Eating Gluten-Free In Florence

gluten-free in florence

In all my years as a gluten-free eater with Celiac, I have never had an easier time or a more enjoyable time eating out than I have in Italy. I know, I know, you think of all that bread and pasta and assume it’s a gluten nightmare.

Not the case at all!

Eating gluten-free in Florence was a joy. In fact, Italy as a whole is far ahead of the States in terms of gluten-free availability and contamination caution when preparing food in a shared kitchen.

When we leave Rome, I will do a huge comprehensive ultimate guide to gluten-free eating in this wonderful city. But now I want to highlight the amazing places we ate while staying for 3 days in Florence.

Starbene Gluten Free

Let me just start with the Queen of Gluten-Free. I found the absolute best gluen-free pastries I have ever had in my life – by a long shot – at Starbene. In fact, they were probably the best pastries I’ve had in my life overall. The owner has figured out how to make gluten-free flours to be light and flakey.

Over the three days I enjoyed both chocolate and custard-filled croissants, an apple strudel, and a chocolate donut. All were pure bliss.

Ciro & Sons

Right off the train from Rome, we were starving. Luckily, Ciro & Sons was only a 10 minute walk away. We sat on their lovely patio and shared a bottle of sparkling water. Almost every single thing on their menu could be made gluten-free. The waiter took his time to explain the few things that could not be converted.

I opted for Gnocchi (pictured above). It was truly the best I’ve ever had. Kyle and I shared a banana caramel cheesecake because we weren’t quite painfully stuffed enough! This was probably the best meal we had.

Trattoria da Garibardi

For our first dinner, we stopped at this highly-rated restaurant in the heart of Florence, Trattoria da Garibardi. The gluten-free menu was extensive and delicious.

We started the night of with a half liter of red wine. Then we shared a gluten-free fried pizza dough starter with ham and cheese. The waitress then brought me out GF bread loaf. I chose eggplant parmesan for my main course. Incredible.

Le Botteghe Di Donatello

Our second day was spent mostly at the Duomo, so we wanted a place nearby. Le Botteghe Di Donatello is right across the street from the Duomo, which means it’s convenient, but slightly pricier. We sat inside due to the rain and had phenomenal service.

We shared half liter of red wine. I ordered pizza with a crispy gluten-free crust, mushrooms, real mozzarella, and prosciutto. For dessert, I had a panna cotta with berry sauce.

I’Toscano

For our final dinner, we went away from the crowds and found a small, rustic, authentic Italian restaurant called I’Toscano. It was quiet other than all the Italian voices! Loved it.

Their entire menu could be made gluten-free. We started with (you guessed it!) a half liter of red wine, a basket of gluten-free bread, and then a meatballs starter. I opted for a lighter dish this night and chose chicken and greens. To the side there were fried veggies. Truly the highly of the meal. We finished by sharing a chocolate torte

Maso

Before our train the final day, we grabbed some lunch at Maso and sat outdoors under the covered patio. While they didn’t have gluten-free bread, they did have pasta and pizza dough. I opted for the gluten-free pasta with tomatoes and prawns. It was really nice and the service was wonderful.

Gluten Free

How to Eat Gluten Free in Airports

How to Eat Gluten Free in Airports

I never knew if readers really cared to know how I manage to travel while having to eat Gluten Free, but since my “How to Road Trip Gluten Free” article is the #1 read article on my blog right now, I’m assuming there’s a market for it!  😉

Airports can sometimes feel like the worst nightmare for Gluten Freers. Outside of limited dining options, the thought of getting “glutened” and then going on a plane is terrifying. I’ve been there.  But traveling is too fantastic to let Celiac or an intolerance get in the way.

After many, many flights, I’ve figured out a few things about Gluten Free eating in airports, and I’ll share my top tips with you!

How to Eat Gluten Free in Airports

1. Research the airport first

The easiest thing to do is Google your airport before your trip. Some airports already have a listing of restaurants with Gluten-Free options. Or you can get a list of food spots at your airport, go to their individual websites, and see which have Gluten Free food (and which take contamination into consideration!)

Of course, this is only possible in large airports with restarants/fast food options.

2. Ask for help

Do not ever be afraid to ask. I’ve known that embarrassing fear of coming across as high-maintenance. But you aren’t high maintenance; you have a real health condition. Recently at Philadelphia’s airport, I asked around for a great place to have a Gluten Free dinner. Turns out they had a restaurant with heavenly Gluten Free EVERYTHING – calamari even! And I got to wash it down with a Gluten Free hard cider.

If I hadn’t asked, I would have never assumed the bar-like restaurant would have had anything to offer me.

3. Use the “corner store”

Most airports have some sort of 7-11-esque pit stop. You can often find snack food there.  Packaged snacks and produce can be safe bets when you have no other option. Grab a back of Gluten-Free certified chips (here’s a list of Gluten Free products by Frito Lay), some fruit, a dairy (yogurt or string cheese) and a protein (you can often find hard-boiled eggs in the refrigerated section).

This is not necessarily the healthiest, most filling, nor the most desirable everyday meal, but it will tide you over until you’ve arrived at your destination.

4. Know your airline

Some airlines offer Gluten Free snacks and meals. Of course, you will want to double check the ingredients with the staff and trust your gut, because mistakes can be made. But many airlines pride themselves on offering options for all their fliers. Remember to request your meal BEFORE your flight. Call ahead.

Here is a great list of global airlines and what they offer their Gluten Free guests.

5. Bring your own

When in doubt, just bring the food yourself. Even toss a cooler bag in your carry on and add some safe and filling food from home (just leave behind the stinky stuff…don’t be THAT person.) If you have any liquids, make sure they stay under the minimum liquid requirement of 3.4 ounces.

Of course, this takes some planning ahead. But when you’re hungry and actually have safe food to eat, you’ll be happy.

BONUS: My #1 way to save on these gluten-free items is to buy them from the online retailer Vitacost. Sign up using my Vitacost link HERE, and save $10 on your first purchase!

Eating Gluten Free in airports may not be so glamorously last minute or spontaneous, but it is definitely doable.  Have you had a great or terrible experience of eating gluten free in airports? Let my readers know in the comments!

For more Gluten Free travel tips, including “How to Road Trip Gluten Free,” CLICK HERE!

Gluten-Free

Our First Costa Rican Road Trip

Our First Costa Rican Road Trip

costa,rica

As many of you know, The Boyfriend is an incredible oil painter. (SEE HIS WORK HERE.  AND HIS INSTAGRAM HERE). When we began our packing process for Costa Rica, we thought it would be easier to pack and ship his paints than it would be to find a place for them in our already-stuffed suitcases.

Silly us.

Long story short: a few days in and his paints hadn’t arrived.  A few more days turned into a couple weeks and a VERY bored boyfriend. Finally we discovered they were held up in Customs in an industrialized city called Puntarenas, 3 hours away from Tamarindo.

We made a little road trip out of rescuing the artist’s paint!

With a cheap rental car waiting for us, we woke up at 5 AM worried that something horrible would happen causing us to miss our rental car return at 5 PM.  Groggy and grumpy, we set out for our first Costa Rican road trip.

If you haven’t driven in Costa Rica, well, you haven’t really driven.  It’s organized chaos. Heavy on the chaos.  Rules are more like guidelines.  Even the largest shipping trucks will pass a slow car by going into oncoming traffic and coming back in the nick of time.  Dogs and pedestrians and bulls and bicyclists all coming and going.  Frankly, sometimes driving in Costa Rica kinda reminds me of this:

And yet it manages to look like this:

costa,rica

The sky was cloudy and grey, the perfect juxtaposition to the bright greens that surrounded us.  I’ve taken road trips in the East Coast; there is a lot of green there too.  But Costa Rican greens are various and special, you’ve never seen so many different greens.

We arrived to Customs with no hitch thanks to the $10 wi-fi box that kept our GPS going strong. Now, I assumed nobody would speak English.  But when I assume nobody speaks English, it’s an incredibly half-hearted assumption.  Like “You don’t ‘speak’ English, but you probably magically understand me, right?”

Despite the fact that I hated every second of every class of my college Spanish 1&2, I was blessing those lessons when it came time to explain to the employees of Customs that The Boyfriend’s paint supplies were not dangerous explosive materials that we were smuggling into the country.  Google Translator saved the day and convinced the kind gentleman that they were indeed the tools of an artist.

(NOTE: I will NEVER ever ever be annoyed by somebody in America who cannot speak English.  I promise.  There is so much anxiety, frustration, and even embarrassment that comes along with being unable to adequately speak a language.  You bet your ass I’ll keep “Pressing 1 for English” if it makes it easier for a Spanish speaker.  It’s freaking hard!)

After all was well, Customs sent us to the bank to pay taxes on the package.  A whole 15 cents.  They gave us The Boyfriend’s paint.  But really they gave us our sanity.  My go-go-go boyfriend had his job back!

We had a lovely drive back and stopped by a soda (an outdoor cafe/restaurant that serves authentic, “typical” food) and each had a plate of Gallo Pinto.   We drove back in the rain.  I slept some.  We listened to Spanish songs on the radio to practice our Spanish.  Then, suddenly, Whitney Houston came on which made total sense.

gallo_pinto

A small Mamon Chino (a weird-looking, delicious, small red fruit that appears to have plastic strands coming out of it!) stand stood on the side of the road.  Three little girls were anxious to serve The Boyfriend our road trip snack while their smiling mother smiled and watched.

We made it home with enough time to veg out to When Harry Met Sally before returning the rental car.  Success.

A Family Cruise to Mexico

My parents took me, my boyfriend, my brother, and one of his friends on a 3-day Carnival family cruise to Ensenada, Mexico.  I’ve taken this cruise before, but this was the first time as a family trip.  We also tried some new and daring things when we were in Ensenada.

Family Cruise to Mexico

On Thursday, we filled up the day with lounging by the pool and drinking lots of drinks.  We dressed up and had a lovely dinner in which I spilled an entire glass of ice water on my boyfriend’s pants. Good times, folks, good times. On Friday, we spent the day in Ensenada, Mexico.  We started at Las Cañadas with zip lines and hanging bridges.

When they said “hanging bridges,” I thought they’d all be like this first one:

bridge

But no.  They were all very shaky, high, and terrifying.  I genuinely hated every second, and then genuinely felt so glad that I did them (the second my feet touched the dirt ground!).  I held everyone up by my slowness caution. I kept either my dad or brother behind me and my boyfriend in front of me.  They were great cheerleaders.

Obviously the people in my life are a bit crazy……

brother_mexcio

mexico

We finished up the day at La Bufadora.

la_bufadora_mexico

My parents had a romantic lunch, while we “youngsters” went around to every little shop to buy food and tequila shots.

mexico

mexico_shots

In a little taco shop, my brother put lots of hot sauce on his taco, oblivious to the fact that Mexican hot sauce is not the same as American hot sauce.  His face turned bright red and the restaurant women AND all the shop owners near by made fun of him.  It was the best.

ensenada_mexico

We returned to the cruise ship 2 minutes after the required time, luckily they still let us in.  We spent the next day lounging by the pool.  I even convinced my boy to do the Cupid Shuffle with me on the deck.  We ate a lot, gambled some, watched funny comedy, and had a lovely time. Thanks Mom and Dad!

family

 

Click HERE for my post on Carnival Cruise’s Gluten Free Travel

Would You Rather: Travel Edition

Would You Rather: Travel Edition

The fabulous travel blogger Shane over at Sea Salt Secrets ran this Would You Rather: Travel Edition post on her blog and invited other bloggers to join in the fun.  Here is my take on these questions….

travel_mexico

Travel or focus on your career at the age of 25?

Can I choose both?!  I want both!  I guess as I come upon my 25th year I’d lean more toward traveling.  I have many other decades to make lots of money and get ahead.  (But I not so secretly still want both!)

Have a $10,000 budget for a holiday and fly first class for $5,000 and stay in mediocre accommodation, or spend $1,000 on economy and stay in luxury accommodation?

I don’t mind economy at all.  I fit into small spaces.  I’d rather save on my flight.  (If I were being truly honest I wouldn’t buy “luxury” accommodations either – I’d rather save that money for another trip!)

Never take the train or never take an airplane again?

Train. I’ve only taken one train and it was a short, easy experience.  But I like flying and always want that as an option.

Stay in a palm hut along the seashore for seven days or stay in a log cabin in the woods for one month?

Palm hut along the seashore, preferably with a drink with an umbrella.

Wake up without your wallet or wake up without your passport and phone?

A passport is sort of fairly necessary in a foreign country and my phone typically has all my pictures. So I’d rather lose the wallet.

travel_phone

Be left behind in the bush on an African safari or be left behind in the water on a scuba trip?

I’d rather be left in the water.  As much as I desperately want to go on an African safari, those animals scare me.  I’ll take my chance on the sharks.

Lose your luggage but land on time or land twelve hours late with your luggage intact?

I’d rather pack a good carry on and forget it every happened!  But if I had to choose, I’d rather land late with all my luggage intact.

Have an awesome job in a mediocre city or a mediocre job in an awesome city?

This is extremely hard.  I guess I would have to have an awesome job in a mediocre city and take as many weekend trips as possible.

Be able to teleport to places you’ve already been or only be able to teleport to places you’ve never been before?

Definitely places I’ve never been before.  I haven’t been to nearly enough places to be confident in staying within those cities.  But I’d miss never seeing Vegas again.

downtown_las_vegas

Be stuck on a seven-hour delay, or turn up at the airport and realize your flight is tomorrow?

Realize my flight is tomorrow.  I can find something fun to do for a whole day that doesn’t include sitting in an airport!

Be able to play every musical instrument that you touch or speak every language that you hear?

Musical instrument!

Travel back in time to meet your ancestors or forward to meet your descendants?

History affords me a glimpse at my ancestors – but I have no idea what my descendants would be like.  So I’d definitely like to my descendants!

Have in-flight WiFi but no legroom (like, zero inches) or in-flight legroom but no WiFi?

I never use WiFi on a plane.  Call me old-fashioned – I like to read books on my flights!

Be able to eat anything and any quantity of food with no negative health effects or be refreshed and well rested after only three hours of sleep?

As a traveller with Celiac, I’d always choose being able to eat anything and any quantity of food with no negative health effects.

travel_food

Would you rather travel along the ocean floor or take a trip to outer space?

I can see the ocean anytime; I’d take outer space!

Die happy in five years or die unhappy in sixty years?

Happy in five years.  No question about it.  What’s the point of living if we aren’t happy?!