian Allergy Translation Card that listed all of my allergies in Italian (peanut, tree nut, egg, fish, shellfish and mustard). This is a service that I created a few years ago, but recently relaunched the website with newly designed cards. I created it after my first trip to Europe and did not feel comfortable dining out with the language barriers.
Although I found the language barrier to be minimal (Rome is a pretty touristy city!), my very first meal was in a back alley spot off the beaten path. The translation card was really essential at this restaurant and gave my wife and I peace of mind when the waiter confirmed the risotto was safe for both of us (she has a celiac disease card).
Mmmmm Allergy Safe Risotto!
A great first restaurant experience in Italy
Italian Pizza Was My Main Meal
Restaurant after restaurant, we had very positive experiences. I generally stuck to pizza and was able to speak to the wait staff in English using my translation card to reinforce the severity.
My pizza of choice with tomatoes and arugula.
Gluten-Free Options a-Plenty
My wife was in gluten-free heaven and managed to find a restaurant with a full gluten-free menu and indulged in gluten-free pizza. Another night we bumped into a restaurant serving gluten-free pasta. There were also gluten-free snacks widely available in vending machines which was pretty cool!
If you look closely, you’ll see yellow bags of our fave gluten-free flour, plus the chef pressing the g/f pizza dough with waxed paper.
Catered Buffet Meals…Thank Goodness for Fruit
The only times where I found it difficult to find safe food were at catered events that were part of my wife’s work obligations. I’m used to sticking to plain salad and didn’t mind not being to eat anything off the different platters. However, when the fresh fruit platter came out, I was a vulture! Score one point for the hungry guy who loves fruit!
Catered events were a bit more of a challenge, but still was happy with the amazing fruit platter for dessert.
Lunch Money went to Museums
I saved my money on lunch everyday (and spent in on museums instead) by making sandwiches and stuffing them in my backpack. I brought the bread from home, but bought fresh meat from the supermarket. Out of anything, finding a supermarket seemed to be the most difficult thing of all. I might consider looking up nearby shops close to my hotel/flat before I go again.
Always had my epinephrine with me. Kept checking to make sure they were staying cool on such hot days.
It’s funny that I accidentally left this until last, however I was so busy sight-seeing everyday that I didn’t spend too much time in my flat! We booked a private apartment through www.airbnb.com which came with its own kitchen. This is my preferred way to travel. I loved being in a non-touristy university area where I could get a taste of local life in Rome.
Visiting the Vatican was a real highlight for me.
All in all, it was an amazing vacation that left me feeling refreshed and energized after many months of touring and work. I’m not sure if I’ll go back anytime soon, but am glad to cross another country off my list of places where I feel confident in managing my allergies while abroad.
In front of the Colosseum in Rome