Gelato is delicious and I especially love to eat in Italy.
Luckily gelaterias are easy to find — they’re practically on every block — though choosing one that is going to give you the most authentic and delicious Italian experience can be difficult. There are, unfortunately, quite a few places that cater solely to tourists, purchasing their product —which tends to taste more like American ice cream — in bulk from giant wholesales.
Instead I like to find the real deal: A gelateria that makes their gelato fresh daily without artificial colors or flavors — because even though all gelato is good, true Italian gelato is divine.
Here are a few tips to help spot the good stuff:
1. Go for natural colors.
Most mass-produced gelatos add a lot of preservatives to make them last longer, as well as colorants to make them more visually appealing. So even though a bright yellow banana-flavored gelato may look delicious, I’ll wait until I find a gelateria selling the creamy grey stuff made from real bananas that morning.
2. Go for gelaterias that feel local
Gelaterias that have a mom and pop local vibe often make real gelato. I look for gelaterias that have personality, with signs in Italian, and customers that speak Italian. I avoid shops that look corporate, especially when they have multi-lingual signs equating various cold treats as the same: “gelato — ice cream — eis,” et cetera.
3. Go to places that offer only gelato
Walking around in Italy, you’ll see that many gelaterias that are tacked on to all sorts of other businesses: bakeries, cafes, mini markets, souvenir shops, etc. I have yet to find real, great gelato in any of these multi-stop destinations. In the end, great gelaterias tend to focus on what they’re good at: gelato.
4. Go slightly off-site from major attractions
Gelaterias are plentiful in Italy, and especially in high tourist areas. However, I find that most gelaterias in prime real estate by major attractions tend to be of the the mass-produced, shipped-in, commercial variety. They bank on non-Italian tourists not being able to distinguish between the real thing and industrial “gelato.” For those with more discerning tastes (or those who aspire to have more discerning tastes), it’s generally easy to find an authentic Italian gelato experience by wondering slightly off-site from a major attraction. Just walk a street or two away and you may be surprised.
— Laura Rowley