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 if you want your up to date gelato fix in Rome, you might want to bookmark it and check it periodically!
In this post you will find:
- Quick facts about gelato: what is it, why gelato is not the same as ice-cream, how to order it
- Tried and tested addresses Roman guarantee will give you the best and most authentic gelato experience
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 indistinguishable 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 has 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).
When ordering gelato in Italy, we are usually asked to specify which one you like and what size. If you want to give a shot at ordering in Italian, these are your go-to sentences:
‘Una coppetta piccola per favore’ = a small cup please (or media= medium or grande=big)
‘Un cono piccolo per favore’ = a small cone please (or media= medium or grande=big)
A quick linguistic note: if you listen to Italians ordering, you may notice a distinctive lack of the use of ‘per favore’ (=please). To non-Italian speakers, this may sound like rudeness, but it is not always the case: unlike English, rather than adding ‘please’ to an otherwise normal sentence, Italian phrase a polite request differently, using a different verbal mode and voice inflection. If you do not speak Italian and do not master these more subtle nuances of the language, do always add ‘per favore’ at the end of your request.
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.
Il gelato di Claudio Torce’: located in Viale Aventino, this gelateria offers a great variety of flavours and made a name for itself with some peculiar creations like cream of pepper and basil. Personally, I prefer their ‘standard’ flavours and have a soft spot for their zabajone selection and chocolate creams
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.
Fata Morgana: this gelateria originally made a name for itself for its unsual flavours but has quickly become a household name in the capital. The best ones to try and blueberry cheescake and spicy stracciatella – you need a bit of a taste for foodie adventures but the risk is worth it!
Gelateria dell’angeletto: this is a gelateria I only heard about recently and that came under my radar as it offers gluten free and vegan frendly flavours. I am told the owner used to work at gelateria dei gracchi and brings that expertise to this new venture. I haven’t tasted this gelato yet, but I’ll be in Rome over Christmas and you can be sure I will come back with a full report!
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?
Please note: this article is unsolicited and unbiased and I received no compensation for it. I inlcuded addresses and estabslishments that tradition, friends and family consider among the best in Rome and that are my go-to places when in Rome.
Going to Rome soon? Pin this post to have these addresses with you!