Including Gluten-Free Sorrento, Pompeii, Capri, Positano, Amalfi and Ravello
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There is nothing quite as magical as the Amalfi Coast… the white-knuckle road and the glittering Gulf of Salerno, bordered by houses and terraced vineyards on cliffs that plunge into the Mediterranean Sea. This breathtaking place, simultaneously lively and laid-back, is a haven for celiacs and other gluten-free travelers.
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If you are just looking for food and restaurants, jump ahead to the gluten-free Pompeii, Sorrento & Amalfi Coast Restaurant Roundup at the bottom of this post.
Be sure to visit Go Gluten Freely’s 10 Tips for Your Gluten-Free Trip to Italy, where you will learn how to find even more celiac-safe restaurants. Or read on for all of the details of our Gluten-Free Amalfi vacation…
Research Gluten-Free Options Before You Go
An amazing gluten-free trip to Italy is absolutely doable. It just takes advanced research. Those of us with celiac disease cannot “fly by the seat of our pants” when traveling. Choosing gluten-free and celiac-safe restaurants before heading out is essential. Check out our 10 Tips for Your Gluten-Free Trip to Italy and start planning your gluten-free trip to the Amalfi Coast.
Food aside for a quick minute, a popular (aka crowded) locale like the Amalfi Coast will be a better experience overall if you plan. The Rick Steves Travel Guides are my favorite for Europe. There is a Rick Steves Guide to Italy or the more niche Rick Steves’ Snapshot Naples & the Amalfi Coast: Including Pompeii. I also suggest downloading the Rick Steves Audio Europe App for tips and education before you leave, as well as in-app walking tours while on your trip. You can usually find the guidebooks at your local library, or order from Amazon by clicking the links below.
Gluten-Free in Sorrento
Our trip was short. With just four days in the area, Sorrento was the perfect launching pad within an hour of all of the spots on our hit list. It is a worthy destination in its own right, with plenty of shopping, restaurants, and stunning views.
We stayed at the Grand Hotel De La Ville, a four-star hotel within walking distance of the main sites in Sorrento. The hotel offers two swimming options, a larger garden pool and a smaller roof-top pool with Mt. Vesuvius as the backdrop. Oh, and did I mention air conditioning? If heading to Italy during the hot summer months, AC is a must.
Each morning, Miss E and I enjoyed a gluten-free breakfast at the Grand Hotel De La Ville, which was included in our stay. We selected what we wanted to eat from the buffet, gave our requests to the chef, and everything was made and brought safely to us from the kitchen.
We did eat directly from the omelet bar, as there were no gluten ingredients at the omelet bar and the chef was the only one touching the food. He assured us there was no cross-contamination. The best part was after a welcoming “Buon Giorno!” every morning one of the servers would drop off a plate full of prepackaged gluten-free goodies.
The Grand Hotel De La Ville, Sorrento, truly stood out in the service department. As Europe has relaxed Covid restrictions, tourism has picked up faster than providers can keep up. We knew we wanted to book an Amalfi Coast boat tour, but everything was booked for our entire stay. The hotel snagged an early-morning cancellation, and we had the spots we wanted on the boat tour.
In Sorrento, we enjoyed several wonderful restaurants, gelato walks, and a stroll through the charming Lemon Grove across from the Grand Hotel De La Ville.
For picnics, we easily found gluten-free food staples and treats at several grocery stores and a pharmacy. Farmacia Farfalla, while not technically a restaurant is included in our Restaurant Roundup at the end of this blog post.
Gluten-Free in Pompeii
Although Pompeii is only a short train ride from Sorrento, we instead elected to visit the archeological site on our way from the airport in Naples to our hotel in Sorrento, in order to streamline our itinerary and make the most of our short time on the Amalfi Coast.
We arranged for Salvatore at Simply Amalfi to pick us up at the airport, take us to Pompeii, and then on to Sorrento. Salvatore was waiting for us with a welcoming smile, greeted us, and quickly assisted in getting us to his large van with plenty of room for a party at least twice our size. The drive was pleasant as he sang along to tunes in English and Italian.
Salvatore waited for us with our luggage while we toured Pompeii for two hours, and then graciously stopped at a bank and coordinated a lunch stop at the Pompeii McDonald’s, where we ate celiac-safe cheeseburgers!
I knew ahead of time that getting gluten-free McDonald’s in Italy was on our must-do list. Imagining the impression we might make as Americans asking to go to McDonald’s within a few hours of landing in Italy, I emailed ahead to let Simply Amalfi know the reason we were requesting a McDonald’s stop. Understandably, Salvatore still felt compelled to tell us that the food was not good quality. After warning us, he then kindly obliged with a stop for Miss E and me to eat gluten-free McDonald’s cheeseburgers for the first time in eight years.
In Italy, we were told by the employee taking our order that only the McDonald’s cheeseburger is celiac safe. It is cooked and served wrapped in plastic to avoid cross-contamination.
While few folks with celiac disease would judge you for going to McDonald’s in Pompeii, if you would rather have authentic Italian food, there are a handful of local restaurants that are approved by the Italian Celiac Association (AIC). You can learn more about how to find them with the AIC app in our 10 Tips for Your Gluten-Free Trip to Italy
Within minutes of jumping off the van in Pompeii and before we even made it to the entrance, Miss E found a pre-packaged, gluten-free, crostatina tart at a food stand. She instantly knew what I had told her about Italy was true… we had arrived at a celiac’s dream. She could eat here and eat well!
Our tour guide in Pompeii certainly had her work cut out for her. We were coming to her on the heels of a 10-day Adventures by Disney tour of Greece, which concluded with a 3:30 am departure from our hotel in Crete. It was HOT and we were tired. If we had more than four days on the Amalfi Coast, I would have been wise to do this tour on another day. But, I think Pompeii is a priority stop for a family visit to the Amalfi Coast. I had prepared my husband and kids for being hot and tired, but it would all be over in two hours.
Overall, it was difficult to gauge the expertise and accuracy of the guide, because of the condition of my crew. However, she genuinely shined when it came to her personal interactions with CJ, who she renamed “Giuseppe”. Whenever he got too droopy, she called him “Giuseppe”, and he would rally, while the rest of us were entertained.
Highlights included reenacting the Beatles’ Abbey Road cover, making emoji faces by an ancient fountain, and the kids playing “McDonald’s” at the 2,000-year-old fast food joints of Pompeii. Once we were settled in our air-conditioned hotel room, Giuseppe mentioned that he had also appreciated the archeological significance of the Pompeii ruins.
Gluten-Free Capri by Boat with a Visit to the Blue Grotto
When I think of our time on the Amalfi Coast and in Sorrento, my mind immediately goes back to our boat tour in Capri and I catch myself sighing happily. Remember how tired we were when we arrived and went straight to Pompeii? I think having this Capri tour on our first full day in Italy set the tone for the trip and made the difference in how fondly my kids remember our time in Italy.
Our tour began with a gorgeous early ride out to the Blue Grotto. My husband had seen a Rick Steves PBS episode on Capri and the Blue Grotto was on his “must-see” list.
Tour providers are quick to tell you that getting into the Blue Grotto is not guaranteed. It really depends on two things: 1) weather, which is out of your control, and 2) timing, which is up to your tour company.
Our tour picked us up at the hotel around 8 am, getting us to the Blue Grotto a little before it opened. We waited at the Blue Grotto for only about 15 minutes while the passengers on the boats before us went in. The wait can easily be an hour or two, and many tour companies will skip the Blue Grotto, rather than have you wait that long, as it really puts a damper on the day.
We piled into the little row boat, Miss E on one side and Dave, CJ, and I lying piled on top of each other, as our rower pulled us into the Blue Grotto. Entering the Grotto was quick and exciting, and then suddenly we were inside with glowing blue waters below.
It took me a minute to realize it is much more amazing without sunglasses. Oops! After a few minutes, everyone lies down on the bottom of the boat for a quick exit and you are back outside the grotto and boarding your tour boat.
The next stop was four hours of exploring Capri. The captain arranged an optional minibus service (at an extra charge of 15€ per person for those interested) to take us around the island from Marina Grande to Anacapri, on to Capri (town), and then back to Marina Grande at scheduled times. There are also buses and taxis, but this seemed to be the most hassle-free option, so we were in.
The air-conditioned minibus took us first to Anacapri where we rode the chairlift to the top. It was beautiful and relaxing. After enjoying our picnic of fruit, gluten-free cookies, gluten-filled Caprese sandwiches from the captain (for the boys), and gluten-free sandwiches from our grocery store finds for Miss E and me, we rode the chairlift down and took the minibus to Capri (town).
In the town of Capri, we had to have a gelato walk…of course! We popped in a few shops, savored gelato from Pasticceria del Bar Grotta Azzurra, and picked out a Christmas ornament. We have a tradition of collecting Christmas ornaments as travel souvenirs, which flood us with beautiful memories every year while decorating our tree. We then caught our minibus and headed back to Marina Grande to meet the boat.
We spent the rest of our afternoon circling the Island of Capri with stops to swim along the way. Warning, I was stung several times by a jellyfish in the green grotto. It was not the worst pain, but it was unpleasant. I was glad I was stung and not the kids… because “you are only as happy as your saddest child”.
Except for the jellyfish, everything about circling the island was idyllic: jumping into the sea, white, green, and blue grottos, the Faraglioni, the lighthouse, cold drinks on the boat, and water splashing us as we cruised through the sea.
Gluten-Free Amalfi Coast by Land or Sea
By Land… On a previous visit to Italy, Dave and I did an Amalfi Coast tour by land. We were booked for a minibus tour and hoping for seats on the right side of the van for the “Mama Mia! views”. Our expectations were surpassed when no one else signed up for the tour and we were taken on a private ride in a Mercedes Benz E-class.
We relished: views that were just more and more jaw-dropping with every turn, photo stops along the coast, time to visit the Amalfi Cathedral, dipping our toes in the water, souvenir shopping, our favorite meal of our kids-free trip at the romantic Villa Maria Restaurant in Ravello (highly recommend!), and a visit to Pompeii for an archeologically rich tour of the excavation site before returning to Rome.
Unfortunately, the tour company we used has since closed; but I found this Amalfi Coast Private Tour on Viator with excellent reviews. Please note that it leaves from Sorrento, instead of Rome, so it does not include Pompeii.
By Sea… My travel style with kids is much less go-go-go and much more relaxed. On an Amalfi Coast day trip with the kids, I wanted to avoid carsickness and scenic stops that would not hold their interest, while recreating some of the magic of our Capri boat tour. So, we opted for an Amalfi Tour by boat. The Grand Hotel De La Ville snagged us four spots from someone’s last-minute cancelation on a day tour of the Amalfi Coast by boat with Amo Italy Travel.
As in Capri, the tour company provided Caprese sandwiches for those without dietary restrictions. With limited time to visit each town, you will make better use of your time bringing a picnic, rather than trying to squeeze in lunch at a restaurant. Miss E and I filled up at our hotel breakfast, packed a gluten-free picnic for the day, and planned to buy snacks during our tour.
The first stop was Amalfi town. We spent the entire time at the Stella Maris Beach Club, a short one-minute walk from the pier. We knew in advance it was not a great value to pay for an all-day spot at a beach club on a 90-minute stop; but we wanted the shade and the loungers, so we splurged. If you want to save money and enjoy the same stretch of sea, there is a free, public beach right next to the handful of beach clubs.
The beach is primarily rocks and pebbles, and we were glad to have water shoes. We enjoyed our sandwiches while relaxing in the loungers. CJ and Dave ate the Caprese sandwiches, again provided by the tour company, and Miss E and I had another picnic of gluten-free sandwiches and fruit. In addition to lounging, we spent a good bit of the time treasure-hunting for sea glass and swimming.
We boarded our boat and headed to Positano, where we passed the time walking around, peeking in shops, and snacking. We found prepackaged, gluten-free biscotti at Positano Paradise and (the-ubiquitous-on-the-Amalfi-coast) lemon gelato served inside a lemon at the Brasserie del Covo.
After Positano, our captain continued our tour of sites along the Amalfi Coast and gave us time to swim off the boat. Like Capri, this was absolutely a highlight. Diving and cannon-balling off the boat into the Mediterranean was amazing! We were all in our happy place. The Sea was calm and, thanks to years on a summer swim team, my kids are strong swimmers; so I could relax and enjoy the moment.
After swimming, we climbed back into the boat, snacked on fruit provided by the tour company (I was told it was cut separately), took in more vistas, and chatted with our fellow passengers from Australia and England.
Below are links to the two Amalfi Coast tours I mentioned, by sea (the exact tour we took with kids) or by land (similar to the tour we took without kids). Click on the links below for information and reviews for each tour:
Gluten-Free Amalfi Coast and Bay of Naples Restaurant Roundup
Following is a list of restaurants where we personally ate safely during our time traveling along and near the Amalfi Coast. None of the restaurants on the list is 100% gluten-free, but all followed strict methods to prevent cross-contamination.
We follow the guidelines in our 10 Tips for Your Gluten-Free Trip to Italy when vetting restaurants and highly recommend you do the same!
Restaurants can move, close, or even change their celiac safety procedures. Please help out fellow gluten-free travelers with your feedback regarding your experiences or any updates to the list below:
Circolo dei Forestieri at the Foreigner’s Club, Via Luigi de Maio, 35, Sorrento – There is everything to love about Circolo dei Forestieri, the views, the staff, the gluten-free bread service, the extensive gluten-free menu, and the gluten-free Delizia al Limone, a regional dessert. When I mentioned to the gluten-eating concierge at our hotel that we were going to Circolo dei Forestieri for dinner, he told me that it was his favorite restaurant. Over two visits in as many days, we tried grilled vegetables, salad, pasta carbonara, ravioli, Margherita pizza, and the Delizia al Limone. Everything was delicious!
Tasso Ristorante Pizzeria, Via Correale, 11, Sorrento – The garden setting at Tasso Ristorante Pizzeria is beautiful. Despite fantastic reviews for gluten-free pizza on the Find Me Gluten Free App, the chef expressed there was a risk of cross-contamination if we ordered pizza. Miss E and I safely stuck to Caprese salad and gluten-free pasta. Dave ordered the gluten-free pizza, though, and gave it a thumbs up.
Grand Hotel De La Ville, Via Bernardino Rota, 15, Sorrento – My raving review of our hotel breakfast each morning is earlier in this post. You can find it here. Highlights were cross-contamination prevention and a plate loaded with pre-packaged gluten-free options.
David’s Gelatateria, Via Marziale, 19, Sorrento – This gem is worth a visit. No need to ask which flavors are gluten-free, as gluten-free is already noted on the label for each flavor. When I mentioned celiac disease, we were offered individually-wrapped, gluten-free, ice cream cones and our servings were scooped from the untouched side of the gelato, without me asking! David’s Gelateria is approved by the Italian Celiac Association AND Go Gluten Freely for gluten-free ice cream for fellow celiacs.
Ristorante Sorrento, Via Padre Reginaldo Giuliani, 64/66, Sorrento – We loved dining outside at Ristorante Sorrento, as the tables are located along the side of a lively walking street. Approved by the Italian Celiac Association, all of the staff was knowledgeable about celiac disease. We shared a salad, pasta Bolognese and pizza Margherita; and the gluten-free pizza and pasta dishes each had an international flag/toothpick to identify them as gluten-free. We liked everything we tried, and the pizza in particular was very affordable!
Farmacia Farfalla, Piazza Torquato Tasso, 35, Sorrento – Pharmacies in Italy are an excellent source of gluten-free substitutes. We found our much-loved Italian Schar Rosettes (similar to Schar Kaisar Rolls) along with gluten-free desserts in the freezer and a huge selection of shelf-stable foods, some of which were enjoyed at picnics in Italy and others we packed to savor at home.
Positano Paradise, Via del Saraceno 32, Positano – We did not eat a meal here; but on top of the counter, they had a box of pre-packaged biscotti and crostatine. We chose and enjoyed a fruit-filled biscotto.
La Brasserie del Covo at the Hotel Covo Dei Saraceni, Via Regina Giovanna, 5, Positano – We also did not eat a meal here. Miss E only had the lemon gelato, served inside a hollowed-out lemon, which she had been eyeing earlier in Capri and Sorrento. These well-presented, adorable lemon gelatos are made in advance and stored in a freezer, and I was assured there was no cross-contamination during the preparation.
McDonald’s, Via Roma, 33/35, Pompeii – If you are missing McDonald’s, then Italy is the place to go. The gluten-free cheeseburger comes on a delicious Schar bun and the entire burger is served in its plastic wrapper to prevent cross-contamination. Some Italian celiacs bemoan that only the burgers are celiac-safe, as the fries are made in a shared fryer; but as an American with fond memories of childhood Happy Meals and over eight years with no McDonald’s, I was over the moon to have a gluten-free cheeseburger. To me, the patty and cheese were exactly what I remembered and the gluten-free bun was even better. Miss E, who was three when she was diagnosed with celiac disease has no McDonald’s memories, but she loved the burger and was thrilled to “feel normal” and finally eat at McDonald’s.
Pasticceria del Bar Grotta Azzurra (aka BGA in Piazzetta), Via Roma, 59, Capri – There were no gluten-free cones at this location, so Miss E’s gelato was served in a cup. The server informed us which gelato flavors were gluten-free, changed scoopers, and scooped from a previously untouched portion of the gelato.
Villa Maria Restaurant, Via Santa Chiara, 2, Ravello – There are no words to describe this experience, but I will try. Villa Maria’s is everything you imagine when you think of quintessential Italian dining. In Ravello, high above the Amalfi Coast, the Villa Maria Restaurant provides views of gardens and the sea while eating fabulous farm-to-table food, much of which comes from its own garden. There is such pride in each dish, from ingredients to presentation. For a celiac, I was thrilled when I saw the words at the bottom of the Pasta Dishes page of the menu, “all dishes are prepared with gluten-free pasta and gluten-free flour”.
It was so easy to safely order almost anything I wanted off the menu gluten-free, and it all started with gluten-free bread service. We were so enjoying the meal that we ran out of time for dessert, as we had an appointment to meet our driver at the bottom of the town (Villa Maria’s is a short walk to the top of town). The chef artistically plated our Rhubarb and Strawberry Soup with Pistachio Nut Bavarese in a real bowl covered with plastic wrap for us to-go. That bowl is a well-treasured souvenir from our trip, taking me back to beautiful Ravello and our time on the Amalfi Coast.
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