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Being a Plant Based Foodie in Italy – Vegan and Vegetarian Food in Italy

Vivia Italia! The glorious land of flowing wine, endless carbs, and bountiful cheese. There’s really no arguing the fact that Italy is one of THE food capitals of the world. With their focus on simple preparation and sky high quality ingredients, you just can’t find it’s equal anywhere else. Another thing that the Italians are known for? Meat. Alllllll the meats. While their level of ethics and methods of raising animals are arguably better than the U.S., some may still be hesitant to call Bessy food, not friend. So what’s a plant loving foodie to do in this meat mecca? We’ve put together some of the best ways to eat vegetarian and vegan food in Italy, while still being able to look Wilbur in the eye when you get home.

Finding Vegan and Vegetarian Food in Italy

Understand What They Consider Vegetarian

While many larger cities in Italy have embraced plant based options, smaller towns still balk at the idea of foregoing meat. As a result, it may be a bit more difficult to express what you’d like, especially if language is a factor. In one small Tuscan town, we asked if there was meat in one of the Panzanella salads we got, and enthusiastically assured there was not. Turns out that ‘no meat’ meant no LAND meat, but there was fish in the salad. Whoops! So be sure to express that no meat means animals or fish when you’re ordering food in Italy.

One of the great things in Italy is that what you see is what you get on a menu. No sneaky animal products are omitted from their descriptions. This makes it a lot easier to survey a menu and see what veg options they have available. In addition, many pastas, pizzas, and soups are veg friendly, and theyย don’t smother it all in butter since olive oil is their drug of choice.

food in Italy

Do Your Research Beforehand

One of the greatest things about travel these days is how accessible it is. The internet and social media have been game changers for us plant loving foodies and opened up culinary doors like never before. But don’t be a veggie fool, you still need to put the leg work in if you’re going to successfully discover killer plant based food in Italy.

Before you reach a city, do a little research about what vegetarian and vegan choices there are. Note options that are close to where you’re staying, or where you’ll be exploring. If you venture out without a plan, you’re less likely to find something that you can eat and you’ll enjoy, especially in smaller regions. Not to mention you’ll stress out trying to decipher the variety of ingredients on the meny.

In addition, awesome sites like Vegan Quo Vadis?ย will give you an entire layout of the plant based options in your city. You can also check out Happy Cow to get great recommendations of veg friendly restaurants wherever you are in the world.

food in Italy

Bigger Cities = More Choices

In Italy, a larger population will naturally mean more vegan and vegetarian choices. Bustling cities like Rome and Milan will generally have a soy option for drinks, while smaller towns may look at you like you’ve totally lost your mind if you request ‘un cappucho con latte de soya’. With this in mind, be prepared and plan wisely. If you’re down to have limited choices for an awesome small town experience, then go ahead and explore the nooks and crannies of Tuscany. But if you want variety, soy lattes, and vegan gellato, you’re going to have better luck in large cities like Rome.

food in Italy

Speak Up

Don’t be afraid to ask about the ingredients in a dish! Most people will be more than happy to answer whatever questions you have, and since most of the food in Italy is prepared FRESH, it’s easier to make modifications to an order. If you’re planning to travel to smaller regions, brush up on a few key words that you’ll need to know in order to convey what you need. Don’t expect everyone to speak English well enough to know that you’d like something sans meat, eggs, or dairy. We found it super helpful to have a small running vocabulary list in our phone with simple phrases and words that we were using frequently. Even if your waiter does speak English, they’ll appreciate the effort, and you might get your point across better.

food in Italy

Understand the Menu

Pretty much all authentic Italian menus are presented in the same manner, and understanding what each course is will be hugely helpful in ordering a meal. Here’s a quick breakdown of what you’ll probably see:

Antipasto: Starters – many of these will be vegan or vegetarian, and you can often find a buschetta without cheese, or a variety of spreads, olives, etc.

Primo: this is the first course, which is often a pasta or risotto. We frequently ordered just a primo for our meal (along with an antipasto) and were more than satisfied!

Insalate: salads! Just be sure to read the menu and see what ingredients are included

Pizza/Pani: pizzas and paninis. We found tons of vegan and vegetarian panini and pizza options while in Italy. And like we mentioned earlier, since food is made to order in this country, many restaurants can nix the cheese for you.

Secondi: main dish. This is where your options will begin the dwindle a little bit. Italian love their meat, and generally the secondi is a meat based dish. Some restaurants will give a veg option, but usually you’ll be limited to one.

Contorni: Side dishes. SO many plant based options here! Italy has a big emphasis on veggies as side dishes, and you can usually find a whole bunch of absolutely delicious vegetable and bean dishes on this part of the menu.

food in Italy

Enjoy Yourself!

Don’t stress about being a plant loving, tree hugging, non meat eating foodie in Italy. There are SO many incredible options and you won’t feel like you’re missing out one bit. If you come prepared, you’ll have no problems finding food that makes your taste buds AND beliefs happy. And honestly, if you decide you want to indulge in a little gelato complements of Bessy herself, don’t sweat it. Experiencing a country via their cuisine is one of the most authentic and enjoyable ways to immerse yourself. Life is SHORT our foodie friends. Eat. Drink. And be merry.

Ciao Dreamers!


  • April Nunez

    December 4, 2017 at 5:35 am

    Wow! Such a great post, love your photos and those food looks so yummmy!! Thanks for sharing.

    April of:

    1. Mile High Dreamers

      December 5, 2017 at 2:40 am

      Thanks April! It was all pretty delicious!

  • jane

    December 4, 2017 at 6:05 am

    Ohhhmmy this is very informative, I wish i could go vegetarian.
    But otherwise as you stated, everyone should enjoy to eat drink!

    Much Love,
    Jane | The Bandwagon Chic

    1. Mile High Dreamers

      December 5, 2017 at 2:41 am

      Thanks Jane! Even just going veg for a few days a week is great for your body! BUT, when in Rome… or Italy :). You gotta eat!

  • Laura Mitbrodt

    December 4, 2017 at 8:05 am

    I am so hungry right now yummy

    1. Mile High Dreamers

      December 5, 2017 at 2:41 am

      Haha we were hungry writing this!

  • Sheena Sy Gonzales

    December 4, 2017 at 8:07 am

    I feel like im being transported into italy just by looking at your food photos haha! Gaaah I understand how difficult it is to track your diet when you’re travelling. So I really admire you for going out of your way to do your research. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Sheena |

    1. Mile High Dreamers

      December 5, 2017 at 2:42 am

      Oh my gosh Sheena, it’s all SO good! And it was pretty much impossible to track our diet in Italy, but it was totally worth falling off the wagon a little bit!

  • Rosanna

    December 4, 2017 at 12:43 pm

    What an informative and interesting post! I spend a lot of time in Italy and find that they are generally quite good about dietary requirements, beautiful pictures too!!
    Have a lovely day ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Mile High Dreamers

      December 5, 2017 at 2:42 am

      They were so great about them! And like we said, their dishes are just so simple, it’s easy to modify or figure out what you can/can’t eat. We miss it so much!

  • Gemma

    December 4, 2017 at 3:04 pm

    Such an interesting post! All the food looks so good!

    Gemma x

    1. Mile High Dreamers

      December 5, 2017 at 2:42 am

      It was SO good!

  • Gabrielle

    December 4, 2017 at 4:13 pm

    Oh wow, it really must be difficult finding vegan food in Italy – all that pizza, eek! I can understand why you’d have better luck on that front in cities. Love the end to this post – Eat, drink and be merry! ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Mile High Dreamers

      December 5, 2017 at 2:43 am

      Haha it was definitely tricky to find vegan food! BUT, so many places have insanely delicious simple red sauces, and amazing bruschetta without cheese, so it’s absolutely do-able!

  • All That I’m Eating

    December 4, 2017 at 4:14 pm

    I was in Italy earlier this year and I found it quite easy to find loads of vegetarian options, it helps that the menus are often outside the restaurants!

    1. Mile High Dreamers

      December 5, 2017 at 2:44 am

      That definitely helped! And having all the pasta dishes is nice too. I mean, you don’t have to twist our arms to eat more pasta!

  • wendee

    December 4, 2017 at 5:46 pm

    everything looks yummy

    The Glossychic

    1. Mile High Dreamers

      December 5, 2017 at 2:44 am

      It was all SO good Wendee!

  • ะะฐัั‚ั

    December 4, 2017 at 6:08 pm

    That’s cool. I like your blog. Go to my blog

    1. Mile High Dreamers

      December 5, 2017 at 2:44 am

      Thanks! We sure will!

  • Kuks

    December 4, 2017 at 6:59 pm

    that pizza…yum!!!

    Wonder Cottage

    1. Mile High Dreamers

      December 5, 2017 at 2:44 am

      Ugh, the pizza was heaven!

  • The pink pineapple

    December 4, 2017 at 10:56 pm

    1. Mile High Dreamers

      December 5, 2017 at 2:44 am

      Agreed! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Zorica

    December 5, 2017 at 9:28 am

    Always happy when I find food related post,
    I think Italy is Vegan friendly and they have so many choices.
    Great post.

    1. Mile High Dreamers

      December 6, 2017 at 2:16 am

      Haha, food makes us happy too! Italy was super vegan friendly and it was amazing!

  • monica sors

    December 5, 2017 at 10:50 am

    Wow, such a great post, I really liked it
    Mรณnica Sors

    1. Mile High Dreamers

      December 6, 2017 at 2:17 am

      Thanks Monica!

  • Courtney

    December 5, 2017 at 2:59 pm

    All the food looks so good!!!

    1. Mile High Dreamers

      December 6, 2017 at 2:17 am

      It was so good Courtney. We’re missing it bad!

  • Eena

    December 5, 2017 at 8:18 pm

    This was a very informative read! I think Italian food can be really appreciated even when it’s meatless so I don’t think it would that hard to eat vegan/vegetarian when in Rome ๐Ÿ˜€ I’m not entirely sure if it’s considered Italian or not but I absolutely love basil pesto dressing!

    โ˜ผ cabin twenty-four

    1. Mile High Dreamers

      December 6, 2017 at 2:18 am

      YES! Pesto is actually very Italian, so we say basil pesto dressing definitely counts (and you should absolutely send us that recipe haha). The simplicity was one of the best parts of the food by far!

  • Ashley

    December 5, 2017 at 9:13 pm

    So many amazing tips babe!! It would be so hard but i think with your tips it makes it much easier! it’s about being prepared!! My mother in law is Celiac and its so hard sometimes especially in Italy!

    ps, all your food looks yumm!



    1. Mile High Dreamers

      December 6, 2017 at 2:19 am

      Thanks lady! I think it would definitely be trickier to avoid gluten in Italy. They LOVE their carbs! BUT, there’s so much information out there, we’re sure she could manage.

  • Emily

    December 5, 2017 at 10:26 pm

    That last photo has my mouth watering!! This is a super great guide for any non meat eaters. I wouldn’t even think you could make it work in Italy unless you just wanted to eat pasta haha. But this guide is full of great options and advice and how to make it work. ๐Ÿ™‚


    1. Mile High Dreamers

      December 6, 2017 at 2:20 am

      And let’s be honest, eating just pasta wouldn’t be SO bad haha. But there are tons of other options out there!

  • Laura @ Sprint 2 the Table

    December 6, 2017 at 4:11 am

    Italy is my favorite place in the world! I’m not a vegetarian, but I was actually surprised at how easy it was to find vegetarian options for a friend. The only place we had trouble was in the northeast Friuli region… but it was still solvable. You’re right about everything being so fresh and homemade – it makes it much easier.

    1. Mile High Dreamers

      December 7, 2017 at 12:15 am

      Ahhh we LOVE Italy! And it was definitely the smaller towns where we struggled to find more options, but totally worth the experience!

  • Beatrice

    December 6, 2017 at 4:27 am

    I love all of these tips and especially the fact that you ended the post with a reminder to enjoy the food. Eating is definitely one of my favorite parts of traveling and being in new cultures is the perfect time to apply the concept of balance. All of your descriptions of Italy’s food make me drool, especially their fancy names for everything “primo”, “contorni”, etc. And if olive oil is their drug of choice well then I definitely need to go and make some friends in Italy ๐Ÿ™‚

    Beatrice | The Bliss Bean

    1. Mile High Dreamers

      December 7, 2017 at 12:17 am

      Eating is our FAVORITE way to experience a new culture. Food is a huge love language for us! So it’s all about letting yourself live with balance. And you definitely should haha. My brother lives out there and we literally asked for olive oil for Christmas! SO GOOD!

  • Heather Rowland

    December 6, 2017 at 7:31 am

    This was such a helpful post as it can be so tricky trying to figure out what the vegan and vegetarian options are in different cultures. Thanks for sharing!

    Heather xx

    1. Mile High Dreamers

      December 7, 2017 at 12:18 am

      It can be super tricky! Italy is definitely pretty veg friendly though. There are parts of Europe that are much trickier to navigate.

  • Miriam

    December 7, 2017 at 8:58 am

    Italy is one of my favourite European countries – the food is just fantastic and I am glad you managed to find tasty vegan & vegetarian options in Italy.


    1. Mile High Dreamers

      December 8, 2017 at 3:12 am

      The food is an experience all in itself! We could just eat all day every day there. It’s incredible! We can’t wait to go back. And it’s so veg friendly!

  • Pauline

    December 7, 2017 at 2:28 pm

    I love Italian food so much but still don’t really understand the menu haha! Thanks for the break down ๐Ÿ™‚ I went to Milan a few weeks ago (as you read from my blog) and we didn’t have great food but Italian food still has a place in my heart ๐Ÿ˜€ Thanks for writing this informative post!

    1. Mile High Dreamers

      December 8, 2017 at 3:13 am

      Ah haha understanding the menu is so key! Also knowing where to go is essential. If we hadn’t had my brother and his gf (who’s lived there 10 years) we wouldn’t have been able to find the incredible food we did! Next time, we’ll give you some recommendations!

  • Merel

    December 7, 2017 at 4:18 pm

    Looks so yum!! ๐Ÿ™‚

    X Merel

    1. Mile High Dreamers

      December 8, 2017 at 3:13 am

      SO yum!

  • Richel V.

    December 7, 2017 at 6:24 pm

    These are all so good tips to help out vegans and vegetarians alike! I have a friend who doesn’t eat meat and it already need a little effort to find out food that would suit all of us. This guide will be more than helpful when we find ourselves in Italy. Hopefully soon! xx

    1. Mile High Dreamers

      December 8, 2017 at 3:17 am

      Yes! Having a little bit of guidance is so helpful when trying to fit everyone’s diet into going out, especially when traveling. Italy is a MUST!

  • Valerie

    December 7, 2017 at 10:17 pm

    Wow, this post is amazing and so informative! I would love to try the vegan and vegetarian food in Italy! Also I’m loving all these beautiful photos! The food looks so good! ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Mile High Dreamers

      December 8, 2017 at 3:18 am

      Thanks Valerie! ALL of their food is beyond incredible, but their veg food is especially epic. The food was gorgeous! Which just speaks to the attention they give it. Such an experience!

  • the adventurer

    December 9, 2017 at 4:23 am

    This post is great! I was so curious to hear about how you managed to eat all the good foods in Italy while staying vegetarian. You have some great advice and it even applies to people with allergies. I am lactose intolerant and have to be careful when I travel because you would be surprised in how many things they put butter. Now I know how to say milk and butter in quite a few languages =o)

    1. Mile High Dreamers

      December 9, 2017 at 4:19 pm

      Haha it’s funny the phrases that you end up mastering while traveling! We loved that they favored olive oil in Italy. Ben would literally go through bottles of it! The internet makes it so easy to seek out places that cater to your needs too. It’s great for us people who have restrictions!

  • Nancy

    December 10, 2017 at 6:09 am

    It’s great that restaurants are transparent about what their dishes have in Italy. Research is definitely important because the last thing anyone wants to do is be seated then leave because there’s nothing compatible on the menu. With food being freshly made, it’s easier to do some modifications to orders!

    1. Mile High Dreamers

      December 10, 2017 at 10:10 pm

      It’s so true! There was one or two times we didn’t research beforehand and only had one option on the menu haha, but it still worked out! Fresh food wins EVERY time!

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