Last updated on November 6th, 2023
Do yourself a favor and go to Tuscany while you are pregnant (you might very well be thinking about it or planning on it if you are reading this!). I was lucky enough to be living in Tuscany (where I still reside) for all of my four pregnancies and I can say that Tuscany (specifically Florence) is an amazing place to eat while growing a tiny human inside you.
Tuscan food is so accessible, delicious and fresh. It’s local, nutritious, well-balanced and satisfying. The meat and dairy is some of the best around, especially the pork, and the variety of fruits and vegetables all twelve months of the year is impressive.
If you crave sweets during your pregnancy, know that Tuscany has excellent regional desserts and sweet treats between meals.
If that didn’t convince you, then this will: Tuscans view you as a superior being when you are pregnant! For example, there are special lanes at the grocery store for pregnant women.
I feel lucky to have carried out my pregnancies in such an amazing culinary hotspot. Read on for my full guide (based on four pregnancies) to eating in Tuscany while pregnant – what I recommend ordering, what to avoid and where to go for both food shopping and pick-me-up snacks between touring.
I am going to be speaking in general about Tuscan food and my tips and advice are valid throughout the region (and honestly, in Italy in general) but I am going to focus on Florence as that is where I spent a lot of my time while pregnant and where my children were born.
If you want to know more about eating in pregnant in Italy in general, read Eating in Italy While Pregnant – From a Mamma of Four in Italy.
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Foods to Avoid in Tuscany While Pregnant
There are some foods you want to avoid while pregnant in Italy and depending on the region you are in, many of the local dishes may be made with these foods so be sure to confirm before ordering that there are none of the following (if not obvious):
- salumi: any kind of cured meat including prosciutto crudo, salame, finocchiona, bresaola, speck. Prosciutto crudo is huge in Tuscany so keep in mind that if you order a plate of ‘mixed appetizers’ you will surely get various cured meats.
- formaggi crudi – unpasteurized cheeses – confirm before ordering cheeses, even pecorino, the local cheese which is usually pasteurized.
- carpaccio di pesce – raw fish salad
- carpaccio di manzo – raw beef appetizer
- tartar – raw beef
- pesce crudo – raw fish
- tonno – avoid tuna if you can, which is high in mercury unless it’s canned or cooked well-done.
- bistecca – steak. The classic Tuscan steak is always cooked rare so if you want to have this you need to tell them to cook it well (they may look at you like you are crazy since for Tuscan’s the idea of eating a well-done bistecca is just out of the question).
- caffè – coffee in large quantities
- tiramisù – contains raw eggs
- zabaione – contains raw eggs
- cannoli – although not regional, they are popular with tourists so you do see them around. Confirm that the ricotta is pasteurized before ordering
- gelato – ask if the gelateria uses raw eggs in their cream gelato flavors.
- mozzarella – technically fresh mozzarella is not cooked to a high enough temperature to be considered pasteurized. If it’s cooked like on pizza, don’t worry about it – it’s fine.
- crostini neri – crostini made with liver patè
- crostini con lardo – crostini with lard often paired with honey and/or pears
Learn More: You may want to read Is Prosciutto Raw?
Foods to Eat in Tuscany While Pregnant
Take advantage of all the great fresh and local produce while in Tuscany. The growing season is a full 12 months so you are going to get fresh produce, no matter the time of year. By law, fruits and vegetables cannot be GMO and pesticides cannot be sprayed two weeks before harvest.
Tuscan meat is raised locally. The pigs will be from the next town over and the beef will probably be bred in the Tuscany hillsides. You will especially see a lot of pork in the winter as the slaughter happens around the Christmas holiday.
Be sure to get your hands on blueberries if you are visiting in the spring. They grow in a part of Tuscany called Maremma, on the southern coast of the region. They are delicious – my family waits all year for the short one month window when we can get them.
Shopping Tip: By law fruits and vegetables must indicate their origin on the packaging or on the sign. Be sure the produce you are buying is local to get the best flavor.
What To Eat for Breakfast/at Bars in Tuscany While Pregnant
You can get perfect breakfast items in Italy at bars, ranging from sweet to salty. Most Italians have a brioche or cornetto (pastry) and a coffee but bars will also serve small savory sandwiches made with ham and cheese, for example.
I would always have a cappuccino (the milk in Tuscany is maremma, it’s made from various local farmers and has a short shelf life – meaning it’s fresh!) in the morning and if I wanted more coffee later in the day I would just order decaf.
Here were some of my favorites to order at bars when I was pregnant:
- Brioche alla crema – a pastry with cream – added protein from the pastry cream
- Panino con prosciutto cotto e pomodoro – ham and tomato sandwich
- Brioche salato con prosciutto cotto e formaggio – savory croissant with ham and cheese
- Brioche integrale – whole wheat pastry
- Budini di riso – these are small shortcrust pastries filled with rice pudding (sometimes I would get two!)
- Spremuta – freshly squeezed orange juice. There is nothing like it in the winter when the oranges are fresh from Sicily
Breakfast Italian Style: Eat as the Italians do and learn all about how their do breakfast in Italian Breakfast – A Traveler’s Guide.
Spending time in Firenze? Make sure you’re having the Best Coffee in Florence!
What To Eat at Restaurants in Italy While Pregnant
Much of Tuscan cooking is based on using seasonal and local ingredients which is why you will see menus change depending on the time of year.
Since regional cooking is based on la cucina povera or the ‘poor man’s cooking’, it’s important to note that many traditional primi or first courses should be supplemented with a protein source. Below I have listed all the best Tuscan dishes to try if you are pregnant (they are safe to eat and they will supply you with all you need from a nutritional point of view). I will indicate with an asterisk when you should check out either the appetizers or second courses to add protein to your meal.
- Baccelli e pecorino – broad bean and sheep’s milk cheese appetizer (confirm that the cheese is pasteurized)
- Crostone con salsiccia e stracchino – toasted bread with sausage and melted cheese
- Sformato di verdure* – vegetable souffle appetizer
- Panzanella* – bread and summer vegetable salad
- Ribollita* – vegetable and bread soup
- Farinata con cavolo nero* – polenta and white bean stew with kale
- Pappa al Pomodoro* – tomato and bread soup
- Minestrone* – vegetable soup
- Pici all’aglione* – hand-rolled thick spaghetti with garlic tomato sauce
- Gnudi – spinach and ricotta dumplings
- Pizza Margherita – cheese pizza
- Pappardelle con sugo di cinghiale – fresh egg pasta with wild boar sauce
- Tagliatelle con ragù – fresh egg pasta with meat sauce
- Lasagne – lasagna
- Grigliata mista – grilled mixed meats (sausage, pork chop, ribs)
- Peposo – beef stew with black pepper
- Arista – pork roast
- Coniglio con le olive – rabbit stew with olives (look for any stewed rabbit dish, it’s a great white protein alternative to chicken)
- Pesce alla griglia/al cartoccio – grilled or baked fish
- Verdure alla griglia* – grilled vegetables
- Insalata di carciofi* – raw artichoke salad (only in the winter)
- Fagioli all’uccelletto – white beans stewed in tomato sauce
- Frittata di stagione – seasonal egg omelette (asparagus, artichoke, fennel are common)
*Supplement with a protein source either found under antipasti or secondi on the menu.
Try one of our Favorite Pizzerie in Florence!
Foods to Buy From Markets While Pregnant
Tuscany, like much of Italy, has fantastic open-air markets where you will find not only food, fresh produce and delis but also plenty of home goods such as clothes, cooking items, household goods and fabric. Here is a list of the best things to look for at markets for easy snacking or to make cooking at your rental even better!
- Frutta e verdura fresca – fresh fruit and vegetables. My favorites were always apples, bananas, clementines, plums and less ripe peaches for easy travel.
- Uova – eggs. Eggs at open air markets are going to be freshly laid from just around the corner
- Noci – local walnuts most likely still in their shell.
- Formaggio – cheese. Look for pecorino (sheep’s milk cheese) that is pasteurized and produced locally
- Olive – olives
- Taralli – if you are lucky you will run into a stand that is also selling these really tasty crackers that look like small rings made with olive oil, flour and water.
- Porchetta – freshly roasted pork
Good to Know: At open air markets and small fruit and vegetable-specific shops (fruttivendolo) look for anything that says nostrali – meaning the produce was grown by the shop owners themselves just down the road or outside the city center.
Best Markets to Shop at While Pregnant in Florence
My best advice for a pregnant woman is to check out if there is a local market happening on the day you are visiting a specific destination in Tuscany. These are my favorite ones in Florence:
- Sant’Ambrogio: this is THE place at which the locals actually shop in Florence Monday-Saturday 8:00-12:30. The vendors are local and you will see there is both an inside section and outdoor section. The indoors houses fish, meat, cheese and bakery venders meanwhile outdoors you will find fruit and vegetables.
- Santo Spirito: every Monday-Saturday from around 8:30-12:30. It’s small but the vendors are very friendly with excellent products.
- La Fierucola: this all-day market is only once a month, the 3rd Sunday of each month, in Piazza Santo Spirito selling organic and biodynamic food and products. This is one of my favorites!
- Mercato Centrale: while this has become touristy over the years, it’s still very reliable with a very wide selection of products open Monday-Friday 7am-2:30 pm and Saturday 7am-5pm. You can also head upstairs to their ‘food court’ section where you will find various food stands, each selling a specific food such as the pizza stand, fish stand, truffle stand and the Sicilian dessert cart. It’s great because everyone can order from a different stand and then you can sit together. It’s clean, fast, the wifi is accessible and the restrooms are clean! Check out their website for the most recent info and hours.
Shopping at Grocery Stores in Italy While Pregnant
Tuscany is one of Italy’s most popular regions and thus, caters well to tourist needs and desires such as plenty of ‘healthy snack items’ in supermarkets. For nuts, seeds and dried fruits, look around the produce section.
- Frutta e verdura fresca – fresh fruit and vegetables. The quality will not be as good as at open air markets or small fruit and veggie shops but it’s still going to be excellent and it will most likely be sourced locally (unless out of season).
- Barette – granola or protein bars
- Frutta secca – dried fruit and nuts
- Pizza a taglio – pizza by the slice (located in the bakery section)
- Prosciutto cotto – cooked ham to make sandwiches (order at deli or next to refrigerated section already packaged)
- Focaccia – focaccia to make sandwiches
Fun Fact: Most grocery stores have a ‘skip the line’ sign for pregnant women. If not, just scoot your way to the front of the line – stick that belly out!
Tuscan Street Foods for Pregnancy
- Gelato: confirm that the gelateria doesn’t use raw eggs in their cream flavors before ordering gelato.
- Panini – sandwiches
- Porchetta – roasted pork sandwich
- Cecina/Farinata – chickpea flatbread
- Focaccia – flatbread
- Castagne arrosto – roasted chestnuts (only in fall and winter)
Check out my guide to the Best Gelato in Florence!
Panino Pit Stops – Where to Grab a Sandwich in Florence While Pregnant
It’s important to know you can get a good sandwich when you are touring around. These are some of my favorites in the city center, known as paninoteche.
- I Due Fratelli: cheap, small sandwiches just around the corner from Piazza Signoria
- Semel: a whole in the wall next to Sant’Ambrogio market with creative and innovative choices
- Sforno: across the river close to Santo Spirito, this bakery serves up great sandwiches but also small quiches and sweet treats
- Casa del Vino: close to the Mercato Centrale, this is a historic institution for locals
- Gustapanino: in the main square of Santo Spirito serving up classic schiacciate (focaccia sandwiches)
Tips and Advice for Eating in Florence While Pregnant
- Raw vegetables will always be washed before being served but if you have any concerns, order cooked vegetables found under the contorni section of the menu (after secondi).
- Always wash fruits and vegetables that you buy from markets and supermarkets. Keep an eye out for city water spickets or carry a small bottle of water and some napkins with you.
- Bring favorite snacks from home just in case such as energy bars, your favorite nuts and dried fruit. They pack well and won’t go bad (honestly, I don’t think you will need them as the street food and snacks are so good and accessible in Tuscany, especially in Florence).
- Always confirm with the waiter if you have any doubts that cured meats or raw eggs are being used in a dish.
- Notify your waiter that you are pregnant and you cannot eat unpasteurized cheese and cured meats just to be sure it doesn’t end up on your plate, especially if you are ordering in a group where you might be sharing appetizer plates.
- Travel with nuts or dried fruit that you can sneakily eat in long museum tours (you are not permitted to eat in museums but if you are doing a long tour you may need to. Nuts are easy to eat without making a mess and without anyone noticing).
- Ask before ordering creamy gelato flavors that they aren’t made with raw eggs.
- Carry hand sanitizer to wash up before chowing down between meals
- Order decaf coffee after you have already had your allotted caffeine intake.
- Order non-alcoholic cocktails for aperitivo – I personally loved to order a centrifuga, a freshly squeezed juice made from fruits and vegetables. Keep in mind that most bars will have crodino which is a non-alcoholic bitter with which you can make a spritz – the classic Italian drink that is bright orange. More Options: Check out Non-Alcoholic Italian Drinks – That We Actually Drink in Italy.
What Do Tuscan Women Eat During Pregnancy?
Tuscan women eat pretty normally when they are pregnant except that they will obviously eat a little more than they are used to. True to their heritage, they stick to Tuscan classics, which are by nature very healthy. They typically stay away from raw meats and fish and uncured cheeses but they don’t have any qualms about eating raw vegetables.
The agricultural laws are a lot more strict in Italy than in other countries so the vegetables are generally going to be non-GMO and low-spray compared to those coming from outside of Italy. They may wash their veggies very well but they certainly don’t avoid them raw like some pregnant women like to do for safety sake.
The biggest thing they do differently is that they are sure to eat protein at every meal and they will snack (which is not normal for Italians, typically). Nowadays, many Italians only eat a first course or a second course at a meal, not both like their parents used to do, but being pregnant,they will be more aware of eating a first and second course to ensure they are getting an accurate protein intake (although this really isn’t an issue in Tuscany as they eat a lot of meat!).
Helpful Phrases for Eating in Italy While Pregnant
È pastorizzato? – Is this pasteurized?
Vorrei il carne ben cotto per piacere – I would like the meat well-cooked please.
Ci sono salumi crudi in questo piatto? – Are there cured meats in this dish?
Ci sono le uova crude in questo piatto? Are there raw eggs in this dish?
Il vostro gelato è fatto con le uova crude? Is your gelato made with raw eggs?
Posso ordinare XXX senza i salumi? May I order XXX without the cured meat?
Posso ordinare questo con prosciutto cotto invece di prosciutto crudo, per favore? May I please order with ham instead of prosciutto?
Vorrei un cappuccino decaffeinato, per piacere. I would please like a decaf cappuccino.
Posso avere un drink senza alcool? May I have a cocktail without alcohol please?
Eating in Italy While Pregnant FAQ
Italy is one of the greatest places to travel to if you are vegan. Many Tuscan dishes were originally created vegan. Look for dishes like ribollita, pappa al pomodoro, pizza marinara, minestrone, farinata, and cecina. Check out our full guide to eating vegan in Italy here where you will find our short Florence vegan restaurant guide.
Not at all. If you are in Florence you will have no trouble as there are many GF restaurants and bakeries. If you are in smaller towns or in the countryside just stick to grilled meats and veggies and you shouldn’t have a problema.
Italy’s level of listeria is in line with the rest of Europe – it’s extremely low so don’t obsess while traveling.
Salmonella does exist in Italy but you can easily avoid it if you avoid raw eggs. Cross contamination can happen but it’s no more common than in other countries so just try and eat as normally as possible.