I first met Maria Roglieri, PhD. when we spoke together on a panel about gluten-free travel at a Westchester County Celiac Sprue Support Group meeting in December 2011. Maria is an avid traveler who has taken her passion and created guidebooks for gluten-free globetrotters such as myself. This guest post is full of tips for gluten-free travel.
Celiacs on the Go
by Maria Roglieri, Ph.D.
We live in a world today where we are always traveling, either for business or for pleasure. Traveling can be a lot of fun, but it can also be stressful, especially when we need to be very careful about everything that we eat. Here are some general things to consider before you travel next:
How does our GF diet affect our travel?
- It can affect our choice of destination — I recently decided not to travel to Japan but to go to France instead because I speak French but not Japanese. I knew that it would be much easier for me to ask for gluten-free food in France.
- There is more planning required as we do research to try and find restaurants recommended by the local celiac society and or fellow celiac travelers.
- Our suitcases weigh more as we pack emergency food in them.
- Our food experiences affect our outlook on the country we are traveling in.
What is the incidence of celiac disease in different countries? In other words, are there countries that have more celiacs and so are better set up to offer gluten-free services? Actually the incidence of celiac disease is presumed to be the same all over the world, one in 130 people. According to Dr. Alessio Fasano (Medical Director, The University of Maryland Center for Celiac Disease Research), celiac disease is even showing up in China as the Chinese are beginning to eat a Western diet which is not rice-based. And yet, he also relates that 95% of celiacs worldwide are undiagnosed! So where do we go to find celiac paradise? The numbers will not tell us; only experience will. As we experience the gluten-free scene in different countries we need to pass on to each other any information we have!
What are some of the best European countries to visit in terms of the gluten-free scene? We asked the leaders of the French celiac society in Paris (AFDIAG) and they ranked the countries in order, starting with the best. The best European countries for celiacs are the Nordic countries (Norway, Finland, and Sweden) where gluten-free offerings are clearly indicated on the menu, everyone is well-informed, there is ample and good variety of gluten-free bread, and many gluten-free prepackaged products are readily available in stores. Next were Italy and Spain, Belgium and Switzerland, Hungary and then France.
How can we make our gluten-free travel easier?
- Go with a cruise-line: this is certainly the easiest thing to do and there are many options: the major cruise lines such as Carnival Cruises, Star Cruises, Capt. Cook Cruises, Costa Cruises, Cunard Cruises, Discovery Cruises, Disney Cruise Line, Mediterranean Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Lines, Orient Lines, Royal Caribbean Cruises, and Windstar Cruises all offer gluten-free dining options.
- Go with a GF tour arranged by GF travel agents: Many of the in-house travel specialists are themselves GF and they will provide you with a variety of services: request GF meals in advance from restaurants and hotels; assign local guides who understand celiac requirements; provide translators and/or written instructions for waiters, restaurant managers and kitchen chefs; and arrange private GF cooking classes.
- Go to an all-inclusive resort that will, with advance notice, serve gluten-free meals. For example, you can ski in Chamonix (France) and enjoy the fine GF cuisine at the Club Med Chamonix Hotel Le Savoy or you can ski in the Bolzano (Italy) region and enjoy GF dining at the Albergo Villa Madonna.
- Go to a specialized B&B: The people who run the B&B’s are often celiacs themselves. They frequently offer dinner as well as breakfast and some of them even offer GF cooking classes. And most importantly, they know the area and where to get the best GF food! Some examples are: www.labelledemure.com (in Périgord Noir, France), and www.lamattonaia.it (in Genova, Italy).
- Do research prior to the trip about the cuisine of the country, and specific restaurants where you can get a GF meal. Blogs/websites about gluten-free travel include: www.glutenfreerestaurants.org, www.glutenfreeglobetrotter.com, www.celiacchicks.com, www.celiactravel.com, www.glutenfreetravelsite.com, www.allergyeats.com, www.glutenfreeregistry.com, and www.gluten-free-onthego.com
- Call/e-mail ahead to request gluten-free meals Many hotels will provide gluten-free breakfasts and you can find them at www.glutenfreehotelsguide.com. In Italy most hotels provide complimentary breakfast well in France breakfast in the hotel is often 10 euros/day. If you request GF breakfast, you will be enjoy delicious GF breads, croissants, and galettes.
- Bring tools: use language cards (a card to give to the chef or waiter about what you can and can’t eat in the language of the country you are traveling in), and specialized travel books. You can get language cards at www.celiactravel.com/cards or www.triumphdining.com. If you’re going to Italy, France, Washington D.C. or New York, you can get our specialized GF guidebooks at www.theglutenfreeguides.com. (We also have a Spain guide coming out this spring).
Share your experiences with others: pass it on! Post your comments on any celiac travel site you frequent, and/or send your comments to us at www.theglutenfreeguides.com so we can include them in our next GF travel book.
Tips for GF tourists
• Go in the off-season.
• Bring snack bars (for your peace of mind or for the airport).
• Plan your day carefully.
• Use Google maps to figure out where the sites are that you want to visit, and where the nearby restaurants are that serve gluten-free food.
are that serve gluten-free food.
• Call ahead to the restaurants to make reservations, request a gluten-free meal, and ensure that they are actually open! This last part may seem a little silly, but for example, when I was in Bari (Italy) on a Sunday and Lecce (Italy) on a Saturday at lunch there weren’t many restaurants open, for various reasons, especially because of private parties being held in the restaurants.
• Use the word “allergic” rather than “celiac”
• Bring a dictionary
• Look up menus online before you go
• Instead of stressing about food, make it fun
BON VOYAGE ET BON APPETIT!
BUON VIAGGIO E BUON APPETITO!
About the author:
Maria Ann Roglieri, Ph.D. is Professor of Italian at St. Thomas Aquinas
College. She holds a B.A. from Columbia University, and an M.A.,
Ph.D. in Italian literature from Harvard University. In addition to
The Gluten-Free Guides, she has authored numerous articles and a book
on Dante and music (Ashgate, 2001). She is very active in the
American celiac community, giving lectures and counseling the newly-
diagnosed, and she is a member of the Gluten Intolerance Group of
North America, the Celiac Sprue Association USA, and the Westchester
Celiac Sprue Support Group.
For more information about any of the Guides, see www.theglutenfreeguides.com.