The first evening we were in Rome this summer, I remembered the amazing creamy, icy and homemade taste of Gelato—Italian Ice Cream…literally the best ice cream in the world.
But, after a long day of travel and an albeit delicious meal, we wandered and I failed to research and Yelp. We landed on the first Gelato spot we found and ended up with sub-par Gelato that I paid 15€ for.
Yep, you read that right.
I hate to admit any screw-ups, but part of learning how to travel inevitably involves a screw up here and there and this is one of mine.
Typically, a small gelato should not cost more than 3€, and in our defense, these ones supposedly didn’t.
But in the bleary-eyed-ness ( not sure if that’s a word) of nearly 2 days on one hour of sleep, our Gelato rang up to about 10,5€ ( already too much), but I was too tired to care, handed him a 20, grabbed my change and left. It wasn’t until we had already scarfed down our delicious ( I can’t hate on the gelato) dessert that I realized I had only received 5,5€ back.
I was angry, mostly at myself. But, also committed to not letting it happen again.
So, if you are preparing to go on a Roman adventure and search for the best and most authentic gelato in Italy, here is what I have learned that you must look for in a gelato to enjoy the best ice cream in the world (and not get ripped off.)
Gelato runs (on average) from 1,5-4€ Euro depending on size and scoops.
All prices should be listed and if you can’t speak Italian, point to what you want either on a cup or cone sign.
Real homemade Gelato should come from a metal tin.
Gelato served out of metal tins is more likely to be homemade. Plastic flexes better in freezers and may indicate a pre-made or (eek) shipped product. But, metal holds temperature better and is pretty much a staple at authentic gelaterias.
If the Gelato is too puffy—avoid
Some gelatarias ( mainly around touristy sites), add air into their Gelato to make it super puffy and appealing to your eye.
Gelato is meant to be soft and shouldn’t come up too far above the tin. If it does, it’s probably been pumped with air, contains additives or been previously frozen (or all of the above) to give it its mile-high consistency. Real gelato is fairly dense and would be tougher to whip up as opposed to the ‘powdered mix’ counterparts.
Check out the color. The best gelato should look natural. Mr. L, loves pistachio and the best pistachio gelatos are a bit of a gray-ish green. If it looked like mint, we walked away.
Bonus Tip: Typically, you pay first at the cashier and then give the gelato counter your receipt and pick your scoops. We had one place do it the opposite way because we were the only ones in there. But paying first is standard practice.
So, where should you go if you really want the best gelato Italy has to offer? Here are some of my picks.
Venchi is an Italian national chain, but is incredibly exquisite chocolate and gelato. It’s one of the best we had in Florence.
Venchi Cioccolato e Gelato, Firenze Via dei Calzaiuoli, Piazza del Duomo Via dei Calzaiuoli, 65/R, 50122 Firenze FI, Italy
Giolitti is a bit of a landmark, as it is also reportedly the oldest ice cream parlor in Rome. Thus, it was a bit crowded, but I don’t think the acclaim is for the history alone. My strawberry and limoncello combo was heaven on a summer Italian evening.
Venice is pricey and super touristy in the main areas. So, stumbling on this little gem was a treat… literally and figuratively. Their hazelnut gelato was the perfect mid-afternoon snack to hold me over until a late dinner.
Needless to say, I am glad I figured it out early and enjoyed my fair share of ice cream while enjoying Italia. If you’re an ice cream lover, want the best gelato in Italy or simply appreciated the tips, would you mind sharing this post to help others not get cheated out of the best ice cream in Italy.