I ate a lot of gelato in Italy. Like, a lot. I was averaging around four scoops per day, and I went out of my way on several occasions to seek out the gelaterias I had flagged on Google Maps. (I did my research beforehand – ain’t nobody got time for mediocre gelato.)
Honestly, I don’t even like ice cream. Fresh Italian gelato on the other hand? I could literally eat it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
In total, I managed to hit up 14 gelaterias between Rome, Florence, and Venice, and I generally tried two or three flavours at each establishment. I’m no gelato expert by any means, but with my extensive research (seriously, is reading food reviews a job yet?) and discerning taste buds, I can confidently say these are a few of the best places to try gelato in Rome, Florence, and Venice.
Steer clear of fake gelato
Are pistachios florescent green? Are mint leaves teal? No. They’re not. And yet people travel all the way to Italy and pay money to eat “pistachio” gelato that’s the same shade as Yoshi. Dear god, WHY?
To ensure you’re only eating the good stuff, stay away from any gelateria that has mounds of fluffy gelato piled high in the display freezer. Fresh, handmade gelato melts quickly, so it will be closer to the rim of the bin or covered completely with a lid. Also, always look at the colours. You shouldn’t see any bright, fluorescent shades. Subtle, muted colours signify natural ingredients. Banana is always a good marker – it should be a pale, greyish colour rather than bright yellow.
My favourite gelaterias, in order of deliciousness
I Caruso’s artisanal gelato is made on-site and they offer classic flavours like fior di panna (made from sweetened pure cream and nothing else), which is a surefire way to recognize a high-quality gelateria. I tried the fior di panna out of curiosity, which was actually pretty good, despite its subtle flavour. Their cioccolato extrafondente (extra dark chocolate) gelato is the reason I Caruso is first on this list – it’s incredibly decadent and intensely rich.
Flavours I tried: cream, extra dark chocolate
Address: Via Collina, 13, 00187
Smooth and velvety, the texture is what I love most about Ciampini gelato. Their traditional handmade recipe uses only organic milk and eggs and natural ingredients. All three flavours I tried here were fantastic, but the standout was marron glacés, chestnut flavour with pieces of chewy, candied chestnut throughout.
Flavours I tried: coffee, lemon, chestnut
Address: Piazza di S. Lorenzo in Lucina, 29, 00186
This family-run gelateria serves freshly made gelato brimming with quality, natural ingredients. The flavours definitely reflect the freshness – I had dark chocolate and croccante della nonna caramel (caramel cream with candied almonds and pine nuts), both of which were heavenly, although the latter was a bit too sweet for my liking.
Flavours I tried: dark chocolate, caramel cream with almonds and candied pine nuts
Address: Multiple locations
Fatamorgana has an extensive range of flavours to choose from, including some wacky and unique ones, like Chocolate Kentucky (chocolate with tobacco and cinnamon). Naturally, the most outlandish gelato flavour I tried was from Fatamorgana: black garlic and white chocolate. The first bite was a bit strange, but the more I ate, the more I loved it. It had a savoury, umami quality with a hint of sweetness. Definitely an unexpected and pleasant surprise. The basil, walnut, and honey is also delicious and refreshing.
Flavours I tried: black garlic and white chocolate, basil, walnut, and honey, baklava
Address: Multiple locations
My first stop in Florence was La Carraia, a gelateria that, according to my Airbnb host, serves the best gelato in the city. I’d have to agree – their gelato is ultra-creamy and flavourful, made with fresh, seasonal ingredients. Both the creme caramel and panna cotta flavours were divine, but you really can’t go wrong here.
Flavours I tried: creme caramel, panna cotta
Address: Piazza Nazario Sauro, 25/r, 50124
Gelateria dei Neri
Gelateria dei Neri is on par with La Carraia in terms of quality in texture. Situated near the Uffizi Gallery, they offer tantalizing flavours like chili and chocolate and gorgonzola. Plus, you can get a gelato sandwich, served on a brioche bun. The standout for me here was the creamy ricotta with sweet, syrupy figs.
Flavours I tried: ricotta and fig, dark chocolate, coconut
Address: Via dei Neri, 9/11, 50122
Established in 1929, Vivoli is one of the oldest and most well-known gelaterias in Florence. Beyond traditional flavours like stracciatella and limone, you’ll find more creative concoctions, such as caramel and pear sorbet. I tried the exquisitely smooth and nutty chocolate hazelnut, and riso (rice), which had a subtly sweet rice pudding-like flavour.
Flavours I tried: rice, chocolate hazelnut
Address: Via dell’Isola delle Stinche, 7/r, 50122
Gelateria di Natura
Tucked down a small, impossibly picturesque street in Santa Croce, Gelateria di Natura is easy to miss. I spent a while circling the area, trying to follow Google Maps’ erratic directions, but it was well worth the hassle. Their dark chocolate gelato is life-changing; it’s so rich and so dense, I felt like I was eating a slice of chocolate cake. If you’re a chocolate lover, don’t overlook this place.
Flavours I tried: dark chocolate, walnut and fig, dulce de leche
Address: Santa Croce, 1628, 30135
San Crispino (Rome)
San Crispino has gourmet, high-quality gelato – you won’t find any preservatives or artificial colouring here. However, they’re one of the priciest gelaterias I visited, and I found the texture to be lacking in the creaminess department. That said, the flavours are incredibly fresh and their caramel meringue gelato is out of this world. The rich flavour, the contrasting textures, the crispy meringue pieces throughout – it was phenomenal.
Flavours I tried: caramel meringue, ginger and cinnamon
Address: Via della Panetteria, 42, 00187
Santa Trinita (Florence)
Santa Trinita is an honourable mention because they have a unique flavour that I didn’t see anywhere else: black sesame (and I’m obsessed with anything black sesame flavoured). Their gelato is very good, but I can’t understand why many people leave reviews saying it’s the best gelato they’ve ever had. Like I said, it’s good, but I think La Carraia, Gelateria dei Neri, and Vivoli are all superior.
Flavours I tried: black sesame, passionfruit
Address: Piazza Dei Frescobaldi, 8/red, 50125
This is another gelateria that has rave reviews on Yelp and Foursquare, but I didn’t find it particularly memorable for whatever reason. Their gelato is delicious, but it definitely wasn’t my favourite. I think visiting Gelateria di Natura first set the bar too high.
Flavours I tried: yogurt with passionfruit, Madagascan vanilla
Address: Calle della Bissa, 5453, 30124 San Marco
My top picks
I couldn’t possibly just choose one, but I managed to narrow my favourites down to a five-way tie between I Caruso and Ciampini (Rome); La Carraia and Gelateria dei Neri (Florence); and Gelateria di Natura (Venice). If you have limited time in these cities, prioritize these places.
Do you have any must-visit gelateria recommendations?
What’s your favourite gelato flavour, and where did you have it?