Deep, bitter and rich cioccolato fondente. Fresh, bright and refreshing frutti di bosco. Simple, classic and creamy fior di latte. This is the art of gelato, and nobody does it better than Italy.
While exploring the cobbled streets of Rome, canals of Venice, and beaches of Taormina, gelato shops seem to call your name from every corner. With around 30,000 gelaterias in Italy, it can be a challenge to choose which are truly worth your euros (and room in your stomach). To help you navigate the seemingly endless options of cups, cones and flavors, we’ve picked out our favorite stores serving up authentic (and delicious) gelato across this European country. There’s no trip to Italy complete without a scoop from at least one of these tried-and-true gelaterias.
But be warned: with gelato this good, you may be tempted to miss your flight home.
Giolitti (pictured above)
Giolitti may be the oldest gelateria in Rome, but it’s also one of the most controversial. While some critics find their quality overrated, we think it’s worth a visit—if not for the history, then for the cioccolato fondente (dark chocolate) flavor. — Via degli Uffici del Vicario, 40, 00186 Roma, Italy
In a bustling pocket not far from Piazza Navona, this place may not be a hidden gem. But unlike many other popular shops, it lives up to the hype. Frigidarium is particularly known for its unique dipping options and toppings. — Via del Governo Vecchio, 112, 00186 Roma, Italy
Gelateria dei Gracchi
Far more off-the-beaten-path than Giolitti and Frigidarium, this no-frills store makes you work for it. But trust us, their fresh ingredients and classic flavors are worth the trek, and after a scoop or two, you’ll be happy to have the walk back to burn them off. — Via dei Gracchi, 272, 00190 Roma, Italy
Fatamorgana, named for a type of Italian mirage, is in the Monti neighborhood near the Termini train station. They’re notorious for offering some of the most unique flavors in the city, including offbeat combinations like banana and lime, wasabi chocolate and ginger hazelnut. Their gelato recipe is a bit creamier than most others, but their creative, true-to-their-name flavors make up for the ice-cream-esque quality. — Piazza degli Zingari, 5, 00184 Roma, Italy
Pressed up against the river and just a short walk from the Ponte Vecchio, this local destination is known as one of the best in all of Italy. They almost always have a long line, but it’s worth the wait to try their wide variety of flavors at unbeatable prices. We’re not surprised CNN named La Carraia the best gelato in the world. — Piazza Nazario Sauro, 25-red, 50124 Firenze, Italy
If its 5-star TripAdvisor and Yelp reviews are any indication, Marco Ottaviano may just be the best gelateria in Florence. Unlike many of the more commercial shops across Italy, the gelato here isn’t displayed in showcase—it’s hidden away in metal tubs, a sign of both authenticity and freshness. — Via Matteo Palmieri, 34r, 50122 Firenze, Italy
The slee, high-end design of La Sorbetteria di Castiglione could rival the trendy dessert shops found in every major U.S. city. While the design wins over your eyes, the gelato will win over your stomach...and heart. Their gelato is known for its silky smooth texture, which sets it apart from the many others in the city. — Via Castiglione, 44 d/e, 40124 Bologna, Italy
La Gelateria della Musica
This music-themed gelateria is one of the most unique in all of Italy—it not only serves incredible gelato, but does so with a side of live music. They’re best known for their fresh fruit flavors, which are a refreshing (and, dare we say...healthy?) departure from the chocolate varieties you’ll bing on at other stops. — Via Giovanni Enrico Pestalozzi, 4, 20143 Milano, Italy
Taormina is perhaps the most touristy city in Sicily, but it still offers an authentic and homey feel unique to the Southernmost territory. The Sicilian vibe is taken to heart at O’Sciality, a small shop with a lot of heart—and even more gelato. One of the things that makes O’Sciality stand out (and earn its spot on this list) is their cones, which are signature creations that won’t be found elsewhere—we suggest trying the one made of almond slices. — Piazza Antonio Abate, 11, 98039 Taormina ME, Italy
While gelato shops are often criticized for their small portions, Venice’s Gelato Fantasy stands out for offering larger scoops than most. Just off Piazza San Marco, Gelato Fantasy may seem lost among other gelaterias—but don’t be fooled by imposters! This is one of the best spots to end your day in all of Venice. — Calle dei Fabbri, 929, 30100 S.Marco, Venezia VE, Italy
La Mela Verde
This top-rated shop is a favorite of those hoping to snag some Venice gelato worthy of writing home about. Their must-try, signature flavor is green apple (the translation of “La Mela Verde”), but all flavors are worthy of a taste (or scoop). — Castello, 30122 Venezia, Italy