I moved to Italy because I have celiac disease. If that sounds like an oxymoron, then you are part of the vast majority. Italy may seem like the worst possible place for celiacs to find themselves, but it is quite the opposite. It is no secret that food is a cornerstone of Italian culture, which is exactly why the country goes the extra mile (well, kilometer) to make sure celiacs are included.
The lure of daily access to gluten-free pizza is what got me to Italy, but what has kept me here? Finally feeling free to enjoy food the way I’ve wanted to and share laughs over the dinner table. It’s easy only to think of food as fuel for our bodies, especially after a diagnosis like celiac disease. But the deep social and cultural importance of bonding with others through food is fundamental to our wellbeing. This is why I believe every celiac should visit Italy once in their lifetime and, more specifically, Florence! With such a plethora of celiac-safe restaurants, you could eat somewhere different every day for weeks. Assuming you don’t have the time or digestive capacity for that, these are the restaurants not to be missed.
1. Trattoria da Garibardi
If you want to experience high-quality, authentic Tuscan cuisine, Trattoria Garibardi is the place to go. They have the beloved stamp of approval from the AIC (Associazione Italiana Celiachia) and a separate but equally incredible menu for gluten-free diners. Everything on their gluten-free menu is to die for, but I could spend all night eating just their antipasti. I highly recommend trying the polpettine della nonna Tina (Grandma Tina’s meatballs) and ficattole, crudo e stracchino (fried pizza dough with ham and stracchino cheese).
Piazza del Mercato Centrale, 38R
2. Ciro & Sons
Ciro & Sons has a reputation for being one of the finest gluten-free restaurants in the city. As a part of the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana, they are the best place to get a Neapolitan style gluten-free pizza that will not disappoint. This charming restaurant is run by multiple generations of the family and you will feel like a part of the family by the time you finish your margherita pizza. The commitment to their Neapolitan roots and culinary traditions is apparent in both the food and their ability to make you feel at home. It’s like a little piece of Naples in the heart of Florence.
Via del Giglio, 28R
Unlike the previous two locations, Quinoa is 100 per cent gluten-free! That means no risk of cross-contact in the kitchen, which comes as a breath of fresh air. They were the first completely gluten-free restaurant to open in Florence and have continued to provide the celiac community with remarkable food. The menu ebbs and flows with the seasons, so it’s always a fresh glance into what’s growing locally in Tuscany while combining elements of oriental cuisine. My favorite part? They have a beautiful herb garden in their internal courtyard that supplies the kitchen with fresh herbs every day.
Vicolo di Santa Maria Maggiore 1
4. Risotteria Melotti
The Melotti family has multiple locations around Italy (and even one in New York) with Florence being the newest to open. Just a few steps from the Duomo, it is the perfect place to stop for dinner after a day of sightseeing. My favorite risotto on the menu is adorned with beautiful black truffles, but keep in mind it is not available year-round. When risotto al tartufo is not on the menu, I recommend the risotto con anatra, arancia e pinoli tostati (duck, orange and toasted pine nuts). Risotteria Melotti is also 100 per cent gluten-free, so there is no concern of cross-contact.
Via dei Servi 65R
All’Antico Vinaio might be the sandwich shop with the longest lines, but Sgrano is just a few doors down and does practically the same thing, but completely gluten-free. After all the trouble we regularly face to find safe food, it is a liberating experience to walk past a line of people and grab a gluten-free sandwich without any inconvenience. The schiacciata is a Tuscan classic, a sandwich made with different filling options (typically cheeses and meats) between two pieces of focaccia. I recommend ordering the Bomba, which is packed with pancetta, gorgonzola, grilled peppers and honey.
Via dei Neri 49R
On top of the architecture, history and art, Florence has so much to offer celiacs in the way of culinary exploration. There is really no need to feel as restricted as we often do everywhere else. After a year and a half of living in Florence, I still regularly discover new gluten-free gems to try. The possibilities are endless!