Rome takes pride in its long tradition of artisan gelato, and eating some is a must-do activity. Italian ice cream delivers a mystical experience — when it’s genuine. Often, shrewd salesmen trick unsuspecting tourists with a plethora of flavors and bright colors that mislead palates. So, how can you be sure that what you’re tasting under the blazing summer sun in Campo de’ Fiori is the real treat? Here are some tips to enjoying the authentic dessert while dawdling about the alleys of Rome.
The first clue is pretty straightforward: If the color of your favorite flavor looks like it would shine in the dark, question its authenticity. For example, pistachio should be dark green tending toward olive rather than fluorescent green, mint should be white and cream really can’t be taxi yellow.
Experts also suggest looking at the display. Choose gelato in closed cabinets, as they ensure better preservation. Ice creams oxidize in the air, which is why frothy mountains of gelato, as beautiful as they might look, are hardly genuine.
Last but not least, probably the most important factor, trust your sense of taste. Gelato must be creamy and velvety, without ice crystals in it; otherwise, there’s likely too much water. Moreover, if the ice cream does not have fresh ingredients, you will see that in the end, all flavors will have the same flat taste, instead of a different aroma for each gusto.
Admittedly, while it is easier for the seasoned consumer to spot a tricky display, the inexperienced visitor might fall into the inevitable tourist trap. This is why we have made it simple and drawn a list of some of Rome’s best gelaterie.
After your mandated visit to the Pantheon, you might stop at Giolitti, one of Rome’s most famous ice cream shops. It sells an excellent gelato but, according to locals, is not the best in the market. In the same neighborhood in Piazza della Maddalena near Piazza Navona, give San Crispino a try or, not far in Lucina, sample Ciampini’s delights (29 Piazza San Lorenzo). The dark chocolate and wild berries flavors are amazing.
No trip to Rome is complete without a stroll in Campo de’ Fiori and Trastevere and, fortunately enough, these neighborhoods don’t lack in gelato options. Near Campo de’ Fiori (53 Via dei Giubbonari), there’s GROM, a relatively recent addition to the gelato scene with other shops in the city (30A Via della Maddalena and 3, Via Agonale, among others). The founders use fresh products, constantly changing their flavors according to the season. Among their claims to fame are lemon from Syracuse, pink grapefruit, and almonds coming from Avola.
Heading farther toward Trastevere (25 Lungotevere Vallati, right before the Ponte Garibaldi), stop at Gelateria del Teatro, a small outpost of the bigger and older laboratory-shop (65 Via dei Coronari). Here, try gems such as raspberry and sage; ricotta, fig and almond; lavender and white peach; and Bronte’s pistachio.
Once in Trastevere, don’t miss Fiordiluna (96 Via della Lungaretta) and its delicious gelato made with fresh ingredients such as milk, pistachios and cream and its other specialty, chocolate, in all its variations — orange chocolate, chilli chocolate, chocolate with apricot sauce and more. Ciuri Ciuri, a Sicilian ice cream shop and patisserie (49/B Piazza San Cosimato), is another tasty detour.
If you visit the Vatican, start your well-deserved ice cream tour right in front of the holy walls, where the queue for the Old Bridge gelateria blends with the one for the Vatican Museums.
This is really just the starting point, as the neighborhood near Ottaviano, Prati, hosts a heavenly plethora of ice cream shops that are popular among locals, beginning with excellent Fatamorgana (7 Via G. Bettolo, a side street off of Viale Angelico), whose promise is the total absence of artificial coloring and gluten while trumpeting its rigorous hand-picking process for the ingredients. The result lives up to the most demanding expectations, and the must-try flavors include lobster and vodka; wasabi chocolate; pineapple and ginger; and fennel, honey and licorice.
Venturing farther inside the Prati area, Gelateria dei Gracchi (272 Via dei Gracchi) boasts a great choice of housemade gelato, but be sure to devote a couple of minutes to Gelarmony, a delicious Sicilian gelato shop that, apart from offering both traditional flavors and more daring combinations — walnuts and maple, rum and chestnuts, marsala and raisins and more — allocates a section to soy-based flavors for the lactose intolerant.
While in Prati, head toward Piazza Mazzini for another shop beloved by natives that has served artisan gelato since 1922 — Procopio (27 Via Avezzana). Standout flavors include lemon cream with small wild strawberries, a heavenly dark chocolate, hazelnut made with Piedmont nuts, and a handmade brioche to stuff with gelato in case you don’t fancy a cone or the usual cup.
Still, the most intrepid should venture to Piazzale Milvio, just beyond Ponte Milvio, for a stop at Mondi (468 Via Flaminia), near which you will find another good ice cream shop, Il Pellicano (26 Via Ugo de Carolis), which is particularly popular for its white or black chocolate and hazelnut toppings.
Photos Courtesy of Angela Corrias