In our previous post, we shared a list of several of the gelato shops that we wanted to try while in Italy.
Now that our time in Italy has come and gone, we're ready to share our opinions on all of the gelato we tried. Most gelaterias were good, even if they were just random places we went in on a whim.
However, there were only a select few that stood out head and shoulders above the rest.
These excellent gelatos were made with natural ingredients (real fruits, chocolate, etc.) and not with artificial flavoring; they also had a great texture- smooth, creamy, and not icy. But since we tried 16 gelato shops between Venice, Cinque Terre, Florence, and Rome, we need to get right to it!
As this is a special feature into the Angie Eats series, we've organized the shops into the three major ranks rather than rating them all individually.
Also, due to my tree nut allergy, I include a few remarks about how hygienic some of the gelaterias were in terms of storing and serving the gelato to prevent cross-contamination across the different gelato flavors.
As with all Angie's Eats entries into this series, the rating system is based on a three-point scale:
- Angie Needs More! – Amazing and craving more. Reserved only for the best locations in the region.
- Angie is Stuffed! – An overall good restaurant worth checking out.
- Angie is Hungry! – A poor restaurant not recommended.
The Best of the Best
Gelateria di Piazza (San Gimignano)- Ok, I admit it, we visited San Gimignano solely to go to this gelateria. The gelato has been voted best in the world in numerous competitions over the years, and they have some crazy flavors beyond the standard fruit and chocolate varieties. I got blackberry lavender (good, but the lavender flavor was subtle), grapefruit/sparkling wine (very, very tart), and pear (I would marry this one if I could).
The pear was a knockout. The texture was unbelievably creamy, and it had a slight hint of a cream cheese aftertaste. It reminded me of Jeni’s ice cream from back in the U.S (consistently rated best in the USA).
Overall, as much as I wanted to unearth some hidden gelateria treasure in Italy, I have to admit that this iconic establishment probably had the best gelato that we tasted in all of Italy.
Fior di Luna (Rome)–
This shop knows how to make excellent gelato with real fruit and real flavorings. I tried raspberry, blueberry, and ginger. The ginger ranked up there with some of the best gelato that we had in Italy. It was so incredibly rich and creamy, but the chunks of spicy fresh ginger helped cut the richness.
I normally pass on vanilla flavored gelato purely because it can be pretty bad if fake extracts are used instead of high quality vanilla beans, but when the flavor is called Madagascar vanilla bean, you know it's going to be good.
Such was the case at V-Ice, where I ordered Madagascar vanilla bean, peach, and strawberry. The vanilla was the standout here- how can you go wrong with real vanilla bean specks in your ice cream? It was really rich and almost custard-like, too.
Gelateria dei Neri (Florence)-
For gelato, a creamy, smooth texture is what it is all about. Gelateria dei Neri has it spot on with almost all of the flavors we tried. While the mango was kind of icy, the texture of the peach and melon flavors was probably the best that we had in Florence.
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Boutique del Gelato (Venice)–
The fruit flavors here were so fruity that I'm pretty sure you could count a scoop as a serving of fruit. I got peach and melon, both of which had a very fruity, creamy texture. Peach is one of my favorite ice cream flavors, and the peach here did not disappoint.
After having Grom in NYC and being totally underwhelmed, we decided to try it again in the mother land. The good news is the texture and flavor of the lemon and raspberry flavors here were much better than anything we tried in NYC, and much cheaper. Unfortunately, the service at the Venice location we went to was abysmal.
I’m not sure if the server didn’t understand English or was trying to play dumb, but she first gave me the wrong flavor and then stuck a cookie in my ice cream (when I specifically said I did NOT want one, because they charge for them and because I didn’t know if it had nuts in it).
Luckily the gelato was good, and they have the covered metal canisters to store the gelato, hopefully preventing cross-contamination.
Alberto Gelateria (Corniglia, Cinque Terre)–
In the small town of Corniglia, you wouldn’t expect to find great gelato, but here it is! We tried frutti di bosco, lemon, strawberry, and basil. The frutti di bosco and strawberry were just ok, but the standouts were the lemon and basil.
If you’re ever in Cinque Terre and have the opportunity to eat lemon-flavored anything, do it! The lemons they grow here are huge- almost the size of your head- and the flavor is so intense. The basil flavor was awesome, too; it had a very creamy texture and was white with basil flecks in it (assuring you that it’s from real basil and not some artificial flavor!). While the flavor sounds a bit odd, keep in mind that the herb is a local specialty as well!
Un Mare di Yogurt (Corniglia, Cinque Terre)–
Ok, so this was technically yogurt and not gelato, but it was fantastic. We got the same flavors as at Albert’s to compare (they are conveniently right next door to each other). The frutti di bosco was almost syrupy sweet, and the texture was not that great. The strawberry was just mediocre. Again, the lemon and basil flavors won out.
The flavors here seemed more intense, but that could have been the result of artificial flavorings (considering the basil gelato was a scary green color). Either way, we were happy.
Perche No (Florence)–
I got a watermelon granita since we visited late in the day and nearly all the flavors looked contaminated with nuts (the granitas were in a separate freezer). It was very watermelony, almost too much so. Jeremy got stracciatella, lavender, and lemon and said it was just okay with no particular high point or low point.
If you happened to wander in here, however, you would not be disappointed!
Festival del Gelato (Florence)–
This place is kind of a spectacle. There are neon signs flashing everywhere, unnaturally tall piles of gelato, and a crepe station (what?). There are SO many flavors here, you wonder how they can do them all justice. Lots of the flavors were brightly colored (a.k.a. probably not flavored naturally). I got peach, limoncello, and strawberry. The limoncello was pretty good; the strawberry was ok.
As I was taking a spoon of the peach flavor, I noticed something brown and shaped like a miniature chocolate chip. I gave it to Jeremy to finish, not sure if this stray chip contained nuts.
Le Parigine (Florence)–
They do an ice cream sandwich here that’s made in the original style that existed before cones were invented. Jeremy got one of these while I got cinnamon and stracciatella gelato in a cup. The stracciatella was good, but the cinnamon was excellent and very spicy. They store their gelato in covered metal canisters here, just like Grom, lessening our concern for cross-contamination.
Gelateria Santa Trinita (Florence)–
I got watermelon, kiwi, and melon here. Nothing too special, but the kiwi had a nice tangy flavor. There were also a few other other unique flavor choices that we did not find in many other shops.
La Strega Nocciola (Florence)–
We were just walking by this place, and Jeremy conned me into going inside because they keep their gelato in those covered metal canisters. I really can’t pass up gelato that’s not a death trap and made by someone passionate about ice cream. We were eyeing a few flavors and the server gave us samples without us asking, which was nice.
We got lavender, stracciatella, and white chocolate with cinnamon. To me, the gelato tasted more like ice cream than gelato- maybe it was the vanilla overtones or the less creamy texture? In any case, it was still good and the lavender flavor was excellent.
San Crispino (Rome)–
San Crispino has been around for quite some time, and there is quite a debate on whether this once-legendary gelateria has fallen from its former glory. While we only visited once, and I didn’t try it back in the ‘old days,’ I would argue that it is still producing high quality products, especially products that are made with produce that is in season.
I got the plum and the peach sorbets (both fruits being in season), and they were really good. The peach was a little bit sweet for my tastes, but the plum was nice and tart. The texture almost tasted creamy, although we knew there was no dairy in it. We looked at the ingredients list posted on the wall inside the shop, and, intriguingly, there were egg whites in the sorbet flavors.
Perhaps we'll have to try that one out at home in our ice cream maker some day.
Gelateria del Teatro (Rome)–
I got pear, peach, and strawberry sorbets here. The strawberry and peach were just ok, but the pear was beautiful. It was definitely made from real fruit and you could taste the texture of the pear. Awesome!
Alaska Gelateria-Sorbetteria (Venice)–
This place was a cross-contamination station. Jeremy and I were going to split a cup of gelato, but I ended up letting him eat it all after seeing how chunks of nut flavors had been deposited into some of the fruit flavors due to careless scooping. It turns out I didn’t miss much.
Jeremy said the gelato was rather icy and the flavors seemed watered down and diluted. This one outlier was so far removed from the rest that it is the only one deserving of our “Angie is Hungry” category.
A Rule of Thumb for Italian Gelato
Overall, I think we had plenty of good gelato in Italy, a handful of excellent places, and only one extreme miss. So if you don't want to spend time marking up your maps in Italy to find the best gelato places like we did, just follow this one rule of thumb:
Steer clear of the places that have neon-colored gelato, several dozen flavors, or gelato that is piled high like mountains! The more the visual side of gelato-making is emphasized, the more that it detracts from the taste- the only thing that matters.
Have you been to any of the gelaterias we tried while in Italy? What did you think, and were any flavors standouts from your trip? Or are there any great ones that we missed that you'd want to recommend to the world? Let us know by commenting below!
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