So you’re on the road and you find yourself in the culinary capital of the world, Italy. Amidst all the varieties of cappuchino, all the shapes and sauces of pasta, all the whites and reds of wine, what’s missing? Dessert of course! Now Italy produces some fine post dinner delights which you must try, but there is another mainstay of succulent sweetness which is good for dessert or any time of day really, it’s gelato! This ice cream like treat has a long history in Italy and is really the predecessor to most of our frozen desserts today. It’s often cited for its more intense flavor, higher density than ice cream and it’s made more carefully in smaller batches.
Anyone who finds themselves in Rome does not need to look far to see that gelato shops (gelaterias) are ubiquitous. You may just think: “Great, I’m in Rome! All the gelato will be amazing!” While you are correct that there’s probably no such thing as “bad” gelato, not all gelatos are created equal. A guide or directory may be just the remedy for turning a good gelato experience into a great gelato experience. Whether you are a simple dabbler in desserts or totally sweet savvy, a little bit of knowledge goes a long way in navigating the competitive gelato industry of Rome. It’s really all about options: are you looking for great atmosphere, tourist free or an old style gelato parlor? Are portion sizes most important to you? How about varieties? Do you require 15 or 100 flavors to choose from? Perhaps your passion lies in twenty different varieties of chocolate or specialties such as “lemon cheesecake,” “caramel pear” or “kit-kat.” Some shops specialize in organic standards, fair-trade products, sugarless and soy options. Shops vary in style from touristy; to family run; to artesian. Spending your visit time well is about being informed beforehand.
One may be thinking at this point: “Why bother to differentiate between gelato flavors? I’ll just go wherever’s convenient.” That’s fine if your idea of tourism and travel falls into a fast-food, instant gratification category. For those willing to explore and broaden their experiences, the rewards of flavorful, unique, and homemade gelato abound. Plus, you owe it to yourself. You are traveling, how many times in your life will you be able to come back here? Why not plan ahead to have the best possible experience with the short time you have? Yes, this even applies to something as small as a snack or dessert, unlike most food items the price between the absolute best and worst gelato will not ruin anybody’s budget.
To give you an idea of the choices that await, consider Gelateria del Teatro (Via di San Simone, 70 00186 Rome, Italy. Ph.+39 06 4547 4880). This Gelateria is in the heart of the Roman center yet it’s tucked away in a side street, far from crowds. Flavors such as grandmother’s crème and chocolate and mandarin are mouthwatering. They take pride in their natural ingredients and homemade style. Looking for atmosphere? Head down the road to Giolitti’s (Via degli Uffici del Vicario, 40, 00186 Roma, Italy+39 06 699 1243). This is a stylish gelato parlor and candy shop, you feel like you have stepped back in time as you are surrounded by lavish furnishings and are served by tuxedoed waiters. The flavors are impressive as is their variety, 50 flavors in all. If you find yourself around the Vatican Museums check out the award winning Gelateria al Settimo Gelo. (Via Vodice, 21/A 00195 Rome, Italy. Ph. +39 06 372 5567). This is an experience of culinary delight with lip-smacking flavors such as cherry, honey and Saffron Rose water. This establishment has won the Gambero Rosso award for many years now. If you want to learn more about gelato in Rome and you want to make it part of your cultural experience you can check out the directory I have made. It lists 20 unique gelaterias, with descriptions and favorites and an interactive map. It is now available as an iphone app through gpsmycity.com Happy Eating!