Pienza - Val d'Orcia - Siena - Tuscany

We understand the special dietary needs of those with celiac disease and others who need to travel gluten-free. In this link we are happy to provide the information and research provided by one of our returning guests, Michelle Kennedy, who has written a report carefully detailing how she has learned to travel quite successfully in Tuscany on a gluten-free diet. We appreciate very much her permission to publish her report and feel certain you will find it to be invaluable. First, we will provide the links for easy reference, but we encourage you to read her entire report for all of the details.

General Information:

www.celiachia.it/home/HomePage.aspx
schar.elsstore.com (Gluten-free products in Italy)


Restaurants (and Gelato!) for Gluten-Free Meals:

Restaurants in Italy: www.ristosito.com/RistorantiSenzaGlutine.asp
Pizzerie throughout Italy: www.dspizzapoint.com/en
Ristorante La Taverna Della Barbarossa in San Quirico d’Orcia: tavernadelbarbarossa.com
La Terrazza Del Chiostro in Pienza: www.relaisilchiostrodipienza.com
Ristorante Dal Falco in Pienza : www.ristorantedalfalco.it
Punto Gelato in Pienza has gluten-free gelato
Da Roberto Taverna in Montisi: www.tavernamontisi.com
Ristorante Nonna Rosa in Chiusi: www.hotelrosati.it/en_tariffe.htm
Osteria Pozzo della Mensa in Assisi: www.osteriapozzodellamensa.net
La Locanda del Vino Nobile in San Albino (near Montepulciano): www.lalocandadelvinonobile.it
Ristorante Piccola Oasi in Arbia (near Asciano): www.piccolaoasisenzaglutine.com/


Other Blogs and Sites

aglutenfreeguide.com/ms-gf-guides-top-10-tips-for-traveling-in-tuscany.html
aglutenfreeguide.com/la-chiusa-restaurant-dania-and-umberto-steal-my-heart.html
aglutenfreeguide.com/la-terrazza-del-chiostro-pienza-italy.html
glutenfreegirl.blogspot.com/2007/10/eating-gluten-free-in-italy.html
aglutenfreeguide.com/ms-gf-guides-top-10-tips-for-traveling-in-tuscany.html
www.celiacchicks.com/2008/05/gluten-free-ita.html

Traveling Gluten-Free in Italy
by Michelle Kennedy

immagineAbout Me: I am a Hispanic female with Celiac Disease (diagnosed via biopsy February 28, 2009). I am a self proclaimed foodie and travel lover! With that being said, I rely heavily on my excellent research skills and the documentation/blogging of others to make my gluten-free living simple. Italy is a beautiful place and I have been privileged to visit Italy without the knowledge of being Celiac and with the knowledge of having Celiac. Was I anxious? Yes, but my husband was more anxious! Was it horrible to not have the breads, pastries, pizzas, etc? Not a chance! The gluten-free options were better and abundant!

I always attempt to give back to the Celiac community. Therefore, I did my very best to collect information relative to places where Celiacs can eat safely. Traveling with Celiac Disease (Celiacchia) is always challenging - and yes, it still makes me shed a few tears... However, it opens your palate to trying new and exciting things. Don’t be surprised if you fall in love with something entirely different from what you are accustomed to. Nonetheless, let me recommend that you always plan ahead! Mail a package in advance of your travels - inclusive of your favorite protein bars, protein drinks, and your favorite gluten-free pasta.

About Celiac Disease: An autoimmune digestive disease which damages the villi of the small intestine and interferes with absorption of nutrients from food. The damage is triggered when the protein called gluten is ingested. Gluten is found in wheat, barley, rye, and malt. Ingestion unknowingly (via hidden gluten/cross contamination) or by refusal to adopt a gluten-free diet leads to additional autoimmune diseases, osteoporosis, thyroid disease and cancer. The only treatment for this disease is a life-long gluten-free diet.

What I have learned from my research of Celiac Disease within Italy: Italians have the highest prevalence of Celiac Disease within the European Union. Italian children are tested proactively, rather than reactively (e.g., United States) and Italian citizens receive a monthly stipend for gluten-free food (cibo senza glutine). In addition, the Associazione Italiana Celiachia (www.celiachia.it/home/HomePage.aspx), the Italian government and a few major Italian companies promote awareness and understanding to keep the restaurant industry well informed. It is also a requirement for all pharmacies to carry gluten-free foods. Gluten-free options vary widely, but Dr. Schar (schar.elsstore.com ) products were most consistently available and by far the best (pasta, baguettes, foccacia, lady fingers, ciabiatta, cookies etc)!

An Italian Vacation - Gluten Free

I traveled to Tuscany this September via Air Canada (http://www.aircanada.com). I researched the availability of gluten-free food available via airlines and Air Canada had the best reputation. Well, the research paid off and I received a very good gluten-free dinner on the longest leg of my trip (more on that later). My departure point was LAX (Los Angeles, California) with one stop in Montreal. Because my research indicated that I wasn't likely to find any safe food I had some gluten-free crackers and a protein bar on me. Well, I just couldn't give up! I purchased some fresh fruit and a Diet Coke - hoping I would be satisfied until the next leg of travel which included meal service. My husband found a single salad! It was the last salad on the shelf (located at Boulevard Express) which included farm fresh lettuce, tomatoes, onions, and bell peppers. This was like a miracle...I ate that salad like it was the finest cut of beef! It was a very pleasant surprise as I had anticipated something having nothing or eating something quite horrible!

Shortly, after the final leg of my flight (Montreal to Rome) meal service began. My meal was served first and although I was absolutely embarrassed by the multiple stares coming my way, I was far more grateful to have a hot meal. I enjoyed chicken with gravy, wild rice, mixed vegetables, a dinner roll, and a ginger cookie for desert. Let me tell you it was great! Okay, so the dinner roll was a hockey puck! However, the ginger cookie for dessert was to die for (http://www.patsypie.com/gluten-free_products.html)!

It was a lengthy journey, but we finally arrived in Rome in the morning. I decided not to think much about food for a while and wait until we arrived at our hotel. From the airport we took a shuttle to Termini Station http://www.grandistazioni.it/cms/v/index.jsp?vgnextoid=ae2172ceeae7b110VgnVCM1000003f16f90aRCRD) then off to Chiusi. I researched hotel availability in Chiusi and the surrounding areas. I was fortunate to have found Villa Il Patriarca (http://www.ilpatriarca.it/villa/residenza.aspx). The hotel was wonderfully beautiful and also very accommodating to my diet. My husband and I were exhausted and decided on a simple lunch of mixed meats (pork, chicken, beef, boar etc.), some house wine and acqua frizzante (sparking water)! I had a lovely lemon sorbet for dessert and we were done! We awoke later in the evening completely disoriented not knowing if it was day or night! However, once we "got it together" we had an appetite for a tiny dinner. Dinner consisted of prosciutto, cantaloupe, pecorino, pear, and more sparkling water. Then back to sleep :-)

The very next morning we awoke late for breakfast. Strangely enough they held my breakfast for me - it was so very thoughtful! I was presented with an enormous platter of breads, biscuits, and cookies! I really didn't feel up to any toast that morning-still I was embarrassed to not take any! Again so very grateful and impressed! Could this really be soft, fluffy, delicious gluten-free bread? Oh yes! Indeed it was! Wow, I was thinking do we really have to check out today?

We did eventually check out of our hotel in an effort to retrieve our car rental from Hertz (across the street from the Chiusi train station). I really needed that good night’s rest and great meal before I got behind the wheel of a car which was about to take on its own personality! Or is that me? Yes, I feel like Mario Andretti driving in Italy!

Off to our favorite Agriturismo in Pienza: Agriturismo Cretaiole (http://www.cretaiole.it/index.en.php)! We had waited two long years for our return visit! Ahhh bellissimo! We arrived at the farm very early...more than 2 hours prior to check in! We pulled up the long drive way and hit the brake.... I didn't even turn the car off! I greeted Luciano with a gigantic bear hug! I am sure he was thinking "what the heck???" as Italians greet each other quite differently! On the other hand, I didn't care! If you ever have the opportunity to meet Luciano you will immediately understand my adoration!

Life on the farm is lovely and very accommodating to the gluten-free diet! Fresh water, eggs, pecorino, prosciutto, a beautiful vegetable garden, and of course Luciano's wine/olive oil! Isabella and Carlo shouldn't be left out of this.... They make the magic happen. It is a wonderful place to live and eat safely while visiting Pienza (Val D’Orcia) and the surrounding Tuscan locale.

With research prior to our departure from the US, I learned that Dr. Schar has "DS Pizza Points" (http://www.dspizzapoint.com/en/) throughout Italy! The DS Pizza Points designate restaurants and pizzerias serving gluten-free (senza glutine) pizza! Ha! And, fortunately there was one very close to the farm - 10-15 min. drive! The restaurant is Ristorante La Taverna Della Barbarossa (http://www.tavernadelbarbarossa.com) located in San Quirico d'Orcia. To our surprise there was more than pizza on the menu! The gluten-free options were plentiful! I have never seen a menu with more gluten-free options :-) Therefore, the first night we didn't have pizza...I had lamb and my husband who supports my gluten-free diet had pasta! We visited the restaurant on two more occasions for the Wood fired gluten-free pizza! WOW!

Isabella also recommended a local restaurant in Pienza serving gluten-free options -Delicious! Ristorante Dal Falco located at Piazza Dante Alighieri 7, on main road next to the park, just outside of the old town. Tel: 0578-748-551. I would also like to mention that Ristorante Dal Falco also serves Cretaiole wine!

Pienza also has gluten-free gelato - "Punto Gelato" located at Via E. Mangiavacchi 3 - across from the Pienza book store. Punto Gelato offers two gluten-free gelato options, including a gluten-free cone! Although, we missed our reservation due to the weather, there is an additional restaurant located in Pienza - La Terrazza Del Chiostro (http://www.relaisilchiostrodipienza.com). I visited the restaurant and viewed the menu - as we made our reservation. The menu was nice, however I do not have more to report - the evening of our reservation it rained so much it was much too dangerous to drive to Pienza from Castelmuzio.

Following our week’s stay at Agriturismo Cretaiole, we stayed at Le Casine di Castello (http://www.lecasinedicastello.com) located in Castelmuzio (an accommodation related to Agriturismo Cretaiole). I realized dining was going to be a little tricky as we did not have Luciano’s garden at our finger tips. Don’t get me wrong, we had access to it, but we had to drive rather than walk outside our door. But, then my creativity kicked in! We stocked up on our vegetables and decided to make a trip to the local market (not the Coop, but a market place where the local producers congregate and sell their items (on Saturdays and Sundays) and we also frequented other butcher shops (macellerie). Each sold wonderful Steaks, Sausage, and Ribs (bistecche, salsicce, e costolette). Le Casine di Castello has a barbeque grill located within the private garden and my husband prepared beautiful meals for me there. One meal which comes to mind included Caprese Salad (Tomatoes, Mozzarella, Basil, and Pesto), Eggplant grilled with olive oil, Gluten-free Bruschetta, and Bistecche al Fiorentina! May I also note that I found an alternate reference to Gluten Free: Privo di Fonti di Glutine, which translates as Gluten Free. This reference was found on the sausage (salsicce) we purchased from Macelleria Belli.
While staying in Castelmuzio other guests familiar with my diet noticed a restaurant located in Montisi had a menu with gluten-free options. The restaurant was Da Roberto Taverna (http://www.tavernamontisi.com). My lunch consisted of prosciutto, pecorino, and pears-lovely! I will definitely be back as our time was limited that afternoon. My husband had the pot roast with roasted potatoes which he claims were the best ever! Please note that this was a restaurant open during the hours most restaurants were closed - a definite plus!
I would like to add that Pienza also has a very nice supermarket known as the Coop (Coop Unione Amiatina Pienza - located at Via S. Gregoria 13), where you can find additional provisions. Note: There is a larger Coop in San Quirico d’Orcia and a smaller Coop in Castelmuzio. I will just mention the processed gluten-free options available at the Coop:

  • Cookies and Crackers: Galbusera / Zero Grano and Coop
  • Bread, Crackers, and Pasta: Bi-Aglut and Coop

We took a side trip to Assisi and I thought I would mention the restaurant we dined at - Osteria Pozzo Della Mensa (http://www.osteriapozzodellamensa.net). We were downright lucky to find the restaurant located in an enormous hill town with a zillion tiny streets. On our way back to Castelmuzio (from the Chiusi train station) that evening, we made a wrong turn and found another restaurant known to have gluten-free pizza via the DS Pizza Point site. Was it synchronicity? The restaurant was Ristorante Nonna Rosa (http://www.hotelrosati.it/en_tariffe.htm) located adjacent to the Hotel Rosati in Chiusi. We planned to save this for our final evening in Tuscany. Extra tidbit: We continued on the wrong way when we drove through Chianciano Terme back to Castelmuzio. We were suprised to see all the bright lights (like a big city) in the middle of Tuscany! We will definitely explore more next visit.
We left beautiful Castelmuzio a day early in an effort to accomodate our early train departure from Chiusi. Since our train was leaving earlier than Hertz opened, we even had to return our car a day early. This gave us a wonderful opportunity to explore Chiusi, which I might say is quite nice! I really loved it! We went for a stroll as most shops were open and stopped in at a very elegant gelato shop (I apologize as I do not recall the name) located by the church. I was pleased to have a pre-packaged gluten-free dessert as I enjoyed the local scenery. We took a taxi back to Ristorante Nonna Rosa (http://www.hotelrosati.it/en_tariffe.htm) and enjoyed the most fabulous meal ever! It was here that I completely forgot that I was Celiac! Can I say it was a foodie’s delight? I have never had a better gluten-free meal! The service was just as wonderful! Again, another restaurant found via the DS Pizza Point. Of course, I love pizza....but, I prefer fine dining and I had a gourmet steak salad, grilled peppers, roasted potatoes! My husband also had a beautiful steak with black truffle butter. Our bellies were so full, that we chose to walk back to Villa Il Patriarca. Although, the walk was not long, it was very dark and dangerous (I do not recommend doing this).

Let me mention that timing is of the essence! Our time clocks were not acclimated properly to the local time and it was problematic. Therefore, I stress that you do everything possible to acclimate. The supermarkets and restaurants are not open 24 hours a day. It is typical for the supermarket to open at 8:00 AM and to be closed between 12:00 PM and 4 PM and closed for the evening at 8:00 PM. Breakfast is not a big deal in Italy, you should count on something light (coffee, yogurt, gluten-free bar etc.). Lunch can be hearty, but be sure you arrive on time! Some restaurants are closed by 2:00 PM and you will not find a drive-thru! Dinner can also be challenging if you are accustomed to dining early in the evening. Some restaurants do not open until 7:00 PM and we typically found reservations at 9:00 PM. In addition, some restaurants are closed seasonally. Reserve early and let the host/hostess know that you require a gluten-free meal in advance.

Here are two additional restaurants which offer gluten-free options and one Italian search engine:

Ristorante Piccola Oasi - Arbia (Asciano) - http://www.piccolaoasisenzaglutine.com/dove-siamo.html

La Locanda del Vino Nobile - S. Albino (Montepulciano) -http://www.lalocandadelvinonobile.it/eng/ristorante/ristorante.html

More Restaurants (Italian Search Engine):http://www.ristosito.com/RistorantiSenzaGlutine.asp

One final note: Drink the wine! The Diet Coke manufactured in Italy is not gluten free. The problem is with the caramel color.

Although the caramel color within the USA is safe, the FDA standard of identity from 21CFR CH.1. indicates the color additive caramel is the dark-brown liquid or solid material resulting from the carefully controlled heat treatment of the following food grade carbohydrates: Dextrose (corn sugar), invert sugar, lactose (milk sugar), malt syrup (usually from barley malt), molasses (from cane), starch hydrolysates and fractions thereof (can include wheat), sucrose (cane or beet). Also, acids, alkalis and salts are listed as additives which may be employed to assist the carmeliation process.

If you would prefer to investigate further, please contact the Coca Cola Company Division Office for Italy at:
Coca-Cola Italy and Alpine Division
Casella Postale 214
20099 Sesto S. Giovanni
Milano
Italy
Tel: 39 800.836000

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