I’ve simply arrived again from a 16-day journey to Italy. It was wonderful. It was additionally my 2nd time in Italy, having beforehand traveled in 2016 with buddies whereas learning overseas. I wished to interrupt down some attention-grabbing observations from this go-around about navigating worldwide journey, coping with English fluency, and staying secure whereas touring.
As somebody with extreme meals allergic reactions to peanuts, tree nuts, sesame, shellfish, and fish (plus gentle bronchial asthma), worldwide journey has loads of minefields to navigate! You possibly can learn all about my experiences learning overseas in school by clicking right here.
We booked our tickets by way of United many moons in the past and solely later realized we’d truly be flying Lufthansa + AirDolomiti on the way in which there, whereas we’d be flying AirDolomiti + United on the way in which again.
I had by no means flown Lufthansa and provided that the flights had been booked with United, I couldn’t go into Lufthansa’s portal and mark that I had allergic reactions. A fairly dumb consumer expertise, I’ve to say.
At check-in, I requested the agent to notice that I had peanut/nut allergic reactions on the flight readout (she added it efficiently) and she or he really helpful that I point out it to the stewardess upon boarding. The stewardess was…stunned and requested if I had requested a particular meal. At that time, I spotted this was a flight with meal service. (Ha!) I informed her no and she or he wrote down my seat quantity on her hand.
What ensued was genuinely stunning: a number of completely different brokers on the airplane came visiting through the flight and requested quite a lot of questions — whether or not I used to be peanut mud allergic and would react if any nuts had been served in any respect on the airplane, what I’d really feel comfy consuming, whether or not they might assure the meal didn’t have nuts (they couldn’t), and even one time they introduced over a platter of meals for me to examine. Superb service.
I ended up declining all the meals however they nonetheless supplied me salads and contemporary fruit and yogurt with an ingredient label. Splendidly accommodating. Additionally, lesson realized –– name forward! I’m certain that I might’ve navigated this forward of time had I believed by way of the chance of a meal service. However since my previous a few years flying internationally didn’t contain it, I didn’t even give it some thought!
The AirDolomiti flights had been brief pond-hoppers with solely drinks service, so no worries there.
The flight again was an analogous expertise with United and I typically averted the meals + snacks served, aside from one which did have components labeled on them.
Navigating Consuming Out
The final time I traveled Italy in 2016, I had a reasonably easy expertise. I spent round 2 weeks within the nation in whole, touring between Genoa, Milan, Venice, Florence, and Rome. As a university pupil, I stored a reasonably low finances and ended up consuming fairly easy meals. Pasta, pizza, road pizza, and gelato. It was an easy and peaceable expertise with only a few issues.
Coming again, I had anticipated to have an analogous expertise. Sadly, not the case this time round.
I believe this partially attributable to my accomplice and I having a little bit of an even bigger finances and consuming at nicer locations than simply the pizzeria down the road. It meant navigating a sit-down restaurant setting and English fluency points.
Italian eating places are very completely different than American ones. Most solely have a number of waitstaff in whole. One restaurant we dined at within the Lake Como area sat round 20-30 folks they usually had 3 whole waitstaff who took orders, poured wine, served the plates, and so forth. I’d say they don’t seem to be as strained as French waitstaff (who’re really busy on a regular basis), however nonetheless fairly busy. That is largely as a result of they’re paid a good wage and don’t depend on tricks to make a dwelling, so the restaurant doesn’t rent as many servers.
Some eating places adopted EU rules and listed the High 14 allergens on the menu utilizing their quantity system. So, on the menu, it could look one thing like:
- Quatro formaggi pizza (1, 8)
- Margherita pizza (1, 8)
- Anchovy pizza (1, 6, 8)
The place the (1, 8) corresponded to an allergen itemizing in the back of the menu — on this case, gluten and dairy.
I shortly realized that this numbering isn’t complete. Many dishes had cross-contact points or, upon asking, the kitchen would state that actually a sauce on one of many dishes truly contained nuts even when it was not famous on the menu. This was a shock (and likewise not sure if that is breaking the regulation).
Not all eating places had this numbering, so I didn’t depend on it. I introduced up any questions with the waitstaff instantly.
Originally, I relied on simply speaking about my allergic reactions in English. The employees understood, even when they couldn’t reply in full sentences again in English (which all the time makes me a bit nervous), and I obtained nice care. When one restaurant in a small city in northern Italy served us meals, our waiter even vocally confirmed with every dish that it didn’t include any of my allergens. He additionally taught me what my allergic reactions had been in Italian.
This labored fairly nicely till one restaurant in Venice, the place I used to be principally berated by a waiter for messing up an order. He didn’t communicate nice English, so after I requested whether or not the open-faced sandwiches (an area specialty in Venice) contained my allergens, he said one thing which I understood as “no, however there’s sesame within the kitchen,” – a standard chorus from waitstaff when coping with allergic reactions – however which later turned out to be that there was sesame within the bread.
I found this upon serving. I shortly pulled up a translate app and translated an apology and saying I believe we misunderstood one another. To which he now extra clearly pronounced in English, “No! I informed you there was sesame in it and also you stated, ‘it’s okay’!”
Clearly, it wasn’t working. So I realized the way to say the total spiel in Italian. “Sono allergico a noci, sesamo, pesce, e crostacei.” That all the time received the eye of the waitstaff. The issue was that they shortly responded in Italian, which then I’d should right course and say “Okay I didn’t catch that, sorry, might you say that in English?” This dance continued at a pair eating places till I began to preface my Italian by saying (sure I actually stated this) “I understand how to say this in Italian however I don’t know the way to reply…”
It grew to become a scot-free expertise after that. A number of the waitstaff at nicer eating places in Rome & Florence even had very fluent English audio system, which made the expertise very seamless.
One distinctive second was after we had been having drinks at an area upscale bar in Florence. I ordered one in every of their cocktails, which when delivered contained a small one thing within the glass. This was not famous on the menu, by the way in which, and really uncommon to serve a cocktail with one thing inside it. Seems it was a small almond biscuit they dropped within the backside of the glass. I needed to patiently clarify to the waiter about my allergic reactions they usually fortunately remade the drink with out the almond biscuit.
So, I had some shut run-ins this time round. It was unnerving, truthfully. I believe protecting to easier fare has its advantages. A lot of the nicer eating places all the time took the additional step to make one thing “fancy”: sesame-encrusted breadsticks, anchovies of their cream sauces, nutty biscuits of their cocktails. The easier locations stored it, nicely, easy.
One extraordinary expertise, nevertheless, was at a restaurant in a small city close to Lake Como. It was one of many first nights we had been in Italy. It was a tiny place, in all probability 10 seats whole. The proprietor was the waiter. After he served us a basket of bread with sesame breadsticks (unusually widespread within the north of the nation), I defined my allergic reactions. Not solely did he take away the breadsticks, he reduce contemporary bread only for us and remembered every little thing in the course of the meal. It was a pleasant reminder that touring with allergic reactions will be secure with the proper of service.
One other restaurant was an excellent instance of this. When visiting a really helpful restaurant from a pal in Florence, I ordered a easy pasta dish after explaining my allergic reactions. The waiter stated he’d go and examine the kitchen. He comes again and tells me in considerably damaged English that it isn’t secure, however strive one in every of these different three on the menu. I order the one which sounds good, after which he comes again once more and informs me, oops! These three aren’t secure both. However one in every of these different two dishes will probably be. Fortunately, it seems that final dish was undoubtedly secure. Numerous open communication stored me secure! Saying it in Italian all the time clearly communicated my wants.
We didn’t solely eat at eating places and generally grabbed snacks ‘on the go,’ notably after we had been touring. I shortly realized what the completely different allergens had been (within the above picture, latte or dairy is bolded within the components checklist, after which a “might include” puó contenere assertion is listed under for celery, mustard, and soy). This was a pleasant reminder that European packaging legal guidelines are far more complete than American ones and I averted something that talked about my allergens within the components checklist or the puó contenere assertion.
Gelato is unquestionably a draw of Italy. Typically it makes use of contemporary fruits and flavors to create a creamy, extraordinarily flavorful product. Consuming gelato runs the identical dangers as ice cream from an ice cream store, though the method to make gelato is somewhat completely different. Nevertheless, the ultimate product is loads creamier and thicker than ice cream.
Gelato will be served out of ice cream tins or separated out, coated tubs. From a cross-contact perspective, the tubs are the most secure as a result of it makes use of separate serving spoons and retains the merchandise separate from one another. Nevertheless, most gelato outlets serve it out of ice cream tins.
One attention-grabbing remark my accomplice had was that, in Venice, nearly everybody had “shared” scoops. Like an ice cream store, there was one scooper they used for all of the gelato. It is a main drawback for me as a result of pistachio is a quite common and fashionable taste of gelato. And to navigate the English fluency + allergy dialog for a 2 euro scoop of gelato simply… isn’t actually value it.
However most locations in Italy outdoors of Venice even have particular person scoops for gelato. As a result of thick and creamy high quality of the gelato, the scooper itself by no means touches something besides the gelato it’s serving. I don’t have a video to point out this, however principally they’ll scoop up a giant quantity on this serving knife after which “push” it into the bathtub. So the scooper by no means touches different gelato and even the cones/cups.
I stored to secure flavors and ate loads of yummy gelto. Black cherry is my favourite.
(P.S. Generally they add somewhat “biscotti” to the highest of the gelato when serving – a plain, vanilla cracker. I by no means ate it, however I requested one gelateria if it contained nuts, they usually confirmed me the components. Completely secure for me.)
The final time I traveled Italy, I stored to regional trains. Most nations in Europe have two or three completely different “tiers” of trains. There are high-speed trains, regional trains, and native trains. The high-speed strains (TGV in France, AV in Italy) are the costliest. They’re additionally extra trendy, comfy, and plush. Regional trains are typically older, slower, and loads cheaper. Native trains are often simply native variations of regional trains (like an area rail service that extends past the metro strains).
A ticket on a regional prepare line between two main cities ran ~20 euros and took a half-day or extra to get between locations. A ticket on a high-speed line between two main cities runs ~40 euros and takes only some hours or much less. We used Italo, a personal prepare firm, nearly completely in our travels as a result of they had been a bit cheaper for our routes.
Nevertheless, I had by no means taken Italo earlier than and we received a great deal on some first-class tickets. It was very comfy. Seems, first-class on Italo additionally contains drink & snack service like on a airplane. I’ve taken many, many trains throughout Spain, France, Italy, UK, Denmark – I had no thought this was a factor. I even did some good first-class journey within the UK. The meals service there was “elective” at somewhat catering stand close to the tip of the automotive.
Seems, they do serve snacks with nuts of their little snack packs. I all the time declined the snacks and simply settled for a drink. Provided that the prepare isn’t like a highly-pressurized setting like an airplane, I wasn’t essentially anxious about it however I can think about that this is able to pose a problem to vacationers who’re extra delicate to nuts. We simply wiped down our seats & tables and stored a secure distance.
It was a tremendous journey, stuffed with artwork, tradition, museums, historical past, and fantastic folks. I cherished each second!
One be aware is that discovering an American breakfast may be very tough in Italy. The widespread choices had been some sort of pastry (croissant, often) or contemporary fruit. Whereas in additional touristy areas there are eating places that provide some kind of egg + toast mixture, most cafés don’t. Curiously, almond croissants are usually not fashionable in Italy. Pistachio ones make an look each from time to time. I stored to cream-filled croissants, contemporary fruit, yogurt, and scrumptious cappuccinos.
Talking of espresso, it was very uncommon to discover a café that served espresso with something however regular milk. I don’t have a dairy allergy, however the “different” milk fad has probably not reached Italy but. I like a great oat milk latte, however I solely went to 1 café that had any different milks on provide.
However total, undoubtedly a visit to recollect! I’d extremely suggest visiting the nation. It’s beautiful, stuffed with form folks, and a lot historical past.
If you wish to learn extra about worldwide journey, consuming out, and different earlier experiences, take a look at:
- Making ready for my learning overseas expertise & navigating international universities, right here
- Backpacking Iceland for two weeks, right here
- Navigating hip upscale eating places and fusion meals, right here