This is a post I originally write last spring, after my last trip to Rome. It’s had a huge success so now I come back to it with some updates so you can be sure these are still the addressed for the best gelato in Rome. I am planning to update this list every time I go to the Eternal city, so please come back often 😉
Let me start by telling you some interesting gelato-facts (if you are interested in the list only, just scroll down).
Gelato is one of the things you MUST try in Italy and andare a prendere un gelato (lit. To go and get an ice cream) is one of the activities that make summer days in Italy so special. Gelato is one of those things that just unites people: all ages enjoy it, from the little kids to the teenagers on first dates to workers on their lunch break and if you want to do good people watching, there is no better place than a gelateria (=gelato shop)!
Gelato vs ice-cream
When I studied English, I was taught that the English word for gelato is ‘ice-cream’ and surely enough this word served me well for many years. But I recently discovered that actually gelato and ice cream are two different things: it turns out that and the ‘proper’ word for what I grow up calling just gelato is actually ‘gelato artigianale‘ (Italian gelato in English) while ice-cream is the word used to describe the industrial variety of it. English speakers, sorry if you already know this: it was surely news to me!
When I first read this, I was sceptical. Is this difference real, I thought, or is it just us Italians again, making a fuss over ‘proper’ food and trying to distinguish undistinguishable things? My taste buds seemed to tell me the difference is real: but what did science say?
As it happens, my taste buds were right. So, what is the difference between gelato and ice cream? Without getting too technical, I understood that the difference comes down to this:
Gelato is made with fresh ingredients and it is prepared for almost immediate consumption. It is prepared following artisan techniques, in the same gelaterie where you buy it and eat it and it is stored in vaschette at low temperature.
It is made in machines that churn it slowly and this means it incorporates little air, giving it that smooth, velvety texture that makes it so special. Depending on the taste chosen, gelato might contain (pasteurised) eggs.
On the other hand, industrial ice cream is prepared in bulk, in machines that churn it very quickly and, therefore, make the mixture incorporate a lot more air. It is chilled at a much lower temperature that gelato and it’s meant to last very long, since it needs to be distributed from factory to shops and then to clients. Compared with gelato, it’s icier and ahas a higher cream (=fat) content.
To the consumer, the important differences are these: gelato is smoother, velvetier, with a lower fat content and the available flavours change with the season, as they depend on the availability of fresh ingredients. Also, gelato melts way more quickly that industrial ice cream.
How to eat gelato like an Italian
When you go to a gelateria, you are faced with the choice between cono (cone) or coppetta (little cup): the smallest size usually allows for two flavours and you are normally offered to add ‘panna’ (whipped cream).
But if you were to test and taste the difference for yourself, where can you find the best gelato in Rome? Here are my favourite addresses:
The best gelato in Rome, addresses
Gelateria dei Gracchi: this is my local and my absolute favourite. Le creme (the non-fruit-based flavours) are my favourite taste of all, with a choice that goes form orange flavoured chocolate, to zabaione, to tiramisu to almond. They have three gelaterie I know of: the eponymous Via dei Gracchi, Viale Regina Margherita and Via di Ripetta, all excellent.
San Crispino: for many years, this was THE place for gelato in Rome. The taste of their gelato is indeed amazing and you can just tell the freshness of the ingredients. For many years, they only served gelato in coppetta (I loved it as I have a petty hatred for cono, that no one else understands), but I hear they have added coni now, making the place even more popular that it was. They have 3 shops I know of: Piazza della Maddalena 3, Via Acaia 56, Via della Panetteria 42 (near the Trevi Fountain)
Geateria del teatro: this is another one I love and one that I think everybody should go to also because of its stunning location in Piazza del teatro. I had a coppetta there during my last trip to Rome and I was delighted to discover it was one of the stops on the wonderful coffee and gelato tour I had joined (review to come soon)
Come il latte: When I originally write this post, I didn’t know this gelateria personally and had included its name on the basis of recommendations from other. Now I have tried it and I am very happy to add it here as one I can vouch for personally. It’s in via Silvio Spaventa 24, near the centre, and I liked it so much I wrote a full review about it! Find it here.
These are my favourite places, but Rome is full of gorgeous gelaterie and if you really are a gelato lover you could even take a gelato tour of Rome! You don’t believe me? Read here!
Do you love gelato and ice cream? What’s you favourite flavour?