Italy and AIP may not sound like a match made in heaven, what with all the gluten, cheese & tomatoes, but in this post I’ll let you know how I managed to stay mostly AIP on my honeymoon in Italy and give some general tips for travel that will help make your AIP adventures more enjoyable.
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I’d like to start off by officially introducing myself.
I know, I know… you all know me and have been following me for a while, but you were following Bethany Tapp. And now, I’d like to officially introduce myself as Mrs. Bethany Darwin. And that handsome man by my side is my husband of 12 days, Joseph Darwin. I have a feeling he’ll be making a more regular appearances here on Adventures in Partaking, so I thought you should get to know him too.
On April 15th, near the end of our wedding reception, my matron-of-honor extraordinaire (I’ll tell you more about her in a post about the awesome shower she threw me) gave some advice to my new husband in her speech and it included this gem… you better be ready to partake in more adventures…what, no blog readers in the room?
And we kicked off our married life with a real adventure… an Italian honeymoon. We spent a week exploring the Cinque Terre region. In case you’re not familiar with the Cinque Terre, it’s a series of 5 fishing villages along the western coast of Italy, three of which are only accessible by train, boat or foot. And, between the 5 villages (and several other surrounding towns) are a network of footpaths and trails. This was a dream vacation of mine that I told Joseph about on our 2nd date, and he took the hint. I mean seriously, how could anyone not want to travel to this awesome destination.
Whenever I travel, I have a few basic thoughts I keep in mind:
- I give up trying to stay 100% AIP – I focus more on what I can eat than what I can’t. My hard and fast rule is Gluten Free & Dairy Free. I also do everything possible to stay paleo and avoid tomatoes and nightshade spices. These seem to be my biggest triggers. I accept the fact that I’ll eat more sugar than is best for me and that I’ll have some grains, but I know my body and what I can and can’t handle for a couple of days.
- Get rid of the stress – I find that one of the biggest triggers for my AI conditions is stress, so vacations are naturally a time to reduce the stress, which allows me to branch out of AIP a bit here and there.
- Have fun – I know my meals won’t be perfect. I know everyone around me will be eating all kinds of things I can’t, but I can enjoy the scenery and explore and experience a new culture without food coming into the picture at all. Who cares if I’m eating a can of tuna while everyone else is eating pizza… I’m still in Italy.
I know that when most of us think about AIP, we think of the list of YES and NO foods. But, there’s so much more to AIP. I have spodylarthritis and one of the biggest pain triggers for me is lack of exercise. My regular routine allows little opportunity for exercise, so I LOVE vacations that allow for lots of time outside moving about.
On this trip we walked and walked and climbed stairs and rode bikes and walked and walked some more. Oh…and then we walked even more. Several days we topped 20,000 steps and one day we topped 26,000 and climbed 88 flights of stairs.
The above picture was halfway through a 2 hour hike between two of the villages. The path went through olive groves and vineyards and along the hillside with amazing views of the ocean and the villages below. There were thousands of stairs and we were sore and tired by the end of it, but it was an awesome experience that I’ll never forget, I felt great at the end of it and never thought about food once.
My favorite (I think… I really loved it all) day was the bike riding day. We took the train to a neighboring town and rented bikes and road along the coast, on what used to be train tracks, and through tunnels to two neighboring towns. It was a great way to see those three towns and to get some movement in.
AIP(ish) Eating in Italy
(1) Remember that Italy isn’t just pasta and pizza. Especially on the coast you’ll find amazing seafood options with lots of fresh vegetables.
(2) My sweet husband found a cute B&B where the owner’s children have celiac, so she was more than happy to accommodate. If you’re looking for a similar place, check out the reviews on the booking site or even email the owner before making a booking.
Every morning for breakfast she made me a gluten and dairy free cake. YUM! She also put out a selection of gluten and dairy free processed foods (most of which I still avoided – but it was sweet of her anyway) and she always had nightshade free smoked meats, boiled eggs and fresh fruit. Here’s her facebook page in case anyone wants to visit.She was also very helpful in recommending places in town where we could eat without problems (places where the chefs understand allergies) and even made reservations for us one night.
(3) Before traveling I went online to an italian allergy awareness site and printed out papers stating that I was allergic to gluten, milk, cheese, tomatoes, eggplant, sweet pepper and chili peppers. I had hoped that this would be helpful, but unfortunately many of the restaurants we showed it to said that it would be too dangerous for them and me. I guess they were afraid of liability in the case of cross contamination. So instead, I’d look at the menu (with my Italian translation paper) and find things that were almost compliant and request a few tweaks. These were some of my restaurant meals:
- Grilled prawns with a side salad with olive oil & balsamic
- Grilled kingfish with green beans and artichokes
- Salad with tuna, olives & capers
One night we went out to a cool restaurant where the chef creates meals based on the guests who have booked and our hostess made reservations for us, so his dinner for all guests that night was 90% compliant (within the restrictions I told him – gluten, dairy, tomatoes, nightshade spices). And, for a couple of the courses he gave me a slight variation to the rest of the guests. We had
(1) smoked salmon on a chestnut & raisin cake with apples and olive oil,
(2) tempura fried mixed seafood with orange slices,
(3) baked white fish & potatoes in an orange sauce,
(4) gluten free pasta with cuttlefish and artichokes,
(5) rice pilaf with lobster and prawns and
(6) gluten free crepes in an orange & dark chocolate sauce.
(4) A couple of meals were picnics in train stations where I hunted down some AIP friendly foods in local markets and grocery stores. The produce that was available was beautiful and it was easy to find compliant smoked meats and jars of tuna in olive oil. If you have access to a decent grocery store, pick up some of the following and you’ll be set.
- cans or jars of tuna in olive oil
- smoked salmon & other smoked meats (have your italian allergy words handy to check ingredients)
- fresh fruit & veggies
- pre-made salads – I managed to find 2 with just greens and carrots
- reintroduction items – dark chocolate, nuts, rice crackers
- I also picked up cheese and bread for my hubby and he got to have a sandwich on the train
(5) Treats are important…. in moderation. Twice during the trip I allowed myself a sorbet while Joseph enjoyed gelato. In the more touristy areas, you’ll find signs in the gelato shops indicating gluten and dairy free options. My favorite is lemon sorbet, made with the bounty of lemons in the region.
(6) And, as always, come prepared with some snacks just in case. When traveling internationally, be sure to check custom laws, but most of the time you’re ok with store bought and properly packaged items (this is not true in Australia though).
I brought along epic bars, dried fruit and some coconut chips. Oddly enough these all came in handy for both of us on our first night, when exhaustion from the wedding and flying all night and train hopping all day caused us to over-nap and wake up at midnight starving, having missed dinner.
Here are some links to some easy to pack AIP friendly travel foods:
For more AIP travel tips, check out my ebook “AIP Safari” which is full of tips on where to stay, how to pack foods, games to play on the road and tons of travel friendly AIP foods.