Gelato in Italy - What is Gelato, Anyway?


iwishmynamewasmarsha/Via Flickr

I was in Italy on tour last week. It rained in Florence, was cloudy in Assisi, cloudy and rainy in Rome and we didn’t get real sunshine until Pompeii and Capri. Now, why am I giving you last week’s weather report (which is probably not the most use, although undeniably accurate)? The thing is, whatever the climatic condition, my group was undeterred in their attempts to seek out the finest gelato. Many groups are now making their way to Italy for summer tours and a visit to a local gelateria is unavoidable.

Gelato is just ice cream but said in foreign, right? Not exactly. It is different from the ice cream you might be used to from your local store or parlor. The technical differences can easily be discovered online. Ice cream legally has a minimum of 10% fat; gelato is made with a greater proportion of whole milk to cream, so it contains more like 5-7% fat. Gelato is mixed at a slower speed than ice cream; this makes it denser because not as much air is whipped into the mixture. Finally, while ice cream is normally served frozen, gelato is stored and served at a slightly warmer temperature, so it’s not quite completely frozen. Let’s not forget the context either; gelato tends to taste better because you are eating it somewhere in Italy.


Phil Wiffen/Via Flickr

Where to get your gelato is also something to be considered. First time visitors tend to bundle into the first place they see with tubs on display, but follow the advice of your EF Tour Director, we know a good spot from a bad one, it does make a difference. If you were to ask me I would say Giolitti (near the Pantheon in Rome) is always worth a visit, while Vivoli (near Sante Croce) in Florence is a super spot – they only sell the flavors they have made that day. Once settled on location, eye up the flavors on display, this can be anything from around a dozen to over 50. Generally sorted in type, you will have the fruit flavours together, the nut based ones together, the chocolate based ones together and the blue one – in larger stores there is always a blue one. Never sure what it is, but it is very blue indeed. Sometimes it’s called Puffo (which means ‘smurf’ in Italian and you can, naturally, follow it on Facebook).

Once you have chosen, go to the register and pay (this is where you choose your weapon – cup or cone) and then go back to the counter, give them the receipt and tell them the flavors you would like. Generally, two or three flavors together is considered acceptable behavior. Slightly odd if you only choose one, but if you are a great fan of one particular flavor then show your belief in its over-riding quality and accept no partner in your cup or cone. Be brave!

It really is as easy as that. There is no specific gelato time of day, you’re on vacation, dive in early or late, make the most of it.

Have you had gelato in Italy? What international foods do you wish you could enjoy time and time again?

(Editor’s note: Add Paul on Google+ If you have a question about for EF Tour Director Paul Mattesini, or an idea for a blog post topic, you can email Paul here, and he will answer readers’ questions in future blog posts.)
Topics: Food, Florence, Italy, Rome

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