When acquaintances hear I’m going abroad they will often take a sharp intake of breath – “What will you eat? You’ll find it really hard!” Well, I’ve holidayed in many countries, and not had a problem. A bit of pre-holiday research, a well chosen B&B, or proximity to a metropolis, and in European countries that’s sufficient to have a great, well-catered for holiday (France has loads of places, Spain quite a few - Fuego Blanco near Malaga is a particular favourite).
However I must admit that when Sally suggested Rome, I had my reservations. I had holidayed in Italy as a child and gorged on pizza and ice-cream, but didn’t imagine a vegan would fare so well. Nonetheless, Sally had found an organic vegetarian B&B in the city, Bed and Breakfast Bio, and after a bit of googling found that Rome boasted several vegetarian eateries, many more that were veggie-friendly, and most exciting of all, multiple flavours of soya ice-cream sold in gelateries across the city.
Well that was it; I was sold. Vegan ice-cream was taking me to Rome!
The B&B was in the suburbs to the north of the city, in a well-proportioned apartment complex surrounded by trees. The rooms were spacious, full of character as well as having mod cons (kettle, TV, fridge) and en-suite toilet and shower facilities. Our hosts provided us with delicious and thoughtful vegan breakfasts – several types of fruit, muesli, bread, various spreads (including almond butter), biscuits, pastries, and fresh homemade vegan crepes filled with a jam of our choice, fruit juice, and a huge choice of teas. The products we encountered at breakfast were sourced from the health food store (or Erboristeria) that the owners run. They took us there on our first day, and we were excited to discover it packed with all vegan products – some familiar brands (e.g. Taifun tofu) and many Italian brands too.
For reviews of Bed and Breakfast Bio, check out www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Hotel_Review-g187791-d932712-Reviews-Bed_and_Breakfast_Bio-Rome_Lazio.html.
With the famous saying "when in Rome …" in mind, we were determined to enjoy the culinary delights that Italy is most famous for: pizza, pasta and ice-cream. Our first meal out was at a local pizzeria close to our B&B. We ate at many pizza places, perfecting our ordering as we went, and the waiters were never fazed by us ordering pizza with no cheese. We only ever had one waiter look at us strangely and ask if we were on diets!
It was on the very last day of our perfect pizza odyssey that we struck gold! We had just got off the bus at Piazza del Popolo which is behind the northern gate to the city, and saw a little pizzeria called Pizza e Natura. The pizza was cheap at 7 Euros, was on the Rosso side of the menu (these are the pizzas that have tomato/herb sauce topping; ‘Blanco’ ones don’t) and was called Verdure Miste. When the pizza arrived it looked amazing – it was huge and piled high with generous amounts of mushrooms, spinach, broccoli, courgette and aubergine and was utterly delicious. Too much to eat in one sitting!
Our next indulgence was to find the vegan gelati that we had read about online. There are several gelateries around the centre of Rome that stock at least a couple of vegan ice-cream options and some that have a multitude of flavours to choose from. We found at least four that stocked a wide variety of flavours such as vanilla, chocolate, pistachio, walnut, hazelnut, strawberry, coconut, cappuccino and many more!
There are also a number of purely vegetarian restaurants in Rome which of course we had to try. Armed with information from the Happy Cow website, Sally highlighted all the recommended eateries on the city map. We ate at a longstanding upmarket restaurant called La Margutta where vegan options were highlighted on the menu and dishes were marked where they could be made vegan on request. The food was tasty, made with fresh ingredients and was beautifully presented.
We visited another vegetarian restaurant at lunchtime called Bibliothe. There were many vegan options and it was possible to ask for the vegetarian dishes to be made vegan as well. We ordered the set menu for the day which was an aubergine stew with pulses, a beautifully spiced rice and mixed vegetables dish, and a delicious salad with strawberries in it.
Another option for lunch or dinner was a chain of restaurants called L’Insalata Ricca which were dotted all over Rome which although not vegetarian had a lots of vegan salad and pizza options.
All in all, as well as being an amazing city rich in history and culture, Rome had a lot to offer to vegan tourists and we would certainly recommend it as a destination that is surprisingly vegan friendly. I even came home with a lovely new pair of vegan sandals :)
For full Rome listings see www.happycow.net/europe/italy/rome.