A Little Mash Up … It’s Always Gelato-O’Clock in Italy

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For no particular reason my mind wandered toward Italian gelato earlier this week, (not an abnormal occurrence in Shannon-land) and as I sat there day-dreaming pangs of nostalgia for Italian ice-cream surfaced and I thought, you know what, I need take this  gelato love-fest out of my head and share it with you.

A case full of pretty gelato flavors in Florence, Italy.
A case full of pretty gelato flavors in Florence, Italy are all marked and ready to be bought or sampled!

So without further ado, let’s journey through a wee bit of a gelato montage with some Italy and ice-cream facts interspersed for good measure (and if you’ve ever seen the highly inappropriate movie Team America then you can sing the montage song in your head too…which is what I was doing when I wrote this post).

gelato at Cinque Terre, Italy
A well deserved pit-stop in Vernazza for gelato after several hours hiking through Cinque Terre, Italy.

Italy ranks as one of my favorite developed-world countries and it really comes down to the eating experiences. In fact, if you ask me, each person reading this should do their stomach a favor and put Italy on the bucket list because the country was made for foodies of all sorts (not just ice-cream-loving-fiends).

wine glass and bread
Wine, bread, and fresh olive oil on a wine tasting in Florence, Italy.

Meals in the country are filled with fresh pastas, fragrant sauces, garnished with lightly steamed vegetables retaining just the perfect amount of crunch. Then you compliment your delicious meal with a sweet and fruity local wine shipped in from the countryside not more than 50 miles from where you sit and it’s memorable. Even years later it’s memorable.

Not sure I could be any more excited than this for a cone of gelato after a long bike ride in Tuscany, Italy.
Not sure I could be any more excited than this for a cone of gelato after a long bike ride in Tuscany, Italy.

See, the meal is just the beginning though, it gets you to the dessert! Because once you’ve eaten your fill of bread and wine you have full permission to indulge in gelato, which is Italian-style ice cream (and don’t worry, calories magically don’t count in Italy, it’s the strangest phenomenom ;-)

Vibrant colors and flavors of gelato in Florence, Italy.
Vibrant colors and an assortment of gelato flavors at a shop near the Ponte Vecchio in Florence

Presentation is all a part of the eating experience and I can’t decide if part of why gelato tastes better than American ice cream has something to do with the voluptuous heaps of flavors artfully molded into a beehive shape and sprinkled in fresh berries and fruits. It’s like Christmas for adults – it doesn’t matter which flavor you start with, you get to try them all!

Free samples are part in parcel of the gelato experience when you're choosing a flavor in Italy!
Free samples are part in parcel of the gelato experience when you’re choosing a flavor in Italy!

I know it seems overwhelming, you’re thinking “Shannon, how would I ever choose with all those gleaming mounds of gently melting gelato for the choosing?” I get it; I’m the type of person who can stand in Baskin Robins for 25 minutes pondering the best choice, but take heart because in Italy sampling is permitted and even encouraged!

Pistacchio and stracciatella gelato -- two of my favorite flavors!
Pistachio and stracciatella gelato in artful mounds of deliciousness!

My standby gelato flavor is pistacchio, and limone and stracciatella (thinly shaved chocolate in vanilla ice cream) come in as a close seconds and handy backups.  One of those three are always the first flavor of the day when I’m traveling through Italy, and then from there it’s a real struggle to branch out!

On my last trip to Italy, during my RTW, I made it a point to try a new flavor lining the glass cases for my second (and sometimes third) daily gelato.

A ridiculously overpriced $13 gelato in Florence, Italy...buying one that pricey was an accident!
A ridiculously overpriced $13 gelato in Florence, Italy…buying one that pricey and large was an accident!

One upside to gelato? It’s often served in small scoops and cones, so you’re not really eating that much. The downside? What you are eating is incredibly bad for you – half the butterfat/cream compared to traditional US ice cream but nearly double the sugar content…. Which is why it’s probably a good thing I can only ever afford to visit Italy for a week or two at a time!

Now your turn, what’s your favorite gelato flavor and where’s the best gelato you’ve ever tasted? Trying it in the States counts too if you haven’t made it to Italy yet! :)

37 thoughts on “A Little Mash Up … It’s Always Gelato-O’Clock in Italy”

  1.  I had my my first gelato in Milan, inside Galleria Vittorio Emanuele.  It was mango flavored.  I don’t if it’s because it was the first I tasted, but it was the best of all I tried in Italy.  Believe me, I tried a lot while I was there.

    • Hehe, that first taste is hard to forget…and you may be on to something because I do think pistachio was the first one I tried and it’s my forever favorite flavor :) I’ll have to hunt down a gelateria inside the Galleria next time I’m there!

  2. I’ve been to Italy only once in the dead of winter and had an 8 euro (!!) gelato in Florence. Totally worth it. But looking back, I can’t believe I was in Italy for a week and ate it once…I was obviously young and insane. 

    • One gelato…that’s appalling (but better than @MikeAchim who didn’t even try it!) and I feel your pain on the 8 Euro ridiculousness…it really shouldn’t ever cost that much to enjoy a sweet treat! :)

  3. Our mouths are watering seeing all these pictures of delicious gelato! I think we have to head back to Italy :) A daily gelato was a MUST while we were there, and I think we had the best one in Lucca. Love pistacchio and stracciatella.

    • Ooo, I haven’t yet been to Luca, but if they have some tasty gelato then I’m sold! And I’m with you, it’s pretty much time to start planning a trip back there for me too ;-)

  4. Hi Shannon! Emanuele here from Sicily. Have you ever tried granita? Almond granita is a real must in Siracusa (which is my city). Oh, and another thing: try gelato alla ricotta if you happen to travel down here sometimes :)

    • I’ve only tried granita once but you’ve sold me on the almond granita….it’s on the list for the next time I travel to southern Italy! Thanks for stopping in an sharing the sweet treat tip!! :)

  5. As you’ll guess, Shannon, I loved this. :)

    A couple things to note – generally speaking, I try to avoid places that have display cases where the flavors are in giant mounds. Places that tend to make their gelato on-site and on a daily (or more often) basis don’t usually pile gelato up like that, so you’re more apt to get fresher stuff. And a $13 gelato? That’s criminal. I know Florence is full of tourists and there’s much in the city that’s overpriced, but that’s outright MEAN. Gelato is supposed to be one of those cheap treats – 1-2euro per scoop at the MOST – that makes us feel like we’re indulging in something luxurious without killing our budget. Do you remember what shop charged so outrageously much? I need to make a note to never go there… ;)

    • I thought you might sympathize with the gelato love Jess!  And good tip on the gelato…they make the big mounds oh-so-pretty, but a fresh one beats out a pretty one any day :)  I’m wracking my brain for the name of the expensive gelato shop, but it was just a random spot walking through the city…I wanted to kick something when the total came to like 9 Euro!

  6. Shannon, you mentioned that Italy was one of your favourite countries because of the food.

    Any suggestions on what you would do if you have 1 month to spend there to learn how to cook? Help me plan!:)

    • Oh wow, that’s a tough one depending on if you’re looking to do a single cooking class, multiple ones? The Tuscan region probably your best bet! Though I love the country (and eating there) it’s not my forte, but Jess, the woman who runs http://www.italylogue.com/ will surely have some ideas and I highly recommend you start there! :) 

      • Haha, wow, Jess certainly seems to have a passion for Italian food! Great place to start. Me so hungy just reading the material.

    • Just found this list on the site: http://www.italylogue.com/featured-articles/cooking-schools-in-italy.html , and now I’m jealous you’ll have a month there to do some of these! :)

    • Thanks for the recommendations, Shannon. :) Tyler, with a month, you might consider trying a few different cooking courses in different parts of the country – food in Italy is quite regional, so you’d learn to make very different things depending on where you were. You could do a week each in a few different cities, for instance.

  7. *weeps gently*

    Confession time. In 2008 I was in Rome. And then in the Abruzzo region, and then back in Rome again. 

    And in all that time?

    Not. One. Gelato. 

    Each time (and there were a number of times), the reason for not going in the shop was that I was hurrying somewhere else. I did the classic “try to cram things in” thing, to see how it felt. And I hated it. I’m a stroller, not a hurrier. And so a casualty of that was gelato (but thankfully not pizza – I wasn’t quite *that* stupid)…. 

    • You gave an explanation like there is *any* acceptable reason to have not tried gelato when you were there.

      I am ashamed to be your friend right now. :::glares sternly with a disapproving head shake:::

  8. My struggle with Italy is limiting myself to two gelato breaks per day – it really is a struggle for me. My gelato buying method is to put a favourite flavour on the bottom (such as chocolate or limone) and then an untried flavour on top. If I don’t like the new flavour (rare) I have the favourite one to look forward to :)

    • Agreed! Though you have self control…I don’t start chastising myself until after the third! I like your theory James…it’s sound and probably something I should employ because fear of ending on a bad note is what always holds me back :)

  9. One of my favorite memories from my first trip to Italy with friends at 18 was on a hot, sticky day at the Colusseum. We had headed in early to beat the crowds, but after wandering around, we were already dripping in sweat–it was July–and as we wandered out, we saw a gelato cart. My fellow gelato-obsessed friend and I looked at each other–said why not–got a cone–and then looked at our watches–it was only 9am! Best start to a sightseeing morning! 

    • I can’t think of a better way to spend a long day of sightseeing! Yum…and what a happy memory, I’ve never visited in the winter but there’s just something wonderful about drippy cold gelato on a hot day of exploring Italy :)

  10. Love the title & so true! We definitely overdosed on our travels through Italy, even though it was freezing outside. I would always get Pistachio and Hazelnut…YUM!

    • Eating gelato in the winter is just one of those sacrifices you have to make ;-) I’ve only ever visited in the summer, but like you, I think I’d still have to get some!

  11. Ah yes, I so fondly remember licking our way down the Corso Vannucci in Perugia when my daughters (then age 8 and 11) and I lived there while I was going to school at the Università per Stranieri (U. of Foreigners).  My favorite flavors?  That would have to be “Bacio” (chocolate hazelnut – named for the famous Perugina chocolate candies made there).I still dream of it…

    • Yummm, bacio, if I am going to do hazelnut that’s a favorite too….I can’t even imagine how tasty it must have been in Perugia! Your daughters must wonder why no other ice cream stacks up to their gelato from early childhood! :)

  12. I have tried Gelato a lot of places outside of Italy and have always been disappointed. Even in other European Countries, it just doesn’t add up.

    • Agree with you…we have a few decent ones in the states, but then they’re just not the same so I always end up going for regular ice cream and saving up my gelato love for the good stuff in Italy! :)

  13. Oooh, it’s never a bad time to talk gelato! Simon is ridiculously conservative and always goes for chocolate (he knows what he likes) while I attempt to try a different flavour every time. They are all so good. Nowhere beats Italy for gelato of course, but we did just discover a great ice cream place around the corner from us in Kyoto -surprisingly good but rather dangerous for our budget at $4.50 a pop.

    • Couldn’t agree more! I feel the way Simon does about mint chocolate chip ice cream when I am in the States…but gelato, it’s fair game of every flavor. As for the gelato shop in Kyoto…4.50 is a bit dear for the budget, yikes! I have a fear of traveling through Japan because it seems it’s true that it’s really pricey!

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