How to Eat Vegetarian in Tuscany, Italy

Traveling to Italy as a Vegetarian — What You Need To Know

How to Eat Vegetarian in Tuscany, Italy

Traveling, especially internationally, can sometimes cause concern for those who are looking to keep a vegetarian or vegan diet while they are there. At home, you likely have a routine and know what foods to buy and where, which restaurants to go to and what to order there, and how to navigate your day-to-day experience. Unfortunately, most of what you are used to won’t help you much once you’re strolling through the beautiful villages in Tuscany and eating your way through Italy (animal-free of course). Today, we have listed a few tips and tricks on how to eat vegetarian in Tuscany, Italy.

Vegetarianism in Roman Culture

Finding restaurants that are familiar with vegetarianism can be hit or miss. Italian restaurants are not known for catering to dietary restrictions so it’s best to know what and how to order. With this little bit of research and planning beforehand, Italy can be a wonderful destination for meat-eaters and vegetarians alike. Also, we have some great news–some of the most-loved Tuscan cuisines are made from a base of bread and vegetables.

Actually, when you look closely at the Roman culture, you’ll see that it has a rather deep history of vegetarianism, contrary to popular belief. What’s often overlooked is the hidden history of ancient Greek and Roman vegetarianism and the past philosophers who offered great debates over the vegetarian diet. Many Romans were influenced by Pythagoras, the Greek philosopher who was a vegetarian. Also, there was Epicurus, who was also known for advocating for the vegetarian diet, this is where the term epicurean stems from. Most notably, was the Roman senator Seneca who was a vegetarian. Roman gladiators would bulk up on the vegetarian fare of barley and beans to keep them fat since meat portions were small and lean.

This tradition of vegetarianism is still present in Italy today.  A 2011 study suggested that 10% of Italians are vegetarians and Italy has the largest percentage of vegetarians in the European Union. Veganism is less common since dairy and eggs are staples, but it is certainly possible to eat well while traveling in Italy as a vegan.

Ease of Eating Vegetarian

Ordering a vegetarian meal in Tuscany is not all that difficult in most situations. In fact, learning how to eat vegetarian in Italy is a pretty straightforward process when compared to elsewhere. Those from the United States and Canada will be especially pleased to learn that most places in this region of Italy and throughout the country are very straightforward about what’s included in a dish. What you see on the menu, is what you get. Many times when traveling internationally, for example in North America, you may find that bacon, milk, or cheese was unexpectedly included in the dish but not labeled on the menu (especially when it comes to soups!).

Of course, eating vegetarian in Italy is often done without much effort since much of the Italian cuisine is already vegetarian based. For example, how to eat vegetarian in Tuscany is as simple as ordering bruschettas, a pasta with a tomato-based sauce, and a salad. With that said, it’s better to stick to local restaurants as they’re more apt to include traditional – i.e. vegetarian-friendly – Italian food.

Vegetarian and Vegan Restaurants

How to Eat Vegetarian in Tuscany, Italy Restaurants

Although there is no need to go to a strictly vegetarian or vegan restaurant, you can seek out such places prior to traveling to Tuscany. Check out this wonderful resource for finding what you need at HappyCow. Or you can skip the hassle and have a couple of experienced travelers give you the scoop on all the best places in town. After all, your time is probably relatively limited, so you don’t want to leave these things to chance. Tuscan Travel Group can plan your trip from A-Z, giving you the most authentic, memorable, scenic, and delicious time in Tuscany–all on the first try.

How to order vegetarian in Italy: Italian Words and Phrases

Although specialized vegan and vegetarian restaurants are more common now than ever before, it is more likely that you’ll need to know what to order and how to order it because chances are you’ll find yourself in a traditional Italian restaurant. Unlike the U.S., Italian restaurants don’t typically have a vegetarian or vegan portion to their menu. Regardless of where you go, one of the best ways to communicate your needs is to learn a handful of related Italian words and phrases. Prior to traveling to Tuscany, prepare by learning a few phrases below. 

  • I’m a vegetarian = Sono vegetarian (male) / vegetariana (female).
  • No meat = No carne
  • Do you have any vegetarian dishes? = Avete qualche piatto vegetariano?
What to Order: Italian Vegetarian Meal Recommendations
  • Italian Vegetarian Appetizer: To start with an appetizer or an aperitivo, try ordering a crostini. The crostini is toasted bread slices that can come with meat-based dressing, but you can also order it with mushrooms, tomatoes, truffle oil, roasted peppers or cheese.
  • Italian Vegetarian Soup: Try the Ribollita, a famous Tuscan bread soup. This is a wintery dish that is slow-cooked and very hearty. Ribollita is made with bread and vegetables. There are many, many variations but traditionally the ingredients include unsalted bread, intensely-flavored olive oil, white cannellini beans, black kale, cabbage, and inexpensive vegetables such as carrot, beans, chard, celery, potatoes, and onion.
  • Italian Vegetarian Meal: Try the Tortelli Maremmani, an egg-pasta filled with spinach and ricotta cheese. Usually served with butter, sage, and a generous serving of parmesan cheese.
  • Italian Vegetarian Side Dish or “Contorno”: A must-try side dish in Tuscany is the common fritto misto di verdure, which is fried vegetables that come crispy, delicious, and savory.    

Make sure to reward yourself with some vegan gelato! The lemon sorbet variety is excellent.

How to eat vegetarian in Italy

Learn more about traveling to the beautiful countryside of Tuscany, here and more about the Italian vegetarian soup, Ribollita here!

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