Just a few weeks into my break from Florence and I am already going through gelato withdrawals. As some of you may have gathered, especially if you are a long time follower, that I am what I have coined as a gelatoholic and in Florence, a gelato shop is where you can usually find me on a smoldering day or even in the dead of winter. Obviously not so anonymous about it. The thing I love about gelato is that..well there are many things. 1st I love that it is an affordable pleasure. Most people can get a little dollop of heaven for just 1.50-2.50 euro. In Seattle, I fooled myself into thinking I liked American ice cream and wasted nearly 5 bucks of overly sugared, grainy, milky indistinctly flavored cholesterol bombs. Bluebird, I’m looking at you.
I also love the culture of getting gelato. If you just want to meet a friend that doesn’t involve dinner, drinks or coffee you can just grab a gelato and sit in the piazza or stroll around the beautiful city.
Handmade, artisan gelato is not hard to find if you know how to find it. On food tours in Florence, I give a couple tips on how to spot real gelato and that is usually anything that is not a massive, neon colored mound of god knows what but it is definitely not fresh, artisan made gelato. Why is artisan better than commercially produced gelato? Well, mainly it tastes better and I think it is better for you. I don’t think our bodies were built to eat copious amounts of Xanthan gum, thickeners, powdered milk, artificial colors and the sort.
So based on my brief little ramble about Gelato, here are my top 5 favorite gelato places in Florence:
Gelateria dei Medici- Run with family passion, Gelateria De’ Medici has been churning out some of the most delightful gelato creations since 1997 and is a place very dear to my heart. I have been known to bike here just to get my fix for their Ricotta and Pear gelato with Dark Chocolate and Rum. Which by the way- I HATE rum in chocolate but the Medici have made me a believer. You cannot miss anything they do with ricotta and caramelized figs. They also have a wicked case of gelato filled fruit which I have yet to try but only foodpaparazzi’d. Info: Tues-Sun 9:30am-1am, Via dello Statuto, 3 (Statuto) Florence, Italy
Il Re Gelato- This pokes out on the corner from the historical smack-dab center, which is totally walkable from Piazza della Indipendenza. Il Re serves up some stellar Sicilian style gelato which I personally love. Why Sicilian style? Well, its more rich and decadent than usual gelato and they focus on Sicilian inspired flavors like cassata (candied fruit + ricotta), lemon (which is eaten for breakfast in a brioche down in the sweltering South), and pistachio which grow beautifully in Bronte (Sicily). They also sell Sicilian desserts to take away like Cassata and Cannoli. Info: Tues-Sun 9am-12am, Viale Filippo Strozzi, 8R (Indipendenza) Florence, Italy
Il Procopio- This is especially dear to my heart because it is in my neighborhood of Sant’Ambrogio and I got to know the owners who are too sweet for words! They procure artisan inventions EVERY DAY and work ridiculously long hours to scoop up mind numbing gelato to Florence. I love how they use high quality, alpine milk from Northern Italy and select the finest, 1st pick fruits for their sorbetti. They also use whole, pure cacao for anything they do chocolate with and nuts (not just nut pastes with tons of additives). My favorite flavors here are: La Follia (which has caramelized figs and almonds. Surprise surprise), PISTACHIO (omg their pistachio is awesome. Sometimes they make a granita or sorbet of pistachio and it is one of the best moments of my life) and their YOGURT is my favorite in town. Info: Tues-Sun 10am-12am Via Pietrapiana, 60R (Sant’Ambrogio/Santa Croce) Florence, Italy
Gelateria de’ Neri- Okay so this place is no secret whatsoever and is raved about in just about every guide to Florence but it is popular for a reason. Let it be known that in general, Via de’ Neri is one of my FAVORITE streets in Florence so I truly relish every drop of gelato from this historical gelateria. My favorites here are the dark chocolate, again anything with figs and ricotta, green tea and their STRAWBERRY. Recently I nearly fainted after tasting their rose water gelato. This is a safe place to try experimental flavors that are not the traditional chocolate and vanilla. Info: Mon-Sun 9am-12am Via De’ Neri 26R (Santa Croce/Piazza Della Signoria) Florence, Italy
Gelateria della Passera- When I come here, I am in total peace with Florence. I absolutely love how this Gelateria is not only in one of my favorite Piazzas of the city (Piazza della Passera- a great story behind the name!) but the owner plays with wild flavors like cardamom, foraged herbs, fresh mint (FRESH MINT, not some colored syrup- MINT IS NOT SUPPOSED TO BE BRIGHT GREEN IN GELATO!!!) cinnamon, rose water, WHOLE vanilla bean and more. I particularly scoglie (melt) for this lady’s creations because it is so focused on creating distinct flavor balances and compliments. I think her creations are truly a taste of art. It is too bad for those of you who cannot read Italian because she has quite a delightful blog detailing her gelato creating and inspirations. But for those of you who do: http://gelaterialapassera.wordpress.com/ Info: Mon-Sun 12pm-12am Via dello Sprone, 16 (Oltrarno/Piazza della Passera/Palazzo Pitti) Florence, Italy
*Please note that with any of my listings, you should be prepared or check in advance if they are open. In Florence, family run places are not the most consistent and tend to take lots of vacation or close on random days. That’s Italy!
In case you didn’t already know, I’m part Sicilian and Iranian, I grew up eating homemade cannoli and lots of things with ricotta PLUS Iranian meals meant lots of exotic flavors (like saffron, figs, sumac, etc) and nuts (pistachios and nutella for breakfast being what corrupted me as an 8 year old foodie already). Basically, I’m not a picky eater and not afraid of anything- hence “curious appetite.” You might be a chocolate chip or sorbet kinda eater and these places are also great for all types of tastes- not just my personal faves!
In your gelatoholic anonymity,
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