Last December my husband and I took off for a (whirlwind) tour of Rome, Venice, Bologna and Florence. And while I wanted my Italian neophyte to get the very most from our trip (I carefully and strategically planned hotels, restaurants, museums, walks) I put practically as much time into plotting our gelato detours. Because while I couldn’t wait to see Italy again through my husband’s eyes — the Pantheon, the David, Piazza San Marco — I also couldn’t wait to eat as much gelato as humanly possible in nine days. Below is a list of the most notable places we visited.
Hailing from Torino, Grom opened in 2003 and offers gelato created from only the best raw ingredients — organic eggs, carefully sourced cocoa, seasonal fruit from their own farm. There are outposts throughout Italy, including in Florence, Rome and Milan. We visited in Bologna and I tried the nocciola (roasted hazelnut) while Eric opted for the cioccolata calda ‘al bacio’ (dense, rich hot chocolate peppered with Piedmont hazelnuts) topped with a little spoon of fresh whipped cream. Both were so good, we tore ourselves away taking comfort in the knowledge they opened in NYC’s West Village in 2007.
This was our favorite gelato in Rome. Giolitti opened around 1900 and after three generations, is still owned by the same family who churns out fresh, creamy gelato from carefully guarded recipes. We sampled the straciettela, nocciola, baci, and cioccolata (in two visits, ok?) and, while they don’t tout their ingredients’ pedigree, the simple and delicious flavors speak for themselves. If it’s good enough for the Obama girls, it’s good enough for us.
Founded in 1993, San Crispino is serious about gelato. Their confection is crafted from strictly the finest, freshest ingredients and they don’t offer the “cono” option, as the owners believe it mars the taste of the gelati. I loved the flawless flavors in my small cup, but the atmosphere is a bit too clinical and cold (even for a gelato shop.) If you’re a gelato purist, this might be the place for you, but if you’re looking for the full Italian gelato experience, see above.
This sweet shop has a prime location in Piazza Navona, so it goes without saying it’s on the pricier side. (But honestly, does your Dairy Queen have a view of Bernini’s Fountain of Four Rivers?) Most people flock to Tre Scalini to try their famous tartufo (a large chocolate gelato truffle) but we opted for the chocolate gelato straight up. It was well worth the inflated price even before taking in to account the scenery.
Hands down, Sorbetteria Castiglione creates the best gelato I’ve ever tasted. Founded in 1994 and located near Bologna’s medieval Porta Castiglione, they serve up fresh, inventive, intense flavors whipped into the perfect creamy consistency. (I sampled Michelangelo — a toasted almond, and Cremino Ludovico, which I’m fairly certain was a hazelnut.) Strong emotions flooded through me as I took my first bite, simultaneously appalled and relieved I didn’t know about this establishment during my junior year abroad in the city. The shop itself has gotten a recent revamp in the form of pale lavender walls and white, airy accents. It’s a lovely setting to enjoy a little taste of Heaven.
Gelatauro opened its doors (directly across the road from my apartment) in 1998 (the same year I moved to Bologna. Coincidence? You decide.) Their mission was to offer gelato handmade in small batches using only the purest ingredients. Word is their hot chocolate and homemade pastries are as carefully crafted and equally delicious, but I could never tear myself away from the gelato long enough to give them a chance. Almost twelve years later, it was as good as I remembered. (Yet not quite as good as Sorbetteria Castiglioni.)