In 2016, Milanese shock jock Giuseppe Cruciani taunted vegetarians by cooking and eating a rabbit while on the air. This prompted a few “vegan fundamentalists” to protest outside the radio station, and Cruciani eventually exited the building, carrying a large salame [what we’d call a salami in English], to continue fanning the flames of controversy.
Despite how this particular episode was framed, i vegetariani [vegetarians] are not exactly a fringe demographic in Italy. As culinary traditions have strong ties to the Catholic church, whose dictates have limited the consumption of la carne [meat] for centuries, it may come as no surprise that 6% of Italians are vegetarian, nearly double the rate in the USA. Faith, however, is usually not the main reason for a vegetarian lifestyle: most Italians mention environmental or health reasons for abstaining from meat.
Vegetarian festivals are becoming more frequent throughout the country as younger generations begin to develop their own interpretations of la cucina italiana. With the increasing development of meat substitutes (something that dates back to wartime scarcity, long before hippies and garden burgers), it may come as no surprise that pro capita consumption of la carne has dropped significantly in recent decades: according to the ISMEA (an Italian agricultural institute), pro capita meat consumption dropped 19% from 2000 to 2013.
So if you’re a vegetarian traveling in Italy, don’t be shy to let people know:
Sono vegetariano (for males) / Sono vegetariana (for females) = I’m a vegetarian
senza carne, per favore without meat, please
If this is the kind of learning you like to do, pick up a copy of Italian Through Food!