Gluten Free in Italy

freefromatdoorHere’s a shot of a free-from section in a small provincial Italian supermarket in the corner of north western Italy my folks call home.

No, even when ostensibly on holiday and visiting relatives, I still can’t escape the temptation of allergen-friendly foods …

There was a nice selection of gluten-free products, but what really struck me was its location: at the entrance, by the baskets, opposite the fruit and veg (which were on the right hand side, out of shot).

Anyone come across similar in the UK?

piadenelleCuriously, the dairy free milks were stocked separately, at the other end of the store. The section at the entrance held biscuits, crackers, pastas, flours, cereals and GF grains. Many contained other allergens, so the emphasis was very much on products for those with coeliac disease – awareness of which in Italy is very high. One exception was this piadina flatbread left – which was confirmed free from gluten, wheat, milk, lactose, egg, nuts, soya, sesame and peanuts. It is by Free G.

The other thing that I found noteworthy about the section was that it was unsignposted. No consipicuous Senza Glutine sign was to be seen anywhere, nor indeed ‘Free From’ – which, I discovered, is becoming a more commonly used expression in Italy.

I’m not quite sure how to interpret this. Might the placement reflect an attempt to warmly welcome free-from shoppers from the word go, and allow them a shopping experience where the gluten-y bread (at the far end) could be easily avoided? Does the absence of any obvious signage ‘normalise’ the food, removing any perceived stigma of shopping in the ‘special’ section of the supermarket?

Who knows …

In other news, Lucca – an ancient picturesque town in which I spent an enjoyable day with my cousin Romina – has a tower with trees growing out of the top.


I climbed it. You may be wanting proof …


To drag this post back vaguely back on topic, Lucca did seem to offer a wide selection of GF and indeed vegan options, judging by the prominent menus I caught sight of that were doing their hardest to lure tourists (among them many north Americans and Spaniards), but I spent very little time exploring the matter further. I’m afraid learning of a small wood floating up high against a springtime Tuscan skyline rather distracts you from matters gluten-free …


  1. Dolphinwitch

    How wonderful to find a copse at the top of a tower in the middle of a town 🙂 I'd be surprised if you didn't find that distracting!

  2. Alex G

    Copse! What a great word – wish I'd used it. Yep – all the tourists were talking about it, trying to find the tower with trees atop … 🙂

  3. Gluten Free Mrs D

    Oh my goodness! How have I not been to Lucca to see that tower with the trees on top? In terms of the placement of the gluten free products, I've seen something similar in an IberCoop (the massive ones) in Tuscany where the free from items were all placed on the end of an aisle, fairly close to the entrance and extremely prominent. There was no way you could miss it. As a tourist who had never visited the store before, it was great as I didn't have to walk miles around the shop to hunt down the free from section. Personally I love how normal everything is in Italy about gluten free, including shopping in supermarkets.

  4. Alex G

    I had no idea that copse (thank you, Dolphinwitch) even existed … tourists who trod on the soil up there, in an attempt to get a better photograph, were told off via Tannoy. It was very amusing … Lucca can be done in a couple of days, or a day as part of a longer trip to Tuscany. I liked it.

  5. Forever Free From (Benjamin)

    Long time reader, first time commenter here Alex.

    I recently vacationed in Italy too, enjoyed fantastic and 100% Gluten-Free food, and write about that here

    Since I stayed at a retreat which provided the food for most meals I did not explore supermarkets as you are but I have the intent to return to Italy for a walking + pizza themed vacation so read about your finds with great interest 🙂

  6. Alex G

    Thanks Benjamin – Mrs D (who commented above) has lots of great advice on her site about Italy.


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