Friday, June 1, 2012

Vegan Survival Guide in Rome

I have just come back from the trip of a lifetime. There are countless entries to follow on how great this adventure was. It will take me some time to accept joy in writing these posts and not severe depression at the fact that I am no longer breathing and living the blessed lifestyle that is led by those in southern Italy.

HRH (His Royal Highness) and I went on a Vegan Tour of Southern Italy via Tierno Tours—more on these wonderful people and their tour business later!

Because Italy has been a dream of ours for about six years or so, we couldn't go all the way there and not do Rome, so we bookended the Eternal City on either side of our tour. I admit I was very nervous about staying in Rome. The whole reason HRH selected this tour was so that I wouldn't have to worry about my meals (The tour is 100% vegan and even teaches you to make a few traditional dishes too). But while in Rome I was on my own. I compiled these tips and hopefully they come in handy for anyone blessed enough to be going to heaven on Earth anytime soon.

1) Do some research! Find out the traditional veggie friendly dishes of the area you are going to. Ask friends and family who have traveled there. Toss the question out on FB (just, for security sake, don't broadcast when you will be leaving thereby telling thieves the dates your home will be unattended! It has happened.)

2)  Get a translator app for your smart phone. They usually cost at most a few dollars and trust me, you will need it at one point or another if you don't speak the language and are straying away from the big cities. Don't be cheap.

3)   Toss a few snacks into your suitcase. Sure you will find their versions of (veggie) snacks eventually, but in a pinch on that first day or night in the hotel when you're feeing for a snack you'll be loving on that Lara Bar!

4)  Pack a water bottle if you can. You will never be thirsty in Italy, especially Rome. There is a water fountain at almost every turn with an ever constant flow of natural spring water that could put Poland Spring to shame. You don't want to dehydrate on your adventure do you?

5)  Learn key words/phrases in a pinch. This will help when you are stocking up on snacks once the Lara Bars are gone and you must ask for something at the market or cafe. You will feel a sense of accomplishment being able to read ingredient labels in another language so that you know which items don't contain eggs, dairy or animal by-products. It is easier to do than you think. (Hello, I did it!)

6)  It's how you say it. They say to avoid restaurants that have English on the menu. I didn't live that dangerously. (I've read that if the menu comes in 4 or 5 different languages, YOU.WILL.PAY.MORE. Basically should back away slowly from that establishment with your meager dollar to euro funds in tact.) I say all this to say this: learn to ask "What can you give me..." rather than coming out with the well-meaning but arrogant and off-putting "I don't eat..." and our long list of vegan no-nos. Italians take serious pride in the food they make and present to you. Some establishments are small and have no menus because what they make that day, is what they have in the kitchens fresh! Be a good traveller and keep that in mind when you make a request for dietary adjustments.

7)  And how ironic is my last tip—When in Rome, do as the Romans! I was on a short cruise and was given the tastiest of multi-course meals. Halfway through my second (or third?) course I saw cooked egg yolk hiding the in nooks and crannies of other food on my plate. Needless to say, I finished my meal because the woman who had tried to adhere to my dietary needs had slipped up in making the dish, but overall the entire meal was tasty. If it were something like milk in my gelato, then I would have spoken up, as I would have been worshipping the porcelain throne within a matter of hours. This error wouldn't kill me and respect and appreciation for my hostess' efforts were more important.

There you have it. Hope my adventure makes your adventures a little more worry free.

Salute! Chin-chin! (Cheers)

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