A Vegan Nomad’s Guide To Rome
January 05 2016
Sometimes when people think of European countries like Germany, Spain, and Italy, they imagine plates topped with mountains of meat: sliced hams, twelve-hour roasts, and the current hipster favourite, pulled pork.
They’re not wrong with that thought. It’s certainly not a stereotype that’s a million miles wide of the mark, but from my own experience as a vegan nomad who’s spent the past two years travelling around Europe, there’s a lot more to those countries than cured meats.
Being Vegan in Rome
I’ve spent several weeks in all three of those countries over the course of this year, and not once did I starve. Rome, in particular, was a city which everyone has a preconception about as an anti-vegan destination. Believe it or not, Italy has one of the most vegan-friendly traditional menus I’ve ever experienced anywhere.
Sure, there are plenty of fish-based risottos for sale. Yes, every menu has more than a few pasta dishes on it that come with meat-based sauces. But for every two or three of those dishes that are vegetarian, a few can be easily veganised.
Before travelling to Rome, I’d strongly recommend learning some of the language before you arrive. Even if it’s just the essential words and phrases, you’ll need to check the ingredients on the back of packets, or fumble your way through a conversation with a waiter to ask for your pasta to come senza formaggio.
If the idea of trying to converse in a foreign language sounds a little daunting for a short holiday in the Italian capital (I’m very lucky to have an Italian partner to do all my talking for me), then there are plenty of vegan-friendly cafes and vegan restaurants in Rome where you can get your fill.
Where To Eat in Rome
As I mentioned above, there are plenty of pasta dishes you can order without the lashings of cheese that usually top them; but, if you don’t fancy taking a chance at it, then be sure to head to these following restaurants, which I’ve tried personally and have thoroughly enjoyed (and so did my tastebuds).
So What?! Vegan Restaurant
I love this place. It’s your typical vegan-punk kitchen, but with a more interesting spin on the regular junk food you get in these types of places.
First of all, it’s a real restaurant and not just a punky bar. The meals are thoughtfully created by a team of talented and well-travelled staff, who’ve also had spells of nomadic living and have picked up a few recipes along the way. That’s not to say that the food isn’t Italian. In fact, what they do is take the knowledge of food they’ve gained whilst scouting the world, and apply it to the traditional Italian kitchen that they know so well.
When I asked the chef about the menu, he was very proud to point out that several items were classic, traditional Roman dishes that are vegan by default and required no changes whatsoever.
Confraternita dell’Uva is actually Sicilian, not Roman, but the vegan food they’re putting together is too good not to mention. It’s still Italian, so it counts, right?
Because it’s outside of the centre of Rome, it isn’t as overpriced as almost 99% of the restaurants in the city centre are, so not only are you getting a cheaper meal, it’s also much more authentic.
You can attend any day you wish and ask the chef to create something vegan for you – which they’ll do expertly – but if you’re visiting whilst they’re putting on one of their ‘Vegan Nights’ that take place every Monday, leaving the night free to visit is a non-negotiable must.
Romeow Cat Bistrot
You’re in a rush and you don’t want to stop for a long meal? Then it’s time for coffee and cake.
Romeow Cat Bistrot is a small cat cafe near Pyramide, where you can stop by for a smoothie, shake, piece of cake, or whichever sweet you set your sights on.
No matter where you sit, you’ll probably be joined by one of the several cats who live in the cafe, and don’t feel bad about interrupting their sleep to give them a stroke.
Where To Stay in Rome
Most of the more expensive hotels in Rome are more inclined to cater to your vegan needs, from food to vegan-friendly toiletries; but if you’re looking for a more people-orientated experience, then I’d suggest staying at The Beehive, a vegan-friendly combined hostel and hotel which is owned by a lovely expat couple who care a great deal about providing a comfortable place to stay, and a friendly face to chat with.
What To Do in Rome
What is there to do in Rome for vegans? Pretty much the same list of things that everyone else is doing!
Like everyone else, I’m in love with the city and could spend hours walking around, trying to uncover something new. I was assured by local friends that I’d need a couple of years to see it all, and even then I’d still have too many things left over to see. (They’ve been in Rome for years, and have barely scratched the surface.)
Walk Along the Appian Way
On a prior visit to Rome, my partner and I had just arrived after a long flight from Bangkok. We were both exhausted and knew that the best thing to do would be to stay up for as long as possible so that we’d sleep properly that night.
The friend we were staying with recommended that taking a walk along the Appian Way would be the relaxing, yet exhaustive stroll we needed to make us sleepy by the time we were home.
The park and path of the Appian Way is splendid. It’s one of the oldest paved roads in the world, and is surround on either side by historical monuments and green fields. Walking along it, pretending to be wrapped up in a toga like an ancient Roman of the Empire, was a real thrill, and I’d highly recommend it to you, too.
Eat Too Much Gelato
Yes, most of the gelato is made from milk, but almost every single gelateria that you find – good ones, not the touristy ones – will stock a vegan-friendly gelato that you can try. Some are fruit- and water-based, some use alternatives to dairy milk (rice, coconut, almond), and others are purely the main flavour and some water (fondente is pure melted dark chocolate mixed with water).
Promise me that you won’t leave Rome without trying chocolate fondente, my personal favourite.
Visit The Pantheon
This world-famous building with the domed roof is more fascinating in person than could ever be communicated, in either photographs or videos. The ingenuity of the Romans to build such a perfect structure entirely out of concrete is mind-blowing and so ahead of the times.
Be sure to visit just before lunch time, when the sun is filtering through the hole in the roof. Just be aware that it can get crowded throughout the day.
Have you visited Rome? What’d you think about it? Let us know your thoughts down below!
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