Gelato is a favorite Italian treat around the globe, but no one can make it quite like the Italians. Therefore, eating gelato while in Italy is an absolute must for all travelers. To the locals gelato is considered an easy snack, not dessert, so there is never a bad time to stop in for a quick cone. Go ahead and indulge, take in the culture of this frozen delicacy and let us guide you to the best gelato in Italy.
What exactly 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, 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?
- Look for gelaterias, businesses selling gelato exclusively. If a business sells 10 different items in addition to gelato, such as food, pastries, etc., chances are it will taste artificial and just gross. A true Gelateria will only be selling gelato.
- Avoid businesses that offer an obscene amount of flavors including mix-ins such as candy bars. Gelato is not ice cream, is (often) made in small batches with wholesome ingredients and is definitely not like Coldstone Creamery or Baskin Robbins. Any store catering to that palette will not have authentic gelato.
- Some aficionados say that quality gelato is always in covered with silver steel containers and not on display, but 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. Don’t ask for more than one sample if you’re not planning to make a purchase. It’s just rude.
- 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 the chances of the other flavors being good is very likely.
- For those less inclined (or able) to enjoy cream based gelato not to worry! 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.
How much should I pay for a cup or cone?
- Generally speaking do not make purchases from shops that do not have their prices and sizes clearly labeled. I have fallen victim to a tourist trap where I did not follow my own rules and paid €9 for a double cone, which is completely outrageous. Prices will vary depending on where you are and how close you are to major tourist attractions, but you shouldn’t be paying more than €3.50 for a single scoop.
Gelato truly is a must have food experience, and we hope that our guide will help lead you to the best gelato in Italy. 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.