Eating gelato (ice cream in Italian), is a year-round pleasure in Italy. On my recent visit to Florence, I frequently indulged myself, and many cones later, I realized that I could tell the difference. I set out on a mission to visit at least ten gelaterias in Florence, and then narrow it down to my favorite five establishments
What’s in Gelato?
The ingredients vary from region to region, but gelato is similar to ice cream, and the main difference is that gelato is denser than ice cream, and has far less butterfat than traditional ice cream. Gelato purists believe that too much butterfat covers up the true flavor of the ingredients. The result is that gelato has fewer calories and the flavors are more intense.
In Italy, gelato is typically displayed behind glass cases, and there are at least twenty-five types of gelato and sorbetti in the typical gelateria. For my research, I stayed with lemon (limone) and strawberry (fragola), and I would order the same flavors every time. My husband on the other hand, would chose random flavors, which I of course, tasted.
The Best Gelateria…
Will have a produzione propria (“home-made”) sign prominently displayed, which means that they make their own gelato from scratch. Also look for gelato artigianale which means the producer follows traditional methods, using the best ingredients.
Avoid shops displaying huge mounds of brightly colored gelato. One flavor that gives away the excessive use of food coloring is the pistachio flavor… this should never have an intense green color, but a soft green, like the inside of an avocado.
My Top Five Recommendations
1. Gelateria Perchè No!
Founded in 1939, they are known for using all-natural ingredients and make specialty items such sugar-free and vegan gelato. My husband ordered one scoop of green tea, along with pistachio; heavenly, he mused. As for me, I found the fragole e limone, absolute perfection: creamy, with tiny bits of fruit, not too sweet, and quite fragrant. Small cone: €1, 00
2. Gelateria La Carraia
Piazza Nazario Sauro, 25 – next to the Ponte Carraia
Their small cone is the others’ medium cone, and only €1, 00. This is a pretty tiny, corner ice cream shop. The gelato here is absolutely wonderful, and the strawberry and lemon flavors are spot on! This place can get quite busy with students…just push your way in!
3. Bar Perseo
Piazza Signoria 16
This place has a restaurant, a café and a gelateria. It faces the famous Piazza Signoria. I visited this place twice because I absolutely loved their limone and fragola, but I was curious about their Tiramisu, which I’m sad to say it was not as good as it looked. A small cone with a generous serving, €2, 00.
These guys are old-timers, since 1930, and use fresh fruits, no additives, real cream, etc. The result is a very creamy and satisfying cone, though, the fragola left me yearning for more flavor. Nevertheless, the limone was outstanding. Small coni: €1, 00.
Everybody raves about GROM, so I walked in the freezing rain to try this famous gelateria. First impression, yes, a beautiful store, but the gelato was inside covered stainless-steel cylinders, and I couldn’t see the gelato, as is the norm.
I ordered my usual fragola, which was spot on, but my limone had a “bitter” after-taste. On another occasion I tried their tangerine and melone. The tangerine also had a “bitter” after taste, and the melone was rather bland.
I humbly disagree with all the rave reviews, and felt that GROM, is not the best gelateria in Florence. Travelers deserve to know that there are better establishments out there!
It was hard work researching the best gelato in town, but someone had to do it! These are my personal favorite gelaterias in Florence, but I’m sure there are many more that deserve to be mentioned, however, I ran out of time.
Of course, this is my opinion, and someone out there will probably disagree with my choices, and that’s fine; after all, taste is a personal thing. Enjoy!