Although I'm well into adulthood now, I don't think I've ever actually eaten frozen desserts instead of my daily meals, but on our recent trip to Rome, I did have gelato instead of a meal at least twice! My excuse was that it was so incredibly hot that I needed the frozen treat to cool me down and keep me hydrated! Haha! Wait, why did I need an excuse? I'm an adult! Bring on the gelato!
Before heading to Italy, I think I've had gelato a whopping total of three times in my life. I was too busy eating ice cream...or sherbet/sorbet, if I wanted something "different" from the frozen desserts menu. So, what makes gelato different? Check out this helpful infographic for more info on the differences between gelato and other frozen scoopables.
When I tell you that there are gelaterias everywhere in Rome, I'm not exaggerating. They're EVERYWHERE. So it was easy to indulge in gelato pretty much from the moment we stepped outside of our hotel until we turned in for the night. (Really, did I need another reason to love Rome?)
We always stuck to the medium size (not sure why) and generally, a medium gelato ran us between 2.50 to 4 Euros. I love that the price was relatively the same, but the quantity and quality definitely varied!
When ordering gelato, you can actually choose more than one flavour for your "scoop" (unlike the ice cream stores here in Canada), and some places will also dollop some nice fresh cream on top of your gelato.
The first gelato we had in Rome was from the Blue Ice chain of gelaterias. Not exactly what you would call "high-end" gelato...but we were walking by and they were very "not-intimidating". This is one of those places where they stick "examples" of the ingredient on top of the gelato so that you can visually see what flavour you may be getting. Since this was our first taste of Italian gelato, it tasted fine to our yet-uneducated taste buds. I had Limone (I had already decided before our trip that my first gelato would be lemon-flavoured) while Paul opted for the ever-popular Pistachio flavour.
After this first introduction to run-of-the-mill gelato, our second scoops were from I Caruso Gelateria. We walked quite far from our hotel for this, but as soon as we heard about this place we knew we had to visit it no matter what (I mean, Caruso)! What a difference! This is the real deal - ral artisan gelato. There's a guy in the shop window MAKING GELATO! And the flavours are listed up on a board. If you look down, there are no colourful flavours or ingredient clues - in fact, the gelato is all covered up with lids. Since the ingredient board was in Italian and the server didn't speak any English, we were on our own.
I opted for Caffe while Paul tried the Amaretto (two words we actually recognized). The gelato was sooooo good. We sat outside the gelateria and after we finished, we went back in for a second scoop. Mine was Ananas (Pineapple), while Paul had Fior de Panna (a vanilla cream). Out of the four, the pineapple really wowed us. In fact, I think it was our favourite gelato of the entire trip (although I did try a close second later on at San Crispino). The pineapple flavour was incredibly fresh and the gelato was smooth and creamy. We would have headed back here again during the trip if it wasn't so darn far from our hotel!
After reading some reviews online, we had two more gelato shops we wanted to check out - Giolitti (said to be the oldest gelateria in Rome) and San Crispino. Both of these are generally at the top of any "Best Gelato in Rome" lists we found, both online and in guidebooks.
We hit Giolitti first. It was chaos. You lined up to pay for your gelato and after you got your receipt, you crammed into the crowd at the counter, trying to catch the eye of one of the servers, who would take your ticket and scoop your choices. We had read about this procedure in our guidebooks, but this was the only gelato shop we encountered that actually did things this way.
Only one mistake marred our first trip to Giolitti - the server was a little too quick for us and we ended up with cones, rather than cups. Now, on the plus side, you actually get WAY more gelato if you opt for the cone option (in fact, this was the largest medium serving out of all the places we tried, even compared to the Giolitti medium cup scoops), but on the downside - in the August heat, the gelato was melting WAY faster than we could consume it, which meant we ended up with gelato on our faces and all over our hands. I don't think I've ever made such a mess eating an ice cream, not even when I was three!
Paul went with an alcohol theme and got Limoncello and Bailey's Irish Cream while I had Nutella and Riso (rice). Paul really enjoyed the Limoncello, while I preferred the Riso (imagine an extremely cold, creamy rice pudding). The Nutella seemed like a cool idea, but it was too thick. Since I had to eat it so quickly, it got everywhere and was very...globby (for lack of a better word).
The next stop on our gelato parade was San Crispino. This place was very quiet and unassuming - you can easily miss it compared to the huge Giolitti. You definitely get a lot less gelato at this place (easy for us to compare since we always got medium cups) but they pack it very prettily.
Paul got Limone and Rum Cocoa, while I had the amazing combination of Blackcurrant and Vanilla with Chocolate and Meringue. The Blackcurrant tasted as if someone had taken fresh berries, crushed them and added a touch of creaminess. It was so amazing! And the Vanilla with Chocolate and Meringue? Imagine a light vanilla gelato, with small chunks of chocolate and bits of chewy meringue swirled in. I love meringue!
One last stop at Giolitti before we left Rome meant one last chance for awesome gelato. Paul went with Pinapple and Coconut (pina colada gelato, anyone?), while I had Melon (melon) and Marron Glace. I also wanted to try Pamploma Rose (pink grapefruit) but I had read that Pope John Paul II had Marron Glace from Giolitti delivered to the Vatican regularly, so I needed to try it out for myself. Not a fan. Marron Glace is a French confection that's basically a chestnut that has been candied in sugar and syrup. This gelato is kind of like eating creamy chestnut. Again, not a fan. I should have gone with the pink grapefruit.
Now that I'm back in Canada, I'm on the hunt for an affordable, close-to-home gelateria...but haven't had much luck. I think that my daily gelato cravings are getting so bad that I'll soon be churning out some gelato in my kitchen!
Other posts about my trip to Rome: