I have this thing about ice cream on vacation. I'm not sure why, but it feels like an integral part of the vacation experience to me. I have a ridiculous sweet tooth and love ice cream all the time, but I guess vacation gives me a perfect excuse to indulge repeatedly.
All that to say, when multiple people told me that eating gelato every day in Italy was a requirement...well, I had zero trouble signing on.
Just like with the regular food, I researched gelato to death before we left. First was the matter of how to spot a good gelateria. Several bloggers shared the same types of tips, including:
- Be wary of colors. Banana flavor should be grayish; pistachio should be a dull green-gray. When these flavors are neon-yellow or bright green instead, it's a good indication that the gelato is full of sketchy ingredients and additives.
- Be wary of showy displays. This rule didn't always hold true, but in general, the places with gravity-defying piles of gelato in the display case are probably inferior quality and appealing to tourists. The legit places often keep their gelato in metal tubs with lids.
|Photo credit: Flickr/michellerlee|
|Photo credit: Flickr/echadwick|
The portion sizes are also, unsurprisingly, the opposite of the American way. And while I typically go for multiple large scoops of ice cream (I've always wanted to know: what joker thinks 1/2 cup is an appropriate serving size for ice cream?!?), I enjoyed savoring small cups of gelato like the Italians. They give you these tiny spoons (like the kind used for samples) and itty-bitty cups. The downside of this is that if you want to try 2-3 flavors, as I almost always did, you end up with only a few bites of each. The upside is that you savor it more...and also, you can totally justify stopping for gelato more than once in a day :)
Sadly, I hardly got any photos of our gelato, in spite of the fact that we really did have it every day except one. I was so careful to take pictures of every restaurant and all the courses of all our meals, but I guess I was too excited about eating my gelato to stop and take a picture of it.
A couple of other quick notes: first, this website was really helpful for decoding common flavors. I was surprised to find that almost all the flavors seemed milder or more subtle than I expect from American ice cream. Also, interestingly, the fruit flavors are actually sorbetti, not gelati, because they are made without dairy. Part of me was disappointed with this--I'd never think of ordering sorbet instead of ice cream here at home--but the fruit flavors were SO rich and smooth and delicious that I didn't really miss the dairy.
The gelato we ate...
- Hedera, Borgo Pio 179 - The first authentic-looking (metal tubs with lids) place we found, tucked in a corner of the most charming, Italian-looking side street near Castel Sant'Angelo. So of course it holds a special place in my heart. I can't remember the second flavor I ordered, but stracciatella (similar to chocolate chip) was the first. My first impression was that the flavors--I sampled four or five--didn't knock my socks off.
- Panna & Co, Via Marmorata 115 - We stopped in this Testaccio gelateria for an after-dinner treat on our way across the river. The combination of cioccolato (chocolate) + fragola (strawberry) was spectacular.
- Flor, Piazza Campo de’ Fiori 51 - Some of my very favorite gelato of the trip. The caffe (coffee), fior di latte (literally "flower of milk"--a basic sweet cream), and frutti di bosco ("fruits of the forest"--mixed berry) were all amazing.
- Pompeii - Just so I could get my daily gelato in, we stopped at a little stand on our way out of the ruins, near the train station, for a cone of caramello + caffe.
- Fantasia Gelati, Via Cilea 80, Napoli - Here I discovered this flavor I'm pretty sure they called duplo; it was essentially Nutella in gelato form—the gelato itself wasn't chocolate, or was only a mild chocolate (like chocolate mixed into a cream base), but it had whole hazelnuts and pieces of chocolate. It might have been my very favorite flavor of all the gelato I tried in Italy. I also tried cocco (coconut) for the first time here and loved it. Plus some caffe for Steve--pretty much the only kind he ever wanted. My husband does *not* have a sweet tooth and is decidedly not a gelato fiend, but he sweetly humored me :)
- Covo Dei Saraceni, Via Regina Giovanni 5, Positano - This hotel on the waterfront had a yummy cocco plus a flavor called delizia al limone--lemon with, if I recall correctly, cookie/cake pieces or something in it.
- Vivoli, Via dell’Isola delle Stinche 7/r - After discovering in the Napoli train station that gianduia essentially meant "Nutella" (chocolate hazelnut), I had to try this flavor when I spotted it. Great choice.
- Grom, Via del Campanile 2 - We had been told this was THE gelato to have in Firenze; it did not disappoint. The crema di Grom was not quite what I expected (the cookies were cornmeal-based!), but good. I especially liked the pesca (peach) and lampone (raspberry)--and they were great together. The caffe was very strong and not very sweet, which Steve loved (not my favorite).
- Festival del Gelato, Via del Corso 75 - This one breaks all the rules: crazy displays, neon sign, dozens of flavors--it's definitely not an out-of-the-way place you're going to discover--but it's definitely worth a visit. It had lots more flavors than other places, beyond the Italian classics we'd come to expect. I tried Snickers and strawberry cheesecake, and both were fabulous; I also had a bit of what I thought was going to be like Fantasia's duplo, but it wasn't what I expected.
Ahh...I miss my daily gelato.