How to be Vegan in Italy

posted on: Saturday, December 7, 2019

Got a trip coming up and you’re wondering how to be vegan in Italy? Don’t worry. I’ve got you covered.

Fresh fruit and produce in Florence, Italy.

How to be vegan in Italy. Stop macelli sticker.

Got a trip to Italy coming up and worried that you’ll starve to death as a vegan?

 

Don’t worry. I got chu.

 

Italy has got you as well.

 

Six months before we left, I was googling every possible thing to know about being vegan in Italy because I was worried that I’d either eat something that wasn’t vegan or have to live off of lettuce and tomatoes. I even packed oats into my luggage. No, seriously.

 

I really thought that (despite having an Italian dad) that Italians lived off of cheese and cured meats.

 

Upon arrival, I quickly learnt that being vegan in Italy is almost as easy as breathing. And that’s even with my terribly spoken Italian.

 

Most of the younger generation can speak English (I would estimate that most people under 50 have a pretty good grasp on it) and if you find yourself in a situation where English just isn’t a thing, all you need to learn in a handful of Italian words and you’ll never have to worry about accidentally eating anything you wouldn’t want to.

 

Keep reading if you want to find out how to be vegan in Italy.

Fresh berries in Firenze, Italy.

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Vegan activism stickers can be seen all over Italy. This one was spotted in Firenze.

Sono Vegana

Fresh fruit in Sorrento, Italy. How to be vegan in Italy.

Let’s start with the basics. If worst comes to worst, there is always fruit and veg around.

 

Once you start noticing the fruit and vegetable stalls, it seems that more and more appear.

 

We found that generally, the produce was ok, nothing to write home about. But when you find the really fresh stuff, it’s like you’re tasting fruit for the first time. Be careful though – many times we bought things in punnets, only to open it at home and find out the vendor had stuffed the middle full of rotten fruit.

 

And if that fails, there’s alway produce in the supermarkets. I had heard that Italy has a problem with reusable bags due to hygiene concerns but we found that since you bag your own stuff in most supermarkets there anyway, the cashiers didn’t care.

 

Lots of fresh produce comes wrapped in unnecessary plastic but there is always the option to buy loose as well so it’s relatively easy to avoid excess rubbish.

 

The prices though, they’re another story.

 

Most fresh fruit and vegetables there are insanely priced. To an Australian anyway. Depending on what country you’re from and the exchange rate you get, you could be in for a surprise. We found that it was much cheaper to buy frozen vegetables when cooking for ourselves and the frozen stuff there actually tastes pretty good!

Fresh fruit and vegetables in Venice, Italy.

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A fresh produce stall in Venezia.

Keep it Fresh

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Fresh fruit being sold in Sorrento.

Fresh coconut pieces in Parco Sempione.
Fresh fruit in Florence, Italy.

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You can find fruit almost anywhere; even when you’re taking a stroll through a park.

You Wanna Pizza Me?

Vegan pizza. Travelling Italy as a vegan.

Let’s move onto one of the two things everyone thinks of when they think of Italian cuisine.

 

Pizza.

 

Pizza dough is pretty much vegan everywhere in Italy. We a lot of pizza and not one place had non-vegan dough.

 

Actually, pizza marinara is one of two main pizzas in Italy. Pizza with a tomato sauce and nothing else.

 

The other is pizza margherita. Pizza with tomato sauce and cheese.

 

At one place in Venice, we did just that and the waiter said in these exact words, “I just can’t give you a pizza without cheese. It will be a horrible experience.”

 

We got the pizza without the cheese in the end after about five minutes of trying to convince the waiter but maybe we should have listened and gotten something else because it turned out to be pretty mediocre.

 

It’s pretty easy to find vegan pizza anywhere in Italy. Just order a vegetable pizza and omit the cheese. Some places will have vegan cheese but we never ate at any places that offered it.

 

Everywhere else though, pizza without cheese was great.

 

We found that the cheaper the pizza, the better it tasted.

Vegan pizza marinara in Milano.
Vegan pizza in Milano, Italy.
Vegan pizza marinara in Positano.

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Surprisingly, the best pizza we had was the cheapest one which ironically, we found in Positano. This pizza was 5 Euros.

Vegan focaccia in Italy.

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Time for a little lesson in Italian.

 

You definitely don’t need to be fluent in Italian to survive as a vegan there. Even when eating out or buying your own groceries.

 

All you you need is a few simple phrases and words for those awkward situations where flailing your arms around isn’t giving you the desired results and the google translate app.

 

The google translate app is a Godsend when it comes to buying foods with ingredient lists.

Simple open the app, set the language to translate from Italian and snap a pic of the ingredients.

 

I found that ingredient lists on processed foods were a lot simpler than the ones we have in Australia. They were made up mostly of words (read: foods) and very little, if any, numbers. That alone made finding food a thousand times easier even than reading English ingredients in Australia.

 

If you for some reason can’t get the google translate app or don’t want to, memorising a few words will make eating out and buying food a breeze.

Vegan: vegano

 

I’m vegan: Sono vegana

 

Without: senza

 

Milk: latte

 

Egg: uovo

 

Example: if you want something without milk, just say, “senza latte”.

 

Cheese: formaggio

 

Almond: mandorla

 

Soy: soia

 

Tip: don’t discount something straight away if you see latte on the ingredients. It may be made with a plant based milk, such as almond milk, or soy.

 

Lard: strutto

 

 

Tip: if you see “100% vegetale” on something it means it’s made from 100% plants. The equivalent of plant based.

 

Butter: burro

 

Broth: brodo

 

Meat: carne

 

Fish: pesce

 

Seafood: frutti di mare

 

Dairy: latticini

 

Chicken: pollo

 

Tip: peperoncino actually means chilli in Italian. I missed out trying a lot of food because I thought it meant pepperoni. Pepperoni is obviously just pepperoni in Italian.

Same for peperone which is actually capsicum (or bell pepper).

How to be vegan in Italy. Vegano focaccia.

Vegan tomato and olive foccacion in Milano.

If you love bread, you’ll never starve in Italy.

 

If you love focaccia, well, then you’ll be in heaven.

 

I never really cared for focaccia until I stepped inside a little bakery on one of the main streets in Milan run by a middle aged woman.

 

I didn’t think there’s be anything there for us to eat, I just wanted to see inside an Italian bread shop.

 

I didn’t even get a chance to practice my Italian there. After hearing my dad say I will have a hard time trying to eat in Italy, she rushed over and started pointing out all of the vegan options behind the glass counter and explained the ingredients in the dough. It was just flour, yeast, sugar and olive oil.

 

I don’t know about your country, but in Australia, focaccia isn’t something people rush out to buy. It’s pretty basic, and in my experience, boring. Sometimes you’ll get olives. Sometimes some sun-dried tomatoes. If you’re lucky, you might get both. It’s pretty basic in the land down under unless you go to a specialist bakery.

 

I think we ate focaccia every day for the week we were in Italy. The flavour was on another level and the toppings there were much more varied. Sure there’s the usual, sun-dried tomatoes and olives. But then there’s also, roasted squash, zucchini, onion, caramelised lemon slices, roasted capsicum, basil pesto, chilli flakes…

 

If you can’t find anything to eat, there will almost always be some focaccia around.

Get a Loaf of This

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Focaccia from the little Milano shop below.

Vegan croissants in Venice, Italy.

Dolce Vita vegan bakery in Bergamo, Italy.

Something I wasn’t expecting in Italy was the sheer amount of vegan pastries.

 

You’re really not strapped for options when it comes to, delicate, sweet, flaky passticino.

 

Something that amazed me even more?

 

The vegan croissants.

 

I hadn’t had a croissant for 3 years. It’s just too hard to find them where I live. But Italy? Italy has vegan croissants coming out of its ears.

 

And you can find them in places you think you’ll never find vegan food, like train stations, vending machines, tobacco shops, in the airport, tiny convenience stores, at concession stand in the middle of the Pompeii ruins…

 

But if you want the really good stuff, find one of the vegan bakeries dotted around the country. The stuffer is fresher, there’s more choice and surprisingly, the pastries are usually a lot cheaper.

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Vegan bread in Italy. How to be vegan in Italy.
Vegan bread in Italy restaurants.

Albergo California Positano vegan breakfast options at the hotel.

Vegan salad in Milano convinence store.
Vegan meatballs meal in Milan convenience store.
Vegan sandwiches in Rome. I'm Vegan sandwiches, Italy.
Vegan apple pie in Firenze train station.

Let’s move on to convenience foods.

 

It’s pretty easy to find a quick meal or snack in most places.

 

There was only two places we couldn’t find anything and that was in Sale Marasino on Largo di Iseo and in Positano. But once we ventured out of those towns a little, we found ready made meals and lots of snacks. Everywhere else was no problem.

 

Most train stations will have at least a couple of options and the bigger ones will have quite a few.

 

That apple pie on the left, we found in the Firenze station. It stood out with it’s little green V tick symbol and the words “vegano ok” underneath.

 

If you’re ordering something from a takeaway place though, make sure the person serving you knows what vegan is. We ordered a burger from one fast food restaurant in a train station and were told that the burger was completely vegan and didn’t even come with cheese.

 

There was cheese in it. And let’s just say that the rest of the train journey wasn’t fun for a lactose intolerant Asian.

 

But if something is marked specifically as vegan. Order away with confidence. Veganism seems to be pretty big there and most people in Italy know exactly what it is.

When You Want a Quickie

Vegan train station food in Italy.
Vegan salad in Milano convinence store.
Vegan meatballs meal in Milan convenience store.

Above: A salad and a tofu “meatballs” meal we found discounted in a Pam convenience store in Milano. 

Capatoast vegan grilled sandwiches.
Capatoast in Bergamo, vegan toasted sandwiches.

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Vegan options from Capatoast, a countrywide chain store.

Flower Burger blog review. How to be vegan in Italy.

Fl✿wer Burger

Tofungo vegan burger at Flower Burger, Italy.

Veganism in Italy is so big (so big that I probably don’t even need to write this guide) that they even have a healthy vegan fast food chain called Flower Burger.

 

I didn’t think we’d get the chance to eat here but we ending up eating at Flower Burger three or four times.

 

I didn’t love all of the burger but the ones I did like were amazing. Highly recommend if you’re after some healthy-ish grub and there’s a store near you.

 

Now, how to get the chain to open up here in Australia?

Ristorante Pizzeria Quattro Cime di Quistini Fiorenzo.

Ristorante Pizzeria Quattro Cime di Quistini Fiorenzo vegan food.
How to be vegan in Italy. Al Poggio restaurant in Venice.

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The face you make when you’re about to have your first bite of pasta in Italy but your brother insists on a photo to capture the moment.

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A simple but delicious vegan pasta marinara in the mountains of Colzate.

All the Pastabilities

If you eat pasta and tomatoes then you’ll have no problem at all staying vegan in Italy.

 

If you don’t find something specifically vegan on the menu, just ask if they can make something vegan and almost always (always in our case) they will be happy to cater to your dietary requirements with a simple tomato or vegetable pasta.

 

When we went to visit our family, we were taken right up in the mountains where not many people live. There was a mountain lodge with a restaurant and a lot of cured meats and cheeses on the menu so I thought I would just have to eat when I got back but the owners were not bothered at all and offered to make a pasta marinara with dry pasta.

 

Some fresh pasta has eggs, so make sure you ask about the pasta itself too. In most cases though, places will use dry pasta which is very rarely made with eggs. Even the high-end restaurants will use dry pasta, simply because it’s more reliable in cooking and taste.

Vegan pasta at Ristorante Don Giovanni in Positano.
Vegan food options in Sorrento, Italy.
Vegan pasta in Sorrento, Italy.
Vegan pasta in Venezia, Italy.

INSTAGRAM: @SHANNONVALLE.SPACE

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This tiny serving is even smaller than it looks and cost $60AUD at Ristorante Don Giovanni. It was ok, but not worth the price.

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The best pasta we had was the first one we tried at AL POGGIO in Venezia; a spicy vegetable pasta called arrabiata.

Vegan gelato in Italy.
Vegan ice creams from Italian supermarkets.

There is no shortage of vegan frozen treats in Italy.

 

Many gelato flavours are vegan by default and if you’re after some ice cream, then the supermarket will fulfil all your frozen dreams.

 

Out of all the gelaterias we walked in to, only one had no vegan option and that was in Florence.

 

Every other place had at least one but most had at least seven.

 

One of the most surprising vegan flavours I found was chocolate. I think chocolate gelato was vegan in all but a couple of places, and we visited a lot of gelaterias. Most places will also have a little green Vegan OK sign in front of the vegan flavours too which makes things even easier.

 

If gelato isn’t really your thing, you can always pick up some regular ice cream (or an ice cream sandwich) in just about any supermarket or convenience store. If there’s no vegan symbol on the packaging, just look for the words “100% vegetale” which is basically the equivalent of the “plant based” writing on packaged foods here in Australia.

 

There are so many different vegan ice creams in the shops in Italy, I think we must have tried at least twenty different ones. Even then, I think I’m understating the amount by quite a bit. 

Inside Scoop

Vegan gelato in Italy.
Vegan ice creams in a supermarket in Italy.
Carmen Gelato in Bergamo, Italy.

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Carmen Gelato in Bergamo.

Vegan meat options in Italy.
How to buy vegan groceries in Italy. Vegan cold cuts and vegan deli meats.
Vegan and vegetarian food in Sorrento, Italy.

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Where do I start?

 

Italy has soooooo many more vegan and vegetarian items in its grocery stores in comparison to Australia (but we’re getting there).

 

My partner had fun trying out all of the different vegan “meats”.

 

The only problem is that different stores will stock different stuff. Even if it’s the same chain. Don’t expect to find a specific brand of vegan nuggets that you picked up at one PENNY store at another PENNY store. The fun in that though is that there’s so many different things to try.

 

You will usually find all the vegan frozen and cold products in the same area, or something in the salad fridge or near the pre-packaged refrigerated meals.

 

Then there’s the yoghurt. There is a lot of vegan yoghurt in Italy and a lot of different flavours I haven’t tried (as a vegan) like black cherry, nectarine, peach, caramel, lemon, pear, fig. I could go on, but you get the point.

 

We also found vegan mayonnaise in Pompeii but it was the only place we saw it. Vegan potato salad. Vegan potato salad and coleslaw. Vegan panna cotta and creme brûlée. And the pesto. The pesto there is on a whole other echelon. That’s expected, but the problem with that is, is now I can’t something even close to it here in Australia. Lots of great pestos but none that match the taste of the Italian ones. Many pestos there are vegan and will be marked as “100% vegetale” or as vegan and all of them taste amazing. If you try one thing there, make it pesto. I’m telling you. My partner hated basil but after watching me slather it on everything (pasta, bread, chips, vegetables) his curiosity gave in and he is converted.

 

I just wish I had brought more back.

 

The only thing I had a problem finding was vegan cheese. I looked everywhere but never found any until our last few days. Then it started popping up everywhere. By then, I was all processed out and didn’t get to try any. I guess there’s always next time.

Supermarket Search

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Not all of these are vegan bu they’re all vegetarian. Found at a store in Sorrento.

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Vegan cocktail in Sorrento, Italy.
How to find vegan wine in Italy.

If you’re after a vegan drink, and by drink, you know what I mean, cocktails are easy to order vegan if they are not already.

 

If you’re buying from the supermarket than most drinks are available there. usually in larger bottles than what’s available in Australia too. Alcohol was one of the things we found really cheap in Italy.

 

Wine however isn’t usually vegan unless it’s marked so.

 

The bigger supermarkets will usually have a section of wines marked out as vegano and bio which is vegan and organic. Just look for that green symbol on the left and you’re good to go.

 

These sections usually have a lot of choice too, so if you love wine, you won’t find it hard to find some great vegan wine.

Homecooked vegan food in Italy.

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Two types of pasta we made with items we found in the grocery store. You can watch the video here to see what products I used.

Home cooked vegan pasta in Italy.

And if all else fails, you can always cook your own food. There is always fruit and vegetables around and there are tonnes of different pasta sauces to try. Even if you can’t find something marked specifically as vegan (though you would have to be blind not to), you can always throw together your own meals if you have a kitchen available. We used airbnb for most of our accommodation and for the few hotels we didn’t they still had a kitchenette so it was pretty easy for us.

 

We cooked most of our meals because it was the most cost effective and because we wanted to try out the different foods available in the supermarkets and it worked out perfectly.

 

And because you’re in Italy, it tastes a hundred times better too.

 

I really hope you found this guide to being vegan in Italy helpful or if you’re just here for a browse, enjoyable.

 

Thank you for visiting and see you next time!

Vegan cordon bleu and vegan pesto in Italian grocery shops.
Valsoia vegan cooking cream. How to be vegan in Italy.
Vegan salad in Milano, Italy.

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Home Comforts