Whenever I'm fortunate enough to visit Italy, my foodie instincts ensure that I research the top gelato shops well in advance. But, once I arrive, I am overwhelmed by the millions of choices – first trying to choose where to go, and then  the difficult decision about which flavor to get. How do you know the difference between decent gelato, good gelato, and great gelato? Well, here’s a your guide to satisfy your summer cravings with Italian gelato.

Gelato vs. Ice Cream

The million-dollar question that everyone asks is, “What’s the difference between gelato and ice cream?” Or more specifically, "Why is gelato so much better than ice cream?" Gelato is made with the same custard base as ice cream (milk, cream, sugar, and egg yolks), but it has a higher proportion of milk and a lower proportion of cream and eggs. It is churned more slowly than ice cream is, making it luxuriously dense and silky. Gelato also has a lower percentage of fat and sugar than ice cream (so it's healthy, right??).

Real or fake?

Sara Wetzler

We've all seen those shops with mountains of gelato displayed in storefront windows. But truthfully, that’s fake gelato – not your top choice if you’re looking for a truly delicious treat. Real gelato is made with quality authentic ingredients, giving it that bona fide edge. Learn to spot the difference between genuine and imposter gelato: Make sure the gelato is stored in flat metal tins that may even have lids on them; this demonstrates that it is stored at the proper temperature. The denser consistency of gelato compared to ice cream is more suited to flat, metal “spades” rather than normal, curved ice cream scoops. This denser texture also means that real gelato cannot be piled too high. Additionally, look at the coloring of the gelato. High quality gelato has a high proportion of natural ingredients, which means that no (or very little) added coloring is allowed. Although they're brilliant eye-candy, vibrant, shocking colors may not indicate authentic gelato.

#SpoonTip: Find stores with neutral-colored or simple displays. The less flashy, the better.

The Flavors

cake, chocolate, pizza, candy, feast
Emily Palmer

Honestly, if you’re getting real gelato in Italy, you can’t really go wrong with any flavor. It's always a great idea to order flavors in season. I usually ask to taste unique, interesting creations, but I often end up sticking with my tried-and-true pistachio and hazelnut (nocciola). The other classics are obviously vanilla (vaniglia) and chocolate (cioccolato), as well as stracciatella, yogurt, Nutella, tiramisu, coffee, and amarena. The fruit flavors are also delicious and most shops have a plethora of options from which to choose.

#SpoonTip: Don’t be afraid to ask to try a bunch of flavors, especially the odd-ball ones. The more opportunities to taste gelato, the better.


Sara Wetzler

Some of the best places to get gelato in Italy are: Giolitti (Rome), Venchi (throughout Italy and even some cities in the U.S.), Vivoli (Florence), Grom (throughout Italy and many other countries), Amorino (throughout Italy and many other countries as well), Gelati del Bondi (Florence), Gelateria dei Neri (Florence), Perche No! (Florence), and Frigidarium (Rome). Check out this article for more places to get your Italian gelato fix.

Now, go enjoy some Italian gelato!