Our 6 nights in Italy felt more like a dream; albeit a very pleasant dream filled with an abundance of pizza, gelato and espresso, we would have preferred a much longer stay in a country known for their fresh and simple cuisine.
We touched down in Rome early morning, and although we flew business class in a fully reclining bed, Cody and I were still in need of a few ours of sleep.
We awoke in the evening with our stomachs rumbling excited to experience our first vegan meal.
Welcome to our top vegan picks in Eat-aly!
RIFUGIO ROMANO (Rome)
Rifugio Romano Ristorante Pizzeria is not a completely vegan restaurant, but many members of the family that run it are vegan, so several pages in the menu are dedicated to plant based versions of Italian classics.
The seitan stuffed ravioli with tomato cream sauce is highly recommended, as is their incredible pizza. There are several different pizzas to choose from, and our guess is they are all worth a try.
An antipasti platter of fried rice ball, hummus, fried dough, and marinated tofu was also devoured during one of our visits.
Cody went with a seitan sausage and mozzarella pizza, and I chose the seitan salami, mushroom, artichoke, black olive, and mozzarella pie. This is how pizza is done. There is no need for a thick stuffed over abundance of bread. A thin and crispy crust goes perfect with fresh toppings and a cold vegan friendly Peroni.
*Rifugio Romano is located within walking distance to the termini station in Rome*
GELATERIA BEAUTIFUL VEGAN (Rome)
A 100% vegan gelateria located about a 15 min. metro ride from termini station.
We indulged in mint, grapefruit, pistachio, hazelnut, and chocolate gelato. I also picked up an incredible tiremesu from the shop.
The owner at Gelatari Beautiful Vegan is a passionate animal advocate, and we were very sad to hear that this vegan gelateria will be closing down in September. They are simply not experiencing enough business to stay open 🙁
RAPHAEL HOTEL (Rome)
While in Rome, we had the privilege and pleasure of sampling a 4 course vegan tasting menu at Raphael Hotel Roma-a member of the Relais Chateau family of hotel chains.
Fabrizio Marino, former head chef of Joia-the only vegetarian restaurant in Italy awarded with a Michelin star, and current head chef of Mater Terrae, presented us with a one of a kind gourmet vegan experience.
You can read about our full experience here.
Veg-Veg is situated amongst several other (non-vegan) food vendors in Mercato Centrale-a large indoor market/foodcourt.
We really enjoyed the casual vibe there, and the vegan burgers were absolutely amazing. Served on big fresh buns, stuffed with a large patty, caramelized onions, spinach, sunflower seeds, and smothered in a really flavourful vegan mayo, the “Popeye” is one of the best burgers we’ve ever eaten.
The sunflower seeds were a great touch that gave the burger great crunch and texture. Adjacent to VegVeg is an Italian bar if you fancy a Peroni or Aperol spritz with your meal.
DOLCE VEGAN (Florence)
Dolce Vegan Florence is a quiet unassuming space serving small portions of tasty plant dishes. The television on the wall shows sweet images of animals and their babies living in peace. This restaurant functions very simply. You order at the counter, and receive your dishes there as well.
Seitan was the “scelta del giorno” for us both that day. I gravitated towards the baked breaded seitan and pumpkin, and Cody decided on the baked seitan with roast potatoes.
Both dishes were great. The seitan was very tender. The portions were a tad small, but perhaps we are used to such large amounts of food being from North America.
VeggyDays considers itself to be a fast food bistro. Most restaurants in Italy charge a fee for sitting down, but this completely vegan food chain waves that fee allowing patrons to enjoy a bistro feel without the extra cost.
The eggplant parmigiana caught my attention and it was a good choice. My eyes are always larger than my stomach, so I also unnecessarily ordered french fries. Cody enjoyed his seitan burger with fries and still had room to finish mine.
We also visited a second time to enjoy an almond milk cappuccino and vegan chocolate croissants. Sitting in an outdoor cafe while watching life go by is a must while visiting Italy.
FESTIVAL DEL GELATO (Florence)
Considered by some to be the best gelato in Florence, Festival Del Gelato has quite a few vegan options clearly marked with vegan signs. I usually prefer creamy chocolatey sweets of any kind, but my favourite gelato here, and all over Rome and Florence was grapefruit.
It has a remarkable thirst quenching flavour, with just the perfect amount of citrus, and it is not overpowering like most lemon flavours I have tried.
The hazelnut gelato was also incredible, bringing me back to my favourite non vegan Christmas chocolates-Ferraro Roche. If you find yourself nowhere near Festival Del Gelato, don’t fret, fortunately you can find several non-dairy options at gelateria’s throughout Italy.
Grocery stores in Italy also have plenty of vegan options to choose from. We stopped at a market to pick up a few things for our 8 hour bus ride to our next destination. Many of the items are not clearly labeled “Vegan”, instead they say “100% Vegetable”
We still make sure to read the ingredients a few times before placing them in our basket, because you can never be too sure!
Here are some of the things we snacked on that were store bought.
1. Freshly baked (still warm) ciabatta
2. strawberry soy yogurt
3. Dark chocolate soy pudding
4. Cream cheese spread
5. Kamut croissants
6. Pesto with tofu
7. Spinach, carrots, and potato meal
Keep an eye out for vegan options all over. Cody and I walked into a cafe bakery for water, and came across vegan jam filled croissants and other sweets. Veganism is at it’s tipping point, so vegan options are popping up everywhere!