Lactose Intolerance on Holiday: Italy

Being lactose intolerant at home (which for us is the UK) is hard enough. But going on holiday can really throw a spanner in the works, especially when kids are involved.

We’re lucky that Little Miss is a relatively good and non-fussy eater. But just like every other toddler, she has her moments, and you never know what will be her pet peeve of the day – strange tasting milk or cheese that doesn’t look the same as at home, perhaps?

My parents have a house in Italy, so we’ve spent a reasonable amount of time there over the years – both myself as a lactose intolerant adult and now with our daughter who is also lactose intolerant since birth.

Italy is actually a great place to go away if you’re lactose intolerant and over the past five years or so, the range of products available has really increased.

So I thought I’d share my top tips and learnings from our time in Italy with a lactose intolerant family member.

Eating out:

By law, Italian menus must state any potential allergens on the menu. And most restaurants, particularly in metropolitan or tourist areas are geared up to deal with special dietary requirements.

The Italians are exceptionally friendly, and almost all the waiters we encounter speak enough English to help us get by. They love children and will do anything to help us  find something for Little Miss to eat. But a few ideas to get you started…

Cheese options:

  • Parmesan has minimal lactose content, but may still upset little tummies. (We’ve had mixed results with parmesan and Little Miss.)
  • Pecorino cheese is a hard sheep’s cheese and very, very, very light on lactose content. Our two year old eats this without any problems (once she got over the fact it tasted different to cheese at home). Most restaurants will have Pecorino in the kitchen, you just have to ask to swap out mozzarella or other cheeses.
  • Buffalo mozzarella is almost completely lactose free, so worth asking if they have this too.

Restaurants:

  • Hotel breakfasts are a lot of pastries and cereals so eggs or a cooked breakfast and toast with honey or jam might be your best bet.
    (If your baby is weaning, try spreading olive oil on the toast instead of butter just to soften it a little.)
  • Traditional pizza bases are made with olive oil, not butter, so you’re all good with pizza without cheese (or one of the alternatives above). But be aware, pizza is traditionally a dinner only meal, so unless you’re in tourist areas, you’re unlikely to find anywhere at lunch serving pizzas.
  • Pasta with a tomato sauce or Bolognese.
  • Fish and meat dishes are on most menus as well, just make sure the vegetables are cooked in olive oil rather than butter.
  • Sorbetto and Granita are both dairy free ice cream options at the Gelaterias (sometimes contain egg white) and taste amazing.
Little Miss with her beloved lemon sorbet

Sorbet!!

Things to watch out for…

  • Double check any pasta sauces are dairy free as many traditional recipes with include a handful of parmesan in there too.
  • Risotto is likely to be cooked with butter and olive oil, with parmesan and possibly cream in the mix. So this might be best avoided.

Food shopping in Italy:

lactose free milk in italyOver the past few years, lactose free options in supermarkets have increased significantly, making it an ideal location for self-catered holidays. Even the tiny SPAR at the end of our road had a good selection of lactose free and soy products.

In various supermarkets we saw the following:

  • lactose free milk
  • soy milk
  • lactose free cream cheese (Philadelphia)
  • lactose free cheese and ham toasties in a bag ready to be popped in the toaster (in the fridge aisle)

If you’re weaning a baby:

  • lactose free Aptamil formula powder (I advise you used bottled water for this FYI)
  • numerous baby food options that were dairy free

Helpful phrases: 

  • latteria (dairy)
  • latte (milk)
  • senza lattosio (no/without lactose / dairy free)
  • senza formaggio (no/without cheese)
  • lo non sono (no soy)
  • Possiamo avere la pizza con pecorino, invece di mozzarella? (Can we have the pizza with pecorino instead of mozzarella?)

Other than that, have a great holiday!

Have you been to Italy with lactose intolerance? Do you have any tips to add?

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2 thoughts on “Lactose Intolerance on Holiday: Italy

    • amiecaitlin says:

      Oh crumbs, coeliac is definitely harder than dairy free anywhere I think. We were in France this summer and it was tough for us too – their diet just isn’t hugely accommodating for anyone with an allergy unfortunately!

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