Oh Gelato, you are both my hearts delight and the bane of my existence. If you find yourself in Italy, Especially Florence, Gelato is a must have treat. One thing to remember about this delicious treat is that it’s eaten more as a snack than as a dessert, so there is never a bad time to enjoy gelato. This wonderful creation is said to have been invented in Florence so we have sought out every place we could find in town. I’ve created a beginner’s guide to Gelato and answers to commonly asked questions.
What is Gelato and how is it different than Ice Cream?
- While Ice cream is whipped, creating more air, gelato is slow churned which gives it a denser texture.
- Gelato can have as much as 5% less fat than traditional ice cream, this is because more milk is used in place of eggs and cream.
- Ice cream is served at a much colder temperature which gives a harder texture.
- Gelato being served at a higher temperature not only makes for a creamier product but also allows your taste buds to pick up more intense flavoring.
How do I choose an authentic Gelateria and not a tourist trap?
- If a business sells 10 different items in addition to gelato, such as food, pastries, etc., chances are it will taste artificial and just suck overall. A true Gelateria will sell gelato exclusively.
- Avoid businesses that offer an obscene amount of flavors including mix-ins such as candy bar. Gelato is not coldstone creamery or baskin robbins, anyone who is catering to that palette will not have authentic gelato.
- Some aficionados say that quality gelato is always in covered containers and not on display, we have not always found this to be the case. One of our favorite spots has uncovered product while another we love has covered, they are equally delicious.
Do businesses offer samples?
- Everywhere that sells gelato will offer at least one free sample.
- Always try the plain panna (cream) if you are only offered one sample. The plain panna is the base for all the other gelato flavors, so if it tastes good most likely so will the other flavors.
- An important reminder is that most Gelaterias also offer sorbet. For a good indication on the sorbet flavors, try the lemon. If the lemon sorbet does not taste artificial, the other flavors are probably a safe bet.
Where is the best places to enjoy a cup or cone?
- Gelato can be enjoyed anywhere in the city but eating this heavenly delight on one of Florence’s many beautiful bridges is a tradition for both locals and visitors alike. Luckily some of my personal favorite gelato shops are in close proximity to the bridges.
What are the best Gelaterias in town?
Taste is completely subjective so everyone’s opinion on who the best are will vary but here are some of our favorites.
- Gelateria La Carraia
This business has multiple Locations but we are regulars at the one near the bridge. Great prices, healthy portions, and delicious flavors make this high on our list. All the flavors are tasty but I highly recommend the Amarenata (black cherry).
- Gelateria La Strega Nocciola
Multiple locations including one right next to the Ponte Vecchio. Traditional flavors in covered containers and a friendly staff keeps us coming back.
- Perché no
This centrally located gelateria is steps away from Danté Aligheri’s home/museum and is between the Duomo and Piazza dell Signoria. Its location make it ideal when seeing the sights or shopping along Via dei Calzaiuoli. The Stracciatella, Amarena, Pistachio and Rose Gelato are not to be missed.
- Gelateria Vivaldi
Located in San Niccolò, this is a favorite of ours when going or returning from Piazzale Michelangelo. The staff are great and all the flavors are delicious.
- Gelateria Santa Trinita
This was one of the first Gelaterias we found. Don’t let the amount of tourist fool you, this place has some great flavors and is located alongside the Arno river.
Gelato truly is a must have food experience. You may find yourself wanting several servings a day, and if you’re visiting, why not…indulge. As for ourselves, living in Florence, we must stay strong and limit our gelato consumption to a reasonable amount…well most of the time.