Keto in Italy sounds like an oxymoron, doesn’t it? Even if you say low-carb in Italy, it still sounds surreal. However, after our exciting Italian odyssey, we decided to keep crossing the Adriatic sea and exploring more of the Italian beauty. Of course, as history, archaeology and antiquity lovers, we couldn’t pick a better country other than Greece to visit. Well, of course, Greece, but we live there for several months every year. We could say our quest is to visit all the countries of the Mediterranean zone. Not only for art and history but for the exploration of the real Mediterranean diet.
From the history of nutrition to Keto in Italy
As a nutritionist, Apollonas studied the history of nutrition in ancient Greece and Rome with great passion. You can read a lot about this in his article about the ancient Greek symposium in his opinion was a low-carb event. Also, you can watch his presentation on this subject held at the Antiquity in Herzegovina conference at this link. For me, as an artist and food blogger, Italy was a natural choice! Well, Rome in particular holds some of the most important artworks in the history of humankind. But to explore the culinary artwork of the Mediterranean zone, one should always start from Naples. Even my favourite chef Gino DaCampo is from Naples, so I wanted to see if it would be possible to eat heavenly without relying heavily on carbs, pasta and pizza. And to my surprise, it was more than possible.
We bring you this travel journal and hope it can help you if you decide to explore Rome and Naples with a low-carb attitude! We call it Keto in Italy, or Low-Carb in Italy. However, it doesn’t have to be that. It can also be called walking the path of ancient nutrition. Even if you decide to eat a thing or two that is not very low in carbs, you’ll most probably burn it all that day. We asure you, you will be walking more than you have ever walked in your hometown! Exploring Rome or Naples with those hop-on-hop-off busses is a big NO from us! To feel the rhythm of these two unbelievably interesting and picturesque cities, one has to walk kilometres and still want to walk more.
First day of Greek Goes Keto in Italy
The first thing that we recommend to anyone, doing Keto in Italy or not, is to book a centrally positioned hotel in Rome. I know the prices are extremely lower if you move further away from the centre, but trust us, you don’t want to lose time searching for transportation. Walking in Rome is the most beautiful experience. This is why we chose hotel Albergo del Senato located just next to the almighty Pantheon. This is a classical and traditional hotel that even at 3 stars had the top service and facilities. The breakfast had quite tasty eggs and bacon cooked in butter with cream. For a low-carber, you could choose fresh yoghurt, blanched nuts and seeds, melon, and a variety of cold cuts and cheeses. Quite a beautiful low-carb breakfast. Coffee and San Pellegrino water were ideal for electrolyte replenishment since we walked so much every day.
How Rome welcomed us
The moment we opened the window from our hotel room and saw the Pantheon right in front of us was epic! Overwhelmed with the emotions that only Ancient history geeks understand, we couldn’t wait to start our walking tours. And on that very first day, we were surprised that both the Pantheon and the nearby temple of emperor Hadrian who built the Rotonda and the dome of Pantheon were free for tourists! Wow, thank you, Rome! Our Hotel also had a rooftop bar which was not serving drinks but you could go up and just enjoy the view. Everything was visible from that rooftop as you can see in our LIVE video that was published on Facebook.
While walking, we couldn’t help but hear a lot of Greek on the streets. Seems like Rome is the most popular destination for the Greeks. Well, it’s natural, and feels like home, but still with a different twist. Even though it’s November, Rome is packed with tourists and we understand why! Walking the streets of Rome was easier than we thought and finding points of interest every step of the way was overwhelming. But for this blog, let’s just concentrate on doing Keto in Italy.
Should you fast when doing Keto in Italy?
If you are travelling from somewhere across the ocean, then definitely yes. Airports and aeroplanes are not the places to find Keto or Low-Carb friendly options. Not even dirty Keto would be your solution. However, once you arrive at your Hotel, you need to use the opportunity and eat a super satisfying and quite healthy breakfast. Italians take pride in traditional dairy and cold cuts that contain no additives. So if you go for mozzarella, butter, mascarpone, burrata, pecorino and prosciutto, you will be 100% sure these are additives free. In Italy, traditional national products have to be produced old-fashioned and can’t get permission to reach the market if they are not. Now, mortadella and some other salamis will contain additives, but prosciutto and bresaola do not!
Eating like a local
One word we have to mention – SALUMERIA! These unique stores that combine butcher shops, delis and bakeries are favourite places for locals and tourists all over Italy. You can buy to take away or you can sit and eat there. They sell wine and beverages too. The decor is rustic, beautiful, Mediterranean and so very authentic. We even did a live video from the Antica Salumeria al Pantheon where we met Tili, our new Italian friend. Tilli informed us that this store brings meat and cheese from a local farm that is also family-owned. They also have homemade pickles made of different vegetables and meat. You can take anything by 100g and have wine by the glass. We did not drink wine, but we drank a lot of Sanpellegrino.
The chef is from Naples
Every day of our Roman adventure we had a chance to eat in a different restaurant. They all were good but not as nearly as those in Naples. Some of the restaurants in Rome had a sign “Our chef is from Naples“. This was fun! Being a huge fan of a certain chef who originally is from Naples, I realised that there’s an urban myth that everyone from Naples works miracles in the kitchen. I must say, this is not a myth at all. There are some blessings people from Naples get when it comes to food preparation.
The excitement about our four days in the city of great food and achitecture was slowly growing. We took a train and reached Naples in less than an hour. And it did not disappoint us! We booked a half board option in the Excelsior hotel and this was the best decision we could make! Excelsior is a 120 years-old traditional hotel that had the best food you could imagine. Both breakfast and dinner had so many low-carb options to choose from that we honestly felt chosen by the Gods. But in Naples, all restaurants, even those inexpensive ones, offer top-quality food. This city took our hearts in a second and we are already planning to return. The architecture, museums, archaeological sites and some festive vibe are present all the time in Naples marked our stay.
Genuine ancient Roman gastronomic experience
When we went to Pompeii (and nobody should skip this if they visit Naples) we realised why the produce from this volcanic soil is so good. We also learned why seafood tastes soo fresh and good there. But the cherry on top of our experience was the Capuona restaurant. What an experience! Not only do they greet you as if you are their relative, but they also let you wear ancient roman clothes. They pay attention to every single detail and you always feel special. But it’s not fake at all. You feel the genuine hospitality of every person working there! The restaurant takes pride in its ancient Roman menu which was carefully designed from historical gastronomic writings.
As you enter the small but originally decorated restaurant with frescos on the walls, you feel as if someone has initiated the holodeck in Star Trek. You go back in time and enter the world of Pompeii before the Vesuvio erupted. And at that moment, you know that even the carbs will be acceptable. Because they offer only ancient cereals such as emmer and spelt, they don’t have sugar just honey and the fruit used in desserts is only the fruit that grew in the area some 2000 years ago. So you can feel free to eat everything from the menu! Eating some extra carbs under these circumstances will not be a serious sin. I most certainly recommend tasting ancient Roman (and Greek) wine with honey and herbs. It’s called Mulsum and they serve it in amphoras and ceramic cups.
So is Keto in Italy easy to do?
To be honest, not easy but quite doable. If you are struggling with metabolic issues and your current health doesn’t allow you to go low-carb, then stay strict. Even ancient Roman dinners could be challenging for you. In this case, you can plan and stick to the meat and seafood options. We believe the healthiest approach to dieting is the one that resembles the nutrition of ancient Greek athletes. For this reason, it was quite easy to do a low-carb vacation in Italy. But in general, this trip was an overwhelming and grandiose experience that we want to repeat as soon as possible!