How to Find True Italian Gelato in Italy (Hint: All Gelato is NOT Created Equal)

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Gelato and I have a love / hate relationship. Generally I love it, but I have a real deep hatred for bad gelato masquerading as delicious. Lucky for me, I have fine tuned my gelato hunting skills and getting tricked by bad gelato is mostly a thing of the past. However, being in Florence, a major tourist city, I still see visitors choosing less than stellar gelato, every. single. day. Not everyone realizes this but, all gelato is NOT created equal (would be kind of like saying McDonalds is representative of all American cooking)! So, if you’re going to Italy and want to experience only the best, most authentic gelato, this article will help you truly experience this Italian tradition. Then, if you happen to be in Florence (or heading there) read on for my top 3 gelato shops!

OK gelato snob, so what makes gelato good or bad?

  1. Artigianale. This word means “craft,” “artisan,” “homemade,” or “handmade” and these are all adjectives you want when describing your gelato joint. Do not settle for anything mass produced. If it doesn’t say “homemade” or “artigianale” right in the window, it’s not for you.
  2. Watch the displays. If your gelato store has heaps of ice cream piled up high, in strange unnatural colors, decorated by large pieces of fruit, steer clear. 99% of the time, this is commercially made in a factory somewhere.
  3. Seasonality. Run away if they sell things that aren’t in season. A TRUE artisan gelato shop makes gelato fresh and with seasonal ingredients. For example, you won’t find “cocomero” (watermelon) in the winter, or “cachi” (persimmon) in the summer. (*Disclaimer – sometimes good shops still sell out of season flavors if they are super popular, like “fragola” (strawberry), but it would still be made from frozen fruit…which is still not ideal. Try to order in season flavors for the best results at shops like this. And if you see a TON of out of season flavors, that’s not a good sign.)
  4. A rotating menu. Just like the above, seasonality is good but so is an artisan who likes to mix it up. If you notice the menu changing, that’s usually a good thing.

All that said, it can be hard to visualize what I mean, so take a look at the two photos below:

BAD gelato! See how it meets all my don’t criteria above? To be avoided if you’re looking for real Italian gelato, this is mass produced. Photo cred: Stan theCaddy/Flickr
GOOD gelato! Tucked away, out of sight, waiting to be scooped and enjoyed. THIS is what you’re looking for! Photo cred: Angelica Lopez

Curious where I go when I’m craving this Italian staple? My favorite gelato shops in Firenze are:

3. Gelateria dei NeriVia dei Neri, 9/11 – Third place, it’s a bit commercial (they have out of season flavors) but still good and produced in house. They have interesting flavors too like mexican chocolate (it’s spicy!).

2. Gelateria della PasseraVia Toscanella, 15/red– Tiny servings but super seasonal, rotating menu that is amazing every time. I love their “susino” (plum) and “mojito” flavors!

1. Gelateria da AngeloBorgo S. Jacopo, 25/R – First place and hands down best gelato in Florence. Artisan 100%, remarkable flavors, unique combinations. In the winter (when normally I don’t want gelato, I’m so cold already) they have warm your soul flavors like “cannella e miele” (cinnamon and honey) or salted caramel.

Buon appetito!


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