No matter what time of year, no matter what the weather, you will always see gelato being enjoyed in Italy. Even if there’s an economic crisis, you don’t really see the gelato shops closing or lacking. In fact, more are opening. I read that there are about 37,000 gelaterie in Italy!
It’s a staple to the culture, and it’s completely understandable. I dare you to try a reeeeeally good gelato without a smile smacking your lips along with the deliciousness. It’s just not possible. Especially if it’s “the good stuff.”
I’ve heard a lot of people come visit Italy and say “you can’t really go wrong with eating in Italy” but unfortunately that’s not always the case. Sadly, even in Italy, gelato has fallen vicitim to cheap shortcuts in what should be an edible art form.
Take heed to these few tips to ensure that you are eating gelato as it was made to be!!
Gelato Shopping Tips:
- Lay low: as an amateur, the ‘gelato mountains’ caught my eye and dropped my jaw at first too. Now all they get is a sneer and a scoff. A couple of times when I’ve walked by places that serve this fluff imitation stuff and see the poor naïve tourists buying it, I’ve been unable to resist from calling out, “No! Don’t do it!”
You want the modest stuff – the gelato that is inconspicuously hidden underneath the metal lids to protect its natural beauty is the highest quality. If it doesn’t have the metal lids but it’s still “laying low” in the containers, that’s a good sign.
- What’s hot this season? Or rather, with gelato, what’s cool. Seasonal fruits will offer the best tastes. The other stuff often has artificial flavour in it. Another interesting little tip is that a good gelato should not leave you thirsty. If it does, it’s loaded with sweetener, not so much natural flavour.
- Delicate colours: if the colours are as neon as your scrunchie from your childhood years (if you’re a 80s or 90s kid!), then it’s not the real deal. And I don’t even wanna know what they put in the blue gelato they call “Puffi” (Italian for ‘Smurfs’) to make it that colour, so I’d advise against it, even if the Smurfs give you heart-warming nostalgia. Let’s just say if you see even one flavour like this at a gelateria, you should probably hit the cobblestone in direction of another more satisfying locale!
- Say it with me now, “artiginale” – artisanal gelato. When gelato is an art, they give a what about making it taste like it too. Look for signs that say artiginale to ensure you are truly treating your taste buds.
My Top Gelateria Picks in Florence, Italy:
La Carraia. This one is on the top of my list for a few reasons. The most crucial being, obviously, taste. Me oh my. Try the mango if you’re feelin’ fruity, or one of their specialties like Delizia Carraia which is white chocolate and pistachio. Their After-Eight mint-chocolate flavour is the best of its kind that I’ve had so far, because it’s just the right mix of choco-mint, in my humble opinion. Another great reason to love Carraia is where you find it (the main location): right beside the bridge Ponte della Carraia, hence the name. Once you’ve got your gelato in hand you can cross the street and sit on the bridge for people-watching and a perfect view of my favourite little bridge in the whole wide world: Ponte Vecchio. Or, you can walk along the Arno river to feast your eyes on views of Firenze while you feast on your gelato! Yet another reason La Carraia tops my list: For those who are scrounging for pocket change or setting coins aside especially for such a pleasantry as this, Carraia’s prices can’t be beat. I go for a small cone *most* of the time and it is a very decent sized “small” for just 1.50! Finally, have fun just saying the word “Carraia” trying to sound all sexy-Italian like in your pronunciation 😉
I am determined my next birthday cake will be from Carraia. I typically got a Dairy Queen ice cream cake for birthdays in Canada, so gelato cake from Carraia will be a favourable replacement, I believe! (La Carraia, Piazza Nazario Sauro, 25R and another location near Santa Croce, Via de’Benci 24R)
Gelateria dei Neri. Locals and tourists alike frequent this gelateria, partly for its fabulous location right in between Palazzo Vecchio and Santa Croce, or Ponte Vecchio if you wanna stroll along the Arno with your cono or coppa, and of course because you will find delectable and often interesting selections, like gorgonzola and pear flavour and their ricotta and fig flavour. You’ll find all the classic choices too, with an excellent selection of fruit flavours. You can also find good granite, which is a relative of sorbetto but more coarse and slushy that originates from Sicily. No cones for this one, you definitely need a cup and spoon to eat it. Love me a fresh granita in the summer. At Gelateria dei Neri you can also have…gelato sandwiches. Another Sicilian concept, you can have a brioche (sweet bun) stuffed with your favourite gelato and call it a meal. (Gelateria dei Neri,Via dei Neri 22R)
Edoardo. Now here is one that is right smack dab in the centre of Florence, and I do mean centre, as it sits right under our giant Duomo. You can almost hear a booming, “ciao, buon appetito” as it towers over you while lick your cone to your heart’s content.
So, view – check. Delicious, organic gelato -check. Just allow the sensuous aromas of the cones they make in house to lure you to their doorstep. This is where you can find that fancy wine sorbetto, or you can opt for some of their mouth-watering fruit flavours like strawberry or apricot, or zoom in on the cinnamon which is unique and heavenly. (Gelateria Edoardo, Piazza del Duomo 45R)
Carabé. This is a little one on the northern side of town, just down the street from the Accademia museum. So when you’re done dropping your jaw at the original David’s delights, fill that mouth with sweet gelato treats. Or, you might wanna take a break from the gelato (I know it sounds crazy but trust me) and try the granita. It’s a quaint location run by a Sicilian couple, which naturally means more granite (arguably the best in town). For another different, very sweet treat you could opt for cannoli. Each of these Sicilian sweets and the gelato offers incredibly fresh, southern comfort: you won’t find any preservatives or artificial colorings in it, and they import seasonal ingredients straight from Sicilia on a weekly basis.(Gelateria Carabé, Via Ricasoli 60R)
Badiani. This one is the closest one to my house on the list (insert flashing red “danger” sign here) and also the most expensive on the list (sigh). But, lemme tell ya, it’s worth it. And only slightly above averge price, not absurdly, like that one time (ok two times) I paid 6 euro for the same portion size at the Spanish Steps in Rome. Thankfully it was a superb one there too, and I knew how to enjoy it well enough, just like Aubrey did right there in Roman Holiday.
Back to Badiani. This place has been super famous for a real long time. They produce a flavour that is an ode to the originator of gelato: Buontalenti (remember him from my last post?)
My hubby and I joke, but are serious, when we say “go for the younger ones” because for whatever reason, the older ladies who serve you here just want you to move along, while the younger ones will hook you up with a bigger serving sizes. Hey, we’re payin’ top-euro here, so give us all it’s worth! The only downside for many is the location is slightly outside of the city centre. But it is a place locals flock to frequently, and like I said, it’s close to my house, so please do let me know if you’re there and gelato’s on you 😉 (Badiani, Viale dei Mille, 20R)
Here you have just 5 gelaterie to tickle your tastebuds in Florence. This should keep you busy for a while, but if you are hungry for more suggestions, just ask! There are certainly other gems to be named.
What’s your most favourite gelateria in Florence? Or elsewhere? I will happily do a taste test at those places mentioned! 🙂