Latest posts by Lyndsay Edwards (see all)
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Finally I have made it to Italy! Somewhere I have always wanted to visit, however I never imagined I wouldn’t be able to eat pizza and pasta in Italy! But with my son having cow’s milk protein allergy and soya intolerance and me not being able to eat wheat or dairy (doctors orders) for six months our chances of eating real Italian food in Milan were looking bleak !
We booked four nights at the Ibis Milano Centro Hotel and booked the sightseeing, hop on hop off bus for two days.
So our first evening in Milan we decided to eat in the hotel restaurant to save us going out exploring a new city in the darkness. I was nervous about the menu, my sons allergies and the staff understanding me. Luckily there was non Italian options on the menu, I decided to get steak with balsamic vinegar and chips for my son and I to share. There was a sign up saying if you have allergies to ask the staff about the ingredients, this was a little reassuring to see that the staff are or should be aware of the new European allergy law which came into effect in December 2014. When the waiter came over I asked him if they have an allergy menu he gave me a kind of blank look and said ok what would you like? I explained I would like the steak and chips but I need to know that it is dairy, soya and wheat free! He said yes, yes, ok and was nodding. I thought this guy doesn’t know what I am saying at all! Before traveling to Milan I had decided to Google translate any sentences or words I may need while over there and I had been practicing saying ‘egli e gravemente allergico al latte e soia’ which in English is ‘He is severely allergic to milk and soya’. I said this sentence in Italian and straight away it was like the waiter had woken up, he went over to the chef and asked him. I could see the chef checking packaging and they were talking in Italian, I also heard the waiter say bambino and I sensed a serious tone in the conversation they were having so when the waiter came back over to the table and told me it was all allergy safe for us I believed him and felt confident about eating there. The food tasted great and no reactions so they must of got it right! It definitely paid off being able to say that one sentence in Italian though as without that I would of had to go without a meal or take a risk and hope for the best. I also learnt how to say please and thank you in Italian as manners go a long way in any country 🙂
If you are traveling with allergies and you don’t speak the first language, I’d highly recommend using Google translate for anything you may need to explain or ask the staff while there. If you are not confident in speaking in another language then screen shot the translation as I have below and then you’ll have the picture to show whoever you need to.
Breakfast at the Ibis..
They have an all you can eat buffet style breakfast for 8.50EUR, I was worried there may not be anything suitable for us but there was! I had boiled eggs with ham and tomatoes and my son had cornflakes. I took my sons Alpro almond milk which I had brought with us from home, down to breakfast with us every morning and used it for his cornflakes and my cups of tea 🙂 There was a selection of fresh fruit available too. I didn’t bother asking about the ingredients of the bread available for toast because it was so busy and my son was happy enough with his cornflakes! I usually eat bacon and eggs for breakfast when I am at home so I guess this was just a cold version of my usual breakfast for me. My son usually has wheatabix or toast and then shares my bacon and eggs when we are at home and in Milan he shared my cold ham and eggs too!
Mickey mouse went everywhere with us in Milan and he liked cornflakes too 🙂
I decided this was going to be our breakfast everyday for the rest of the trip, It was easier to eat in the hotel as it saved us looking for somewhere every morning and figuring out what we could have that was allergy safe on the menu.
Another evening meal I had while staying at the Ibis was the chicken salad, I stupidly forgot to ask about the ingredients as I wasn’t planning on sharing it with my son. I have only been dairy and wheat free for one month so I am still getting used to asking about wheat. I thought a chicken salad would be ok but of course it arrived with croutons. I just spent a few minutes picking them off though and it was fine. I asked the staff to warm my sons meal in the microwave for him, I had bought enough meals with us ‘just in case’ and thought I may as well use some of them!
I took a selection of these HEINZ meals for 1-3 year olds with us, all dairy and soya free of course !
I gave the meal to the staff in it’s plastic pot with the lid peeled back, ready to go in the microwave and they returned it in a bowl with a spoon for him.
Eating out and about in Milan with allergies..
The first placed we stopped for food was the Old Wild West near the Arch of peace monument. We went in and noticed they have quite a few posters up and signs on the bar saying ‘Allergy’s? No Problem’ My mum got excited by these signs but I didn’t, I’ve learnt it’s all down to whoever is serving you, their knowledge and attitude. Anyway we sat down and I asked the waiter if they had an allergy menu, I always prefer to look at an allergy menu as I feel more confident when I’ve seen the information in black and white but he didn’t understand what I asked for. I said my sons allergies in Italian and the waiter then asked me what food I want, I hadn’t looked at the menu at this point as we had just sat down but I told him we’ll be looking at the children’s menu. The waiter opened the children’s menu and said ok you can have the cheese burger without the cheese, I said ‘so the bread and chips are ok? they don’t contain any dairy or soya?’ He replied ‘Yeah, yeah it’s ok’ and walked off. I said to my mum, i’m not getting that for my son as I don’t trust it! I’m not convinced at all. The waiter then reappeared and said he had just spoken to the chef who advised him the bread contains milk so it is not ok for my son – thought so! Sometimes you have to just go with your gut feeling no matter what you are being told, trust yourself!! I decided to just get a plate of chips for my son and I to share and my mum and auntie did the same. When he brought the two plates of chips over to us one had some sauce over some of the chips and the other, the plate he gave to us had the sauce separate in a little pot. He placed it on the table and handed me the pot of sauce and said this sauce has milk in so keep it out of reach from your son, I was really grateful for this gesture and I could tell the waiter was taking my sons allergies seriously. I think with language barriers it can be difficult but then I’ve had bad experiences with waiting staff close to home so again I think it all boils down to whoever is serving you at that time.
I’d noticed a McDonald’s near the cathedral and as we had planned to go back to the cathedral the following day I thought I’d have a look at the allergy information on McDonald’s website to see what my son would be able to eat if we had lunch there. Well I couldn’t find the information in English at all but got to the allergy information page in Italian, I couldn’t figure out what was what though and I needed to be sure so I asked the receptionist at the Ibis hotel to read it for me. He had a look and said the information isn’t loading, he tried loading it on the hotel computer but still it wasn’t working so he said I’ll have to ask in store.
So the next day at lunch time I went into McDonald’s and after a very long wait in line I asked the woman at the counter if the chips and chicken nuggets are dairy and soya free, she spoke great English and understood me fully. She went off to check and I saw her asking a manager, she came back and said they are both ok so I got them for my son and he loved them!
We found this restaurant down a little side street off Buenos Aries street which is the main shopping street in Milan. Before I sat down I asked the waiter if he spoke good English and he replied ”why? do you need gluten free?” I couldn’t believe it! We’re actually ok with gluten, it’s wheat, dairy and soya we need to avoid but I was already impressed with his attitude. He gave me the menu and said no pizza or pasta but let me know what else you would like and we’ll sort it for you. I chose the pork shank with potatoes and a side of vegetables for my son and I to share, I asked if any of it is cooked in butter and he reassured me it’s all dairy, soya and wheat free. While we were waiting he gave us a packet of bread sticks, I knew they were off limits for me but I checked the ingredients for my son and to my surprise they were dairy and soya free and they had the ingredients written in English too.
The food was delicious and they had a fruit option for dessert so dairy and soya free. I would recommend this restaurant as the staff were friendly, helpful and accommodating. plus they have quite a few dairy, soya and wheat free options on their menu.
I nipped in the supermarket to buy some grapes for snacks while we were out sight seeing all day and I thought I’d have a look at the bread while I was in there. All the ingredients were listed in Italian but because I had been practicing I knew ‘latte’ was milk and ‘soia’ was soya. I found a bread which didn’t have latte or soia in but then I looked at some croissants and noticed they had the ingredients in English too, they had used the word ‘butter’ and when I compared the ingredient list against the list in Italian I couldn’t figure it out so I decided to leave the bread. It’s just not worth the risk and my son was enjoying the cornflakes anyway.
Random cafe on Buenos Aries strip..
I thought I kept the receipt from this cafe as it had the name and details on but I can’t find it anywhere, which is a shame because I would love to be able to recommend them. The staff were lovely, great with my son and one of the girls spoke very good English. I ordered a fruit sorbet smoothie to share with my son and she reassured me it was dairy and soya free and only contained fruit. It was very delicious!
I found a chocolate shop so of course I had to go in and see what we could have out of curiosity. I had actually been craving Cadbury’s dairy milk fruit and nut bar all day but I couldn’t have it as I can’t have dairy for six months to figure out if I have a dairy intolerance which is causing recurrent tonsillitis, anyway I found this dark chocolate bar..
Its fruit and nut dark chocolate, it’s a may contain and tastes delicious! The fruit and nuts take away the bitterness of the dark chocolate. As the ingredients are in Italian I checked with the man behind the counter and he said it’s a may contain so I shouldn’t have it but I did! I didn’t give any to my son though with his milk allergy being so severe. I still had the chocolate bar from WH Smith at Manchester airport for my son anyway so he didn’t need anymore chocolates. When I was paying for the chocolate, the other man behind the counter went to give my son some free mini chocolates and I said no he’s allergic and the poor guy looked so frightened, bless him. He must of thought why on earth have you brought him into a chocolate shop!
Bergamo Airport In Milan..
They have a McDonald’s so to make it easier we ate in there as I knew my son could have the chicken nuggets and chips and I just ate chips. In the duty free shop I found a dairy and soya free dark chocolate bar, it is a may contain though so always a risk!
Click here to read about flying with Ryanair with allergies!
I think wherever you are eating in the world it comes down to the staff serving you, I would definitely learn the words you need to communicate your allergies in their language and if possible take back up food with you ‘just in case’. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and advice from locals too!
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