Allergy-Friendly Study Abroad Guide: Milan and Florence

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Tell us about you!

Where are you study are you studying abroad?

Milan, Italy in graduate school and Florence, Italy in undergrad.

How did you choose your study abroad location?

For graduate school, we had a partnership with Bocconi University, that was part of my dual masters, that had us spend a semester in Milan. For undergrad, I had been to Italy before. I knew they had good allergen labeling and NYU has a villa in Florence that I wanted to explore! It is probably worth noting here I also did a global immersion trip in graduate school to Munich/London. These trips were assigned to us and I had to go talk to the office in advance to get put on the Europe trip, because 2 of the other options included China. I was not comfortable visiting China with a nut allergy in a group of 50 students where I couldn’t dictate my own schedule and food selections. I picked a trip where I knew peanut and tree nut allergies would be easier to navigate!

Had you been out of the country before studying abroad? Do you speak the local language?

Yes I had been abroad, but I spoke very limited Italian—mostly functional travel-related phrases.

Did you plan anything ahead of time?

Allergy translation cards were my go-to (I still use them any time I travel internationally). Whenever I took weekend trips to another country, I’d make sure I got a translation card I could print multiple copies of and bring with me! I also learned limited “travelers” Italian. When I lived at NYU’s campus in Florence for the summer, I ate in their dining hall for multiple meals a day. They did a great job making sure I knew what I could and couldn’t eat every day! I had notified the study abroad office when I signed up about my allergies and then spoke with the staff when I first arrived!

What are your best tips for studying abroad with food allergies?

Make sure you always have allergy translation cards and a satiating snack on you. If you aren’t comfortable with answers you’re getting from a restaurant, trust your gut and stick to the snack you have! See if there are any chains you are comfortable with (and have published allergy menus) that can be a hot meal when you don’t want to take the time to find another safe option. I’ve had McDonald’s many times abroad when I was looking for something quick that I was comfortable with!

Did you have any concerns about traveling with food allergies?

Just being as prepared as I could. For example, I brought a printed translated list of all nuts I am allergic to with me to the grocery store so I can make sure I was able to read labels! I also packed snacks—granola/protein bars, soy nut butter (must be in checked luggage), protein powder, and some nut-free chocolate. I had anyone that came to visit while I was there bring some to help restock what I ran low on. These were incredibly helpful on long class days or travel days when finding a safe option was not easy. I also looked up what foods were most likely to contain my allergens (pesto, some stuffed pastas, and Nutella on many things).

How did you handle accommodations and airplane food?

I never eat plane food! 88 Acres Bars are great! Oatmeal packets, crackers, and protein powder!

Where did you live and how were meals handled?

In undergrad, I stayed in the NYU housing and ate many meals at the dining hall. In graduate school I had an apartment with a classmate from my program and I grocery shopped and cooked!

What are your 3 favorite places to eat in Milan or Florence?

Osteria Conchetta in Milan
When I studied abroad in Milan this restaurant was right by my apartment and once we discovered it, it became a frequent choice for a nicer meal out. I had several different things, but I got the Risotto Riserva every time, which was prepared in a flaming Grana Padano wheel! Everything I tried here was excellent!

Gusta Pizza in Florence
I LOVE Gusta pizza. They have occasionally had some options with pesto that contains nuts on their menu, but the staff was always accommodating for me. It is absolutely delicious pizza!

Osteria Santo Spirito in Florence
I’ve visited here more than once over the years and always found the waitstaff helpful and they have been able to accommodate my peanut and tree nut allergies.

Is there any food your study abroad location is known for that you were able to have safely?

Risotto out of a cheese wheel that was on fire at Osteria Conchetta, I found safe focaccia that was prepackaged at the grocery store, and quite literally platters of cheese and prosciutto everywhere in Italy.

What other places have you visited so far?

I visited Copenhagen, Budapest, Vienna, London, Nice, Barcelona, Switzerland, Lake Como, Venice, Rome, Parma, Verona, Cinque Terre, Salerno, Lucca, Ravenna, and Siena. Some of my favorite places to eat outside of Italy were: McDonald’s in Budapest (literally the best burger I’ve ever had), Mr. Foggs in London (it’s a bar but incredible and allergy aware!), CentOnze in Barcelona, and Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen.

Besides the food, were there any fun experiences or favorite things you did?

Immerse yourself in the culture! Walk around during fashion week in Milan and observe, visit the Navigli District at night. Do all of the touristy things when you first get there so you don’t get home and realize you missed one of the major tourist activities there!

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