How to Survive Italy as a Vegetarian

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Food, of course, is a big part of Italian culture, and it will most likely be one of your favorite parts of your experience in Italy. People with specific dietary requirements, particularly vegetarians in this case, may be concerned that there are not many options for them in a country that loves their carne. But not to fear! There are plenty of ways for vegetarians to not only survive, but also thrive during their time in Italy. Here are a few tips about how to navigate Italian food culture as a vegetarian.

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Researching Your Options as a Vegetarian

One important step to take as a vegetarian visiting Italy is to do your research. Look into the local specialties of the Italian region you are visiting and determine which ones are compatible with a vegetarian diet. Additionally, it is helpful to familiarize yourself with the dishes served at specific restaurants. Many restaurants will offer downloadable menus on their websites. One helpful resource to check out is the Happy Cow app. This app will provide a list of all the vegetarian and vegan restaurants in the area, ensuring that you will find something that fits your requirements. However, even if you do not go to a strictly vegetarian restaurant, most Italian restaurants typically offer several delicious vegetarian dishes.

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Restaurant Guide for Vegetarians

At restaurants that are not specifically vegetarian, there are several things you can do to ensure you get the food you want. If you tell your waiter, “Sono vegetariana(o),” he can make menu suggestions for you to meet your requirements. When looking at the menu, the Primi section will most likely have the best options, as many of these dishes are pasta, rice, and soups. There are typically options in each category that do not have meat. You can gorge yourself on appetizers alone and many of these are veggie friendly. If you want to be on the safe side, you can simply stay within the Contorni section of the menu. This section offers mostly vegetable-based sides, and you can order more than one to satisfy your appetite. The menus will usually list the ingredients of each dish, and if you are familiar with a few Italian meat terms, you can be aware of what do stay away from. A few common Italian words for meat are as follows: carne (meat), pollo (chicken), prosciutto (ham), and pesce (fish). To ensure that the meal you order does not contain meat, you can ask your waiter, “È senza carne?” (“It’s without meat?”)

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Sample Vegetarian Dishes

Following are a few safe vegetarian dishes to look for on the menu:
– Bruschetta – toasted bread topped with olive oil, garlic, and most typically, tomatoes
– Pizza marinara and pizza margherita – pizza with simply tomato sauce or pizza with tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese
– Pasta all’arrabbiata – a spicy pasta dish
– Cacio e pepe – a pasta dish made with black pepper and pecorino cheese
– Pomodori col riso – roasted tomatoes stuffed with rice

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Following these tips will help make eating your way through Italy a less stressful and more enjoyable experience. ~ Kalina Davis

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