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Tips for Choosing the Best Gelato

Anne Robichaud

On a hot day, nothing satisfies after a day of touring like gelato. Now I want to share with you some very important information: how to choose the best gelato. Seems to me essential information for anyone touring in Italy in the warmer months.

First, head to a gelateria di produzione artigianale, "of artisan production," (i.e., made from scratch) – no other type of gelateria can even be considered. Look to the stainless steels trays of gelato, artistically displayed in sculpted mounds and find the fragola (strawberry); it will always be your litmus paper. You should always see the tiny black seeds of the strawberry - and hopefully, lots of them! What does that tell you?

Gelati artigianali, Bar Gardenia

Gelati artigianali, Bar Gardenia

This gelateria makes its fragola with fresh strawberries, its limone with freshly-squeezed lemon juice and uses juicy peaches in its gelato di pesca, ripe cantaloupes in its melone.

Gelato alla fragola, Bar Gardenia

Gelato alla fragola, Bar Gardenia

No gelato tops that of Sicily - where no serious gelataio would ever use milk when making fruit-flavored gelati. I did gelato-tastings all over during my trip to Sicily - but as always, I did not need to wander far from home: Bar Gardenia in Cardillo, an outlying area of Palermo (once home of husband Pino and still home of most of his family) has been putting out some of the best for 30 years. Logicamente, crushed hazelnuts give the flavor to the nocciola and they use only freshly-brewed espresso coffee in the gelato di caffé - of the best quality. The Sicilians know their coffee.

Gelato al pistacchio, Bar Gardenia

Gelato al pistacchio, Bar Gardenia

...and what pistacchio! The color of the gelato di pistacchio flavor is another cue to the quality of the gelati: it should never be a bright green (indicating artificial flavors used and food colors) but rather the unattractive pea green of the wonderful pistachios of Bronte, Sicily, Italy's best. My ice-cream choice is always un cono di nocciola e pistacchio.

Pino never veers from limone e fragola. What strawberry at Bar Gardenia: I have never seen so many tiny black seeds.

Photos: Gelato and Gelateria

Brivido Gelateria in Siena, San Crispino in Rome, and other shots of gelato and gelateria.

>> Photos of Gelato and Gelateria

>> Palma's Italian Gelato Photos

Recommended Books

Michael McGarry, Gelato: Finding Italy's Best Gelaterias, Fancy Pants Press, 2004

Excellent book listing, by city, the best places for gelato in Italy. Maps for each city show the locations of all the gelateria reviewed.

Order from Amazon

Click to buy from Amazon

Faith Heller Willinger, Eating in Italy: A traveler's guide to the hidden gastronomic pleasures of Northern Italy, Hearst Books, 1989

Even though it is over 20 years old, this book is still worth using. Many of the listings have not changed.

Order from Amazon


Read more of Anne's Articles at On the Land in Umbria.

An Introduction to Gelato

Finding the Gelato in Rome

Slow Travel Italy - Grinisa's Gelato List: Recommendations for Rome, Florence, Venice, and the Island of Lipari.

Slow Travel Italy - Restaurant Reviews: Recommendations for gelato places are included by region.

Discuss this article

Anne Robichaud lives near Assisi and gives lectures and tours. www.annesitaly.com

© Anne Robichaud, 2012. Do not republish without permission.

This essay was first published on Anne's website www.annesitaly.com. Edited by Slow Travel.

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