During my first week in Naples I did think to myself, what are my food options as a vegan? My best friend was messaging me. Have you found food she asked? Well,….I’ve had bread and salad. Erm…..
A few weeks later during one of our mammoth skype calls she pressed…”Please tell me you’ve found more than bread and salad to eat now.”. Yes Lots in fact. It turned out being vegan in Italy didn’t meant you had to regress into a lettuce chopping rabbit and I could still enjoy the majority of foods I loved back in blighty.
Roll on month three of veganism in Italia and I have my vegan food sources down. Partly helped by joining the facebook group Vegans & Veg Curious -Naples, Italy and enquiring where I could buy tofu from that wasn’t continually costing me 6 euros a jar in my local health food store!
Many people recommended Conad (one of the Italian supermarkets), as they did a good range of vegan (or vegano) foods such as tofu, seitan and burger varieties. Having previously found soya and oat mylks in the local Ciro Amodio supermarkets, I decided this Conad needed a looks-ey.
Well, It definitely lived up to its name. They’re was a wide range of vegan foods to choose from. I even found vegan mayonnaise, so I was onto a win there. I was also surprised to find soya chocolate mylks. The prices were more or less, like for like on those back in England. The ‘Soia milk’ was around 3 euros and the tofu came out at 2 euros 10 cents and cauldron in the UK is around £2.00 a pack when on offer in Sainsbury’s.
My total shop came in at around 30 euros (picture above was not my entire haul) and the majority of foods bought (minus the perishables) lasted me over a month. So a months worth of food for 1 person at 30 euros is pretty good by my standards.
All that being said, the UK by far has definitely got more options of foods for vegans compared to the meat eating and cheese loving Italian nation. However, the lack of vegan cheeses, “fake meats” such as sausages, burgers and “meat” slices has meant that I have gone back to the basic vegan way of living before all the options were available and I am living healthier, for eating the beans, lentils and legumes that they have on offer here. The lack of processed vegan packaged foods has been a good thing for me. I’m definitely cooking healthier, fresher and colourful meals and more from scratch. I’d begun to get lazy in my last few months living in England. With all the processed choices on offer (Not to say I don’t love me some VBites facon rashers and quorn vegan nuggets and sausages every once in a while), I stopped enjoying the variety of fresh beans and pulses I used to cook with, as more convenience foods arrived in the supermarkets.
One thing I have missed though is vegan cheese. My mum was able to bring some over for me on her last visit. Big thanks to that amazing lady! I also have yet to find maple syrup here and they do love their honey, so my pancakes have been lacking in the gorgeous maple syrupy goodness, but jams with fresh lemons and sugar have had to suffice.
Another great thing about living in Italy is the fresh fruit and vegetables. Where I live has an array of fruttarias and green grocers, where you go to buy fresh fruits and vegetables. The Italians tend to grow a lot of their produce themselves or source from local farmers and everything tends to be ordered in that week or on some occasions for the next day, meaning that you fruit and vegetables are often bought at their optimum freshness.
It does however, also mean that you have to buy some of the fresher items like friarielli, spinach and softer herbs, need to be bought and consumed earlier as they don’t keep to well unless you decide to freeze them for a longer consumption life. But I’ve found that you tend to buy what you need for a few days then, have the luxury of stopping and re-stocking on your way past the next time you happen upon the green grocers. It means I buy only what I need for a few days to a week and nothing is wasted or going off in the fridge, a habit I feel we do oh to often in the UK. I have also enjoyed shopping around which people in the UK don’t do or even have time for any more. We get so busy with our day to day working lives that a supermarket where you swipe and go is the best option.
Here in Italy people stop to talk to each other. No one is ever too busy, and as you start to scope out the green grocers of your choice (trust me there are many to choose from) you build a rapport with the proprietors and they in turn get to know you. Italians really do understand the meaning of family here and that’s even diluted down into how they treat they’re customers when they come in for their weekly or bi-weekly grocers. It’s something I wish the UK would adopt again, but alas wishful thinking on my part.
Another thing to not is the clear lack of pesticides and genetic mutation of said fruit (*frutta) and vegetables (*verdura) here. I have never seen peppers (*paprkia) so big, so “wonky” but yet so sweet and tasty as I have since living here. In the UK I have developed a lot of allergies to fruits and vegetables that I could eat in childhood, which have mainly been down to the over use of pesticides and nitrogen often sprayed on the supermarket produce to prolong the shelf life. Since being here, I have been able to try apples and pears for the first time in years from a green grocers and have thus far no adverse reactions to these things. Albeit, I haven’t eaten a lot of these, I feel this has given me a good insight into the way foods are predominantly grown and sold in the UK today.
Overall, I’d say the cost of living here is relatively cheap and I love the added bonus of everything being loose and fresh from a zero waste point of view as everything is sold loose at the frutterias and you can take your own bags thus saving them giving you a plastic one, all of which are 100% biodegradable anyway, which has meant on the rare occasion I’ve been caught short without my bags, I can just pop the one given straight into the compost bin.
So far I’m enjoying my vegan food experiences here in Italy and cannot wait to continue exploring this country and all it has to offer. From a new vegans point of view things “the greens are greener” on the European continent.
Are they’re any other places you would recommend in Naples that I can try for food shopping? Want to set me a challenge for vegan grocery shopping? Leave your comments or suggestions below.
*All asterisked words in Italian.