One of the world’s favorite desserts, ice cream, or gelato, as the Italians call it, is a must try on your trip to Rome. With more flavors than there are days in the month, Italy’s most beloved dessert is versatile, light and pretty much addictive. Because we all need a good Italian gelato after an hour long happy Rome tour. Our feet hurt, the sun is at its highest and hottest peak, the city is packed with frantic Romans, parking, honking, cursing and curiously observing groups of terribly slow tourists in search of beauty and comfort. This is when a gelato is most needed. The Roman summer will offer a prime opportunity to sample the limitless flavor combinations at the gelaterias scattered across the city. Got your spoon? OK, let’s get this show on the road…
What is Gelato?
Well, it’s the Italian version of ice cream. It’s made from basically the same ingredients but contains lower levels of sugar and butterfat. It’s prepared in small batches with less air incorporated into the mix than in American ice cream, which gives it a stronger flavor. It’s sugar and water content are precisely balanced to act as an anti-freeze, so it’s served cold but not completely frozen. Since its peak flavor only lasts for a few days, it’s traditionally made right there on the spot. Italy has spent the last three centuries cultivating this art. Now it’s home to one of the tastiest desserts on the planet. Italy’s love story with ice cream began long ago. Story goes, that ice cream was first made in Sicily and ancient Rome using snow mixed with fruit syrups. Perfected by generations of ice cream makers, today it rivals pizza and pasta as Italy’s top cultural exports. No wonder that, with a tradition spanning millennia, Italy is the only country in the world where the market is dominated by artisanal ice cream.
So, walk up to the cashier and ask for a cono (cone) or coppa (cup). They come in piccolo (small), medio (medium), and grande (large). And here we go, it’s time to choose your flavors: This summer, we picked what for us are the best 10 artisanal ice creams in Rome to help you find your favorite(s).
Rome’s Best 10 Ice Creams Flavors — The Summer 2016 Edition
In Rome, ice cream is a must-try on hot summer afternoons, in mild spring weather, those rare cloudy-sky days, or just about whenever you get the craving for that creamy, dreamy dessert in a cone. Here are our 10 suggestions.
10. Zabaione and coffee mousse. One of the classic Italian deserts, this egg-based cream is made in combination with a sweet wine. When turned into gelato, it comes out creamy and full of subtle flavor. In combination with the velvety coffee mousse, it packs a punch and can perk you up in a second. Try it at Gelateria Mondello (Piazza Regina Margherita 2). This gelateria is 100% vegan!
9. Chestnuts and pistachio. It is known that a good pistachio ice cream should not be bright green, a sign that chlorophyll was used for the coloring. Then, it should remind one of roasted pistachio and not of almonds. Try this all-Italian combination at Ciampini (Piazza S. Lorenzo in Lucina 29), a gelateria based in Rome’s historic centre that uses organic milk and eggs and has been in business for four generations.
8. Strawberry and forest fruit. The first fruit-based ice cream in our top 10 comes in a refreshing pink blend of sweet and tangy notes. We found the best version of this classic gelato flavor at Tony (Largo Missiroli 15), where we also stumbled upon some other delicacies, such as the “spaghetti”, a cup of ice cream served in the shape of the classic Italian pasta in a thin, crispy waffle, and the “bocconcini di gelato,” the cheeky frozen treat that looks like bonbons on a stick.
7. Chocolate and fig. With their mild taste and peaks of sweet and tangy notes, Italian figs provide great company to the creamiest of chocolates. You can find this sumptuous combo at Fior di Luna (Via della Lungaretta 96), in the lively neighborhood of Trastevere.
6. Lemon – with IGP lemons from Amalfi. This refined and exotic ice cream flavor will give you a taste of the south in the middle of Rome. With a high content of Vitamin C, grown on the sunny Amalfi coast, IGP lemons are the queen of lemons. Try this delicate but distinct flavor at Il Gelato di San Crispino (Via della Panetteria 42), in the historic centre.
5. Chocolate al Rosmarino This scrumptious dessert combines the flavors of chocolate rosmary. and you can find at the amazing Punto Gelato in Rome, by Campo de Fiori. Nothing else, just try it!
4. Wild strawberry. In late spring and beginning summer, Italian hills get covered in small fragrant strawberries of the wild variety. A seasonal, gourmet flavor, wild strawberry make one of the most delicate ice creams you will come across. Served with a dollop of homemade whipped cream, it’s nothing short of heaven in a cone. If visiting Rome during wild strawberry season, you fill find it at Gelateria de Gracchi (Via dei Gracchi 272), which offers year-round vegan, fruit-based ice creams.
And Our Top Three Is …
3. Pistachio and sweet Sicilian panna. The creamy but robust pistachio ice cream meets the velvety whipped cream Sicilian style for a marriage made in ice cream heaven. You can find it at Gelateria I Caruso (Via Collina 13).
2. Ricotta and caramelized figs. The key to this exquisite combo is contrast. The mild taste of the fine Italian cream cheese serves as a canvas for the flavorsome caramelized figs, becoming a true delicacy. We found it at Gelateria Romana (Via Cola di Rienzo 2).
1. Gelato alla manna. This typically Sicilian flavor has a very original taste and an equally exotic provenance. Manna, the lymph of Fraxinus ornus, a variety of ash tree, is extracted in the Sicilian provinces of Pollina and Castelbuono. When turned into ice cream, the result is nothing short of heavenly. Find our absolute favorite version at Gelateria Alberto Pica (Via della Seggiola 12).
Did you discover other flavors on your trip to Rome that we should know about? Send us your suggestions for the best artisanal ice creams in Rome, the 2017 edition!