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All Aboard for Sorrento: One Couple's Quest for a Gluten-Free Holiday in Italy (Part Two)

Celiac.com 09/11/2008 - After a two-leg flight and multiple trains, Jeff and I finally stepped off the local Circumvesuviana train in sunny Sorrento, our first destination on the fabled Amalfi Coast. It was hot, or as the Italians say, molto caldo. We’d been traveling for nearly 24 hours straight, and as we lugged our bags along the final stretch of cobbled sidewalks toward Casa Astarita, we both felt exhausted, ravenous and more than a bit disoriented.

Jill: Any nourishment from our 10-hour flight from Chicago to Rome had long since faded. However, American Airlines had made good on its promise to provide Jeff with decent gluten-free meals. The attendant had confirmed his special meal selection at the beginning of the flight, and at both dinner and breakfast he was among the first to be served (much to the envy of the other hungry passengers!).

Jeff: For dinner American served me a gluten-free meal of blackened chicken on a bed of quinoa, with green beans, melon and a gluten-free German chocolate cookie. Now, airline food is never going to win any Michelin stars, but I was grateful that my meal was gluten-free, hot and reasonably palatable.

As we checked into Casa Astarita, the helpful receptionist Marella suggested that we try Bar Syrenuse, a nearby ristorante with gluten-free menu options. Marella even gave us a referral card good for a 10 percent discount. After freshening up, we sauntered a couple blocks to the Piazza Tasso, the main square, where we easily found the cheerful and airy establishment.

Jill: Bar Syrenuse offered a separate gluten-free menu selection. Many of the items, such as the meats and salads, were regular staples on the menu. Jeff had many options to choose from – including gluten-free pasta. I opted for a club sandwich, stuffed with local ham and cheese, and a caffe alla nocciola (hazelnut coffee).

Jeff: The intense heat of the day was just beginning to break, and I wasn’t in a pasta mood at that moment, so I ordered pollo al forno (grilled chicken with balsamic vinegar, parsley and chili flakes) and an insalata verde (green salad). The food was delicious, and sitting on the terrace made for a lovely introduction to Italy. All this for two for under 25 euros. Perfecto!

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Day Two: Our stay at Casa Astarita included breakfast, and we’d been assured via email of gluten-free options. The staff did not disappoint and even offered to prepare an omelet if Jeff wished. He ultimately chose from the standard offerings of orange/pineapple yogurt, fresh juices, individually brewed coffee, cheese and corn flakes (which for some might best be avoided) before we began our morning walk.

Jill: During our meanderings through the town and along the cliffs overlooking the spectacular Bay of Naples, we checked out a few potential lunch spots and perused their menus. We decided on a simple outdoor restaurant, Angelina Lauro, near that train station that offered shaded tables and faced a grassy piazza bearing the same name. Jeff had a vegetable and cheese omelet along with fries, which would frequently become his reliable substitute for bread. I had a scrumptious margherita pizza. It was so big that I was able to save half for lunch the next day.

Jeff: After a short nap followed by another evening walk along the Marina Grande, we again headed for Bar Syrenuse – this time, with gluten-free pasta in mind! We decided to share a few dishes and ordered gluten-free penne pasta with tiny tomatoes, grilled seasonal vegetables and an insalata caprese. The pasta was nicely cooked, with a flavorful sauce. Jill commented it tasted so good she’d have never known it was gluten-free. It was then I realized just how good it felt to be in Italy, sitting outside and eating pasta, an almost forgotten favorite, as the sun went down.

The manager of Bar Syrenuse is a personable gentleman named Toni. We were able to pull him aside during a pause in his busy dinner rush and ask a few questions about how the restaurant came to offer gluten-free options. Toni explained that there are so many special diets that it is important to offer many choices to attract the fullest clientele, and noted that a wide range of food options is a reflection of good service, which is good for business. Consequently, Bar Syrenuse offers numerous items that cater to a number of specialty diets.

Day Three: After a torrid afternoon spent traipsing through the ruins at Pompeii, where we’d consumed just a few snacks – gelato, granita and coconut snack bars – we were ready for a proper meal. The day before, we’d spotted several quaint restaurants tucked away in the alleys near our hotel, and so we headed in that direction.

We nestled in at Ristorante Sorrento, a charming establishment with a large awning and phalanx of outdoor tables adorned in crisp white tablecloths. Jeff started with minestrone soup, followed by a main course of fresh local white fish with tomatoes in a white wine sauce and a green salad. I choose lemon risotto with shrimp and an order of pane (bread). Jeff got a little extra protein that night as I quickly passed over the jumbo shrimp to his plate. Their heads, with those little black eyes staring back at me, were more than I could take!

During our stroll back to the hotel, we stopped to purchase a few postcards and sip some cappuccino before settling in for a good night’s rest, before moving on to what would be the absolute gem of our trip, picture-perfect Positano. Check back for our next article featuring our gluten-free gastronomical adventures in this serene oasis by the sea!

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3 Responses:

 
Amy Lewis
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said this on
02 Oct 2008 5:27:46 AM PDT
I just returned from Florence, Italy and had a wonderful time. I found it easier to eat over there than it is here in the USA! If you make it to Florence, there is a great restaurant called 'Yellow Bar'. The insalata yellow is fantastic! Wonderful nice people as well. Enjoy your trip!

 
Richard
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said this on
08 Oct 2008 9:21:47 AM PDT
Good article with good info. I have always, to one degree or another, given up on eating while in Europe. I have been so wary of eating anything that might, just might, have gluten in it that I typically lose 30+ pounds. While the weight loss is welcome (I am not overweight exactly but could always stand to lighten the load a bit) the hungry feeling that never leaves is understandably bothersome. Next time I am over there I will have a new sense of freedom and will definitely report back.

Thanks Jeff and Jill. Keep up the good fight!


Richard

 
Mario M
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said this on
05 Aug 2009 7:36:41 AM PDT
Very good post, I just returned from my holiday in Sorrento, I've been in there few weeks ago, and it was a beautiful holiday! Nice food, wonderful sea and so many things to do! I spend 5 days in Sorrento e 3 days in Amalfi visiting all the nearest areas.




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Make sure that you ask the doctor how long she has to stop the supplements before you have her levels tested and be sure to take them all with you when you have the appointment so the doctor knows what she is taking.

Talk to your doctor. With your family history and symptoms he/she may be able to diagnose based on resolution of your symptoms and family history. Also check with your local hospital if it has it's own lab. Mine covered any labs at a greatly reduced cost based on a sliding fee scale. Did you have an MRI before they did the spinal? Celiacs with neuro impact will have white spots on an MRI that resemble the lesions found with MS. Many neuro doctors don't know this. I went through what you did and they did a spinal on me also based on the MRI results. If my doctor had know what the UBOs (unidentified bright objects) were I would have been diagnosed a couple years sooner than I was. Make sure if you supplement that you ask your doctor which ones you need to stop taking and for how long before they do a blood test to check levels. Sublingual B12 is a good idea when we have nervous system issues, but needs to be stopped for at least a week for an accurate blood level on testing. I hope you get some answers and feel better soon.

Thanks for that. Will get her tested for deficiencies. I did take her to a naturopath and get her on a bunch of vitamins, but she never was tested via bloods, so will get on to that, thanks

Hi Could a mod please move this post: and my reply below to a new thread when they get a chance? Thanks! Matt

Hello and welcome Firstly, don't worry about it but for ease your post (and hopefully my reply) will probably be moved to its own thread. That will make it easier for others to see it and reply and also help Galaxy's own thread here on track and making sense. The antibodies that the celiac tests look for can drop very quickly, so... maybe? Celiac is difficult to test for, there are different tests and sometimes someone doesnt test on one but does on the other. If you can get a copy of the tests and post it here the community may be able to help explain the results. It may have shown damage to the villi, the little tendrils in your intestine that help you extract nutrients from your food. Celiac is one, but not the only, way in which they can get damaged leading to a vast number of potential symptoms and further making diagnosis a tricky proposition. Definitely, there's a connection. Here's a page that explains it in detail: https://stomachachefree.wordpress.com/2012/03/21/liver-disease-in-celiacs/ Fantastic It sounds as if your doctors were happy to diagnose you on the basis of the endoscopy? It may be then that you've found your answer. I hope so, you've clearly had a rotten and very scary time. I'm sure with the positive reaction to the diet you want to go on and get healthy, but I would only add that you should discuss this with your doctors, because they may want to exclude other potential causes if they've not confirmed celiac at this point. Check out the advice for newly diagnosed here: To your family I'd simply say that celiac is a disease of the autoimmune system, the part of our body that fights diseases and keeps us safe. In celiac people the autoimmune system see's the gluten protein found in wheat, barley, or rye grains as a threat to the system and it produces antibodies to attack it and in doing so attacks it's own body as well. It's genetic in component so close family members should consider a test if they have any of the many symptoms. There's roughly 1 person in 100 with celiac but most of them don't know it and are risking getting or staying sick by not finding out. There's further info for them and you here: https://www.celiac.com/gluten-free/announcement/3-frequently-asked-questions-about-celiac-disease/ I'm going to ask a mod to move your post and my reply to a new thread, but wanted to give you an answer first The good news is you've found a great site and there will be lots of support for you here. You've also got 'lucky' in that if you're going to have an autoimmune condition, celiac is a good one Most react really well to the gluten free diet and you will hopefully have much more healing to come! Best wishes Matt