Milan and Living Vegan in Italy

Thursday, May 12, 2016

About a week and a half ago, I arrived in Milan to work with a new modeling agency! It's been overwhelmingly beautiful and exciting to live in a new country, (I'll only be here as of now for a few months - so it's not permanent, but it still feels like a while to be totally alone somewhere), but it is also culturally a bit shocking and isolating. Duh I guess!

Why it's pretty different for me:
I've lived in America my entire life. From Connecticut to New York and little bits here and there in Los Angeles and the midwest, but I've only ever left the country once to study in France in college, and in that experience, was surrounded by other English speaking students. I wasn't ever fully immersed in a new culture. So this is my first time solo in an entirely foreign place.

I am trying every day to learn Italian and have luckily made some friends who speak Italian around me, and teach me what things mean. I'm so thankful! I am also thankful that so many people have also been so kind to use dramatic hand gestures to tell me how to do things and go places. But really - I have a lot of respect for anyone who comes to America and has taken the time to learn English. I would like to practice what I venerate if I can. If anyone has language learning suggestions, books, or courses, the advice is much appreciated. I am currently using Duolingo, but could use something a little more substantial when I'm finished.

How I'm adjusting to living vegan here:
The food here is absolutely amazing. And when I say food, I don't just mean in restaurants. The produce from the markets will knock your socks off. I bit into a tomato and literally gasped! "So this is what a tomato is supposed to taste like..."The only thing is, it is quite hard to find my usual go to pre-fabricated vegan goodies. (Gardein frozen "meats," hummus, peanut butter, Daiya vegan cheese, etc.)

I didn't realize how spoiled I am to live in New York, or even to have lived in Connecticut, with everyday access to Whole-Foods-type supermarkets as a vegan. I just walk around tossing things into my cart like it's nothing. Like I just deserve it! I have been posting photos on instagram and leatherpetal with recipes and food suggestions, and would read some comments saying "I simply don't have easy access to these vegan foods" and shrug it off and say "oh just keep looking for those pre-made things, and you'll find them somewhere!" No --- wrong!

The thing is, all of the things I was depending on so heavily are quite processed foods (seitan, tofu, vegan "chicken", veggie burgers, etc). Here, I've found that I just need to go one step back in production in order to get the same substance. And you know WHAT. I'm actually so grateful to not have everything just handed to me. I have to learn to make it myself, to find the fundamental ingredients to get my nutrients, to use more fresh produce, and to understand the process of building a plate from scratch. I'm finding out all of the steps it takes to create something, which makes me appreciate that thing so much more! It is liberating and independent (and cheaper) to make things yourself.

Vegan foods, as many of us in New York know them, are oftentimes clearly labeled. Here, not so much. And if they are, they are quite expensive. The label is almost saying to you "Really, do you really need this? You can't just make it yourself?" and you end up shrugging and saying yeah I could actually :( I have been making a lot of fresh vegetable soups with lentils and rice and things, pasta (as a vegan without a lot of fat in my diet, I find that pasta and carbs in general do not contribute to weight gain like we think), and a lot of panini with mashed chick peas and eggplant and tomato sauces. Oh and a lot of coffee :)

I'll keep documenting my food experiences, but here are some things I've eaten in the past ten days. I think the variety will start to become a little more rich as time goes on, but we shall see! I also didn't think to take pictures of a lot of my meals, but I will from now on.

Chick peas mixed with tomato sauce, olives, and tomatoes. Heat with olive oil and serve on focaccia. So easy.

Panino with eggplant, sundried tomato, and some greens at Bar Luce.

Fettuccine with fresh tomato sauce and zucchini blossoms filled with cashew cheese (good recipe here) and honey / can make without. Scoop some of the mixture into each blossom and twist the end. Dip in batter (4 Tbsp. flour, 4 Tbsp. water is what I used), fry in olive oil on medium-high heat. Drizzle plate with balsamic reduction if you have.

Saturday market in Navigli.

"StreeToast" panino vegano with tofu cream and lots of roasted veggies. Only 6 euro and I was so full.

Easy gnocchi with fresh olives from the market.


  1. Love how open you are about how you are always continuing to learn! These foods look amazing! I have two questions - one is that I seem to remember in your Q&A you mentioned how you don't drink coffee any more and you felt much better with lots of tea. Is there any reason in particular why you are drinking "lots of coffee" again? And also, when you are done in Italy, are you moving back to New York? Or will you be heading somewhere new? Thanks so much for the post!

    1. Hello, thank you :) Yes you're totally right, I was only drinking tea for a very long time, but I'm back on the coffee wagon again. I guess it comes in waves. I will say that I stick to my guns about tea making me feel more healthy, I just simply like the taste of coffee and it happens to be very delicious here. Since it's not my number one priority, I do fluctuate on the coffee/tea spectrum. For health reasons, I still suggest green tea. And I will either be moving to New York or Los Angeles :) I'm not sure yet where to settle! xox

  2. That zucchini blossom dish looks beautiful, I've never heard of that! It's cool to hear that you're excited to learn Italian and to cook with more whole foods (that's all I eat because the processed foods are expensive, haha). I use Duolingo as well and I love that app to bits, it's so convenient. Buona sorte a Milano, beautiful Dayna! :D (Btw I think you would do really well in LA, considering all the cool ecommerce work :)

  3. You inspire me to do things especially on my own, to just be out there to the world. Excited for you to share some more about your life there in Milan! Wish you well!! :)

  4. Hey Dayna! I loved this post because I'm also moving from New York back home to Burma soon and I am always worried about not having access to the vegan options that we have here in NYC! I also found that indian food is super vegan friendly and easy to make! Love that you always know how to adapt to a different surrounding and make the best out of it! Much love. :)

  5. Hi Dayna! I'm so excited to see this post - your content is always so thoughtful and enlightening. I hope you're having a great time away. My question for you: Why do you choose to use honey in your cooking? No judgement at all -- I am not vegan and I love to use honey as a healthier alternative to processed sugars. I'm just curious because I know some are on the fence about whether or not honey is "vegan." What are your thoughts/reasons?
    All the best :-)

  6. Literally need to make a version of the "StreeToast", it looks AMAZING... Thank you for your updates, I am always inspired after reading your blog posts!

  7. My mam is irish but works in Italy most of the time, what she uses is Duolingo and Babbel which she seems to prefer to Duolingo. She's quite good at Italian now, not fluent because her immersion isn't 100%. I learned French in school, but am teaching myself French through Duolingo and films/songs also. Poetry and song lyrics can be a good way to learn if you translate them. Hope this helps x (so glad you're back blogging, had withdrawals)

  8. Wow yet another reason to visit Italy! Can't imagine having a tomato like that! Fresh produce is always the best, when you've been eating processed stuff it's like a secret you've stumbled upon! the Paninos look so yummy!



By Dayna Frazer