Guest post: Vegan exploration in the Eternal City of Rome!  »

Organic plate at Cavour 313.

Cheese-laden pizzas and an emphasis on meat-based pasta sauces, with plenty of veal and offal thrown in too? On initial impressions, Rome is any vegan’s nightmare.

When I trundled off on a solo trip to the Eternal City in spring this year, it was my first time as vegan. And lo and behold, it wasn’t nearly as difficult to eat well here as I anticipated.

Let’s start with the bad, and go on to the good.

The bad bit was breakfast. I love my breakfast, I really do. But wherever I stayed, usually the most I was able to eat was some packeted dry toasts, and jam, with maybe a banana or an apple. There were, however, always plenty of cheese, eggs, croissants and other non-vegan things to choose from at breakfast. 

There were two mornings that I relished, though. This was when I was staying at vegetarian eco-hotel The Beehive for a couple of nights. What a gem this place is. One morning I enjoyed apple cinnamon oatmeal made with soy milk, and another morning I was delighted to be cooked a tofu scramble.

Yes—tofu scramble! In Rome! The Beehive was also the only place that was able to provide me with soy milk to take in my tea (I am English, after all), and the owner said they were due to hire two vegan chefs this year. So they may be able to offer even more to vegans from their cute café now.

Eating at other meal times was mostly fine, as long as I studied menus well and hunted around. It is good to be prepared and have an idea of some places to go to and what to eat or not – but I don’t have to tell you that, do I?

As a rule, you’re fairly safe with the vegetable contorni dishes: eggplants, artichokes, bell peppers, and so forth. They will be cooked in olive oil and you can order several and make a meal from them, with some delicious fresh bread and olives.

You will often see potato croquettes, chickpea salads, hummus, and other vegan-friendly items on menus, too. Gnocchi in tomato sauce is another possibility, as well as the ubiquitous pizza marinara, which is simply pizza base with tomato sauce. Order some vegetables and top it yourself.

Rome does have a few vegetarian and vegan restaurants, and if you’re here for a week, theoretically you could go to one each night (I think).

The best experience for me was Il Margutta. Gourmet vegan cuisine at its finest, where my meat-eating companion also claimed it was the best food she’d eaten during her trip to Italy. It’s not a budget option, by any means, but if you’ve come all the way here on holiday, then treat yourself.

Fresh imaginative flavors abound; my vegan antipasti was a delicate combination of tofu-stuffed zuchini flowers deep-fried in a tempura batter, an Asian wok salad topped with pickled ginger, a wild berry salad drizzled with balsamic dressing, and a home-made ketchup, tasting of tomato, and not sugar. Oh vegan heaven.

My other great vegan discovery was Bibliothè, not far from Piazza Venezia. Here, they do a different set lunch menu each day that you can have, and they will take out any vegetarian elements that may be involved. They also have several vegan stand-alone choices, as well as vegan cakes.

And then there was also the originally named Taverna Vegetariana, close to Vatican City. It wasn’t the most inspiring food that I have ever had, but it is cheap, cheerful, and you know what you’re getting. They have color-codes on the dishes to denote whether they are vegan or vegetarian; very handy when you don’t speak Italian.

Though not exclusively veggie, another place I ate at a couple of times was a bar in the cobbled streets of Trastevere. At Art Two, you can buy a drink, and for only 2, help yourself to the aperitivo buffet, which has several vegan options (eggplant, potato croquettes, salad, etc).

I also had a scrummy vegan meal at an Ethiopian restaurant called Africa (Via Gaeta 26), just north of the main railway station. There were not many vegan options, but this one meal of a selection of foods was filling and delicious, and made all the better by the fact I had to eat with my hands.

There were a number of other eateries that I sadly didn’t manage to experience on this visit, including a vegan restaurant called ReWild Cruelty-Free Club—funny little name, but it does what it says on the tin, which is offer cruelty-free dining as well focus on animal rights events in Rome.

If you’re going to Rome anytime soon, I hope this article has given you some vegan food for thought. One other tip: Watch out for risotto. It may appear vegan, but it almost always contains parmesan, which isn’t even vegetarian.

Andrea Wren is a U.K.-based freelance journalist and has a passion for vegan baking and food blogging. She ditched dieting years ago and loves to create interesting and imaginative dishes that tempt non-vegans as well as vegans. On her blog, you will also find her free ebook, Wot, No Eggs?! The Beginner’s Guide to Becoming an Expert Vegan Baker, packed with tips and advice. You can also reach Andrea on Twitter.


No, it’s not a painting, it’s National Geographic's photo of the day, this one of an octopus off the coast of Italy by Pasquale Vassallo. Click through to see it even bigger, it’s just amazing.

No, it’s not a painting, it’s National Geographic's photo of the day, this one of an octopus off the coast of Italy by Pasquale Vassallo. Click through to see it even bigger, it’s just amazing.


Nice one, Italy: police raid a bear-meat banquet  »

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is gross for about a billion reasons; this week, it’s his political partner in Imer, Italy, who held a bear-meat banquet as a political fundraiser/fuck-you to Italian bear conservationists.

The party, the Northern League, is made up entirely of jerks who also do things like walk a pig around a future site of a mosque in order to defile it. They claimed they had imported the 53 kg. (116.6 lbs.) of dead bear from Slovenia, but they couldn’t prove it, so the carabinieri seized the meat before it was all cooked. Neat? These people are so gross. Only 35 bears live in the Dolomites! According to the Northern League, they’re all “marauding” devils, roaming the countryside eating livestock and threatening residents, and the proper way to address this issue is to eat them. Obviously.

Some party members told the Guardian that they think members of Berlusconi’s party arranged the raid, which is possible—cabinet ministers all over the place have been condemning the banquet. Yeah, I wouldn’t want to be associated with a bunch of reactionary cretins either, especially if my party and I were totally losing elections across the country. No one’s all bad, and if Berlusconi is good to bears, then maybe we can forgive him for like one bunga-bunga party.


Plastic made pretty  »

The Isabel Toledo for Payless collection is VEGAN and it’s OUT OF CONTROL.

 Naturally, Payless shoes are not made in America and most likely not environmentally friendly. Then again, these are fucking gorgeous, and as of yet no one’s discovered Payless giving an obscene amount of money to anyone particularly egregious—unless you count being the top contributor to Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) in 2006 especially bad. You guys know to check if you’re ever curious about who’s giving money to whom, right?

Regardless, the collection is all-vegan and mostly all-hot, although those boots with the faux fur are a goddamn disaster. The three different pairs inspired by Ghillie brogues are adorable. If you want inexpensive, pretty, environmentally unfriendly shoes, you could do a lot worse that Isabel Toledo for Payless.

On the other end, here is some pretty jewelry made of recycled plastic! Specifically, old bike- and roadside reflectors, buttons, bag handles, and eyeglasses. Then it’s painted with a substance called Alicrite—also made of recycled plastic!—which gives it a shiny finish eerily reminiscent of mother-of-pearl. Yes, pals, you can now wear pearly jewelry, only yours is vegan and not all hippified. Really, it’s Finnish-designed (Kaisli Kiuru—look at what she did for Marimekko, UGH LOVE IT) for Regenesi, which is Italian, and it’s modern and lovely and it makes me so consumer-lustful. Regenesi, you’ll be interested to learn, designs “lifestyle products,” and its specific focus is on “the innovative use of post-consumer materials—previously employed only for goods in everyday use or incorporated in non-visible product components—that are used, from now on, not only in a functional, healthy and appropriate way but also to generate something attractive and up-to-the-minute.” They use (duh, recycled) leather, but a lot of their lovely designs are vegan.

[images from Payless and Regenesi, respectively. Necklace news from Ecouterre]

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