For those unaware, let me state it now to avoid any confusion – gelato and ice cream are not one and the same. Smoother, creamier, richer, ice cream cannot hold a candle to gelato. Why the rest of the world has such a difficult time replicating it, I do not understand, but the fact remains that the best gelato is still found in Italy. It is famous for its gelato. The problem with this is that it has become a money making machine with a gelateria on every corner peddling the same wares, or so they would have the unknowing tourist think. In reality, the quality of the goods, like anything popular, ranges. Is there much of a difference? Well, think of it this way, given the choice, would you rather shop at Walmart or Chanel? It is the same thing … with a much smaller price discrepancy.
If you only have one day in Florence, Gelateria dei Neri is where you should be heading too. Located on a side street close to the Palazzo Vecchio, this is a gelato hotspot. It was crowded every single time I was there. They have a very extensive selection of flavours to choose from and their gelato is smooth and rich. The best flavour? Mint. But I am slightly biased. Mint has been my favourite flavour since I realised when I was about five years old that I liked the colour of strawberry ice cream way more than I actually enjoyed the taste. Neri’s fruits of the forest flavour is also very good, though I wouldn’t recommend combining it with mint …
Perché No! was one of my favourite spots. The flavours are much more subtle tasting which can be a slight drawback especially if like me, you are indecisive and end up with three flavours all melting together. But it is so creamy! My favourite choices? Almond and vanilla.
Vivoli definitely wins the prize for the most unique flavours. After all, how many gelaterias can boast eggnog or mascarpone flavoured gelato? They have the standard flavours as well, but be a little brave! Throw in amaretto or ginger and citrus to your mix of chocolate and vanilla. You might hate it, but don’t knock it until you try it.
Fresh and Fruity
The best gelaterias do not always have the best fruit flavours. Maybe it is because the process for milk-based flavours is mastered differently to fruit based ones. Whatever the logic, if you are keener on passion fruit than you are on chocolate, or if you are just hoping to knock a few calories off by having a fruity gelato, head to Il Gelato di Filo. This was my local gelateria. Just downstairs from my flat, I was a regular. They made their fruit gelatos fresh daily and they tasted unbelievable. It was enough to re-convert me to strawberry. The flavours varied slightly from day to day but they also had melon, banana, watermelon and grapefruit to name a few.
Best Chain Gelateria
If you are a chronic chain goer, Grom is your best bet. Their gelato is reliably very good and 100% natural despite the fact that the gelato mixtures are mass-produced and distributed. Try their specialty Crema di Grom or go for my personal favourite, raspberry.
Top: View of the Duomo from the Palazzo Vecchio
Photograph by Savannah Hayes