Pro tip: Steer clear of those eye-catching gelato displays.
Rome is a food-lovers paradise. It’s a city that truly loves and admires a good meal, and there is certainly no shortage of trattorias, ristorantes, and osterias to feed even the hungriest among us. There’s also no shortage of gelaterias, both because gelato is an incredible and tasty treat and because the city knows that, after a hot day trekking around the streets of Rome, there’s nothing a tourist might want more than a refreshing scoop of frosty gelato.
Savvy tourists know that as far as gelato is concerned, there’s traditional Italian gelato and then there’s everything else. Many Italians can tell at a glance if a gelateria is up to snuff, and it’s a skill anyone can learn.
First, and most obvious: how is the gelato displayed? If it’s heaped into mountains and strewn with eye-catching accessories, walk away. Gelato should be soft and semi-fluid, meaning the only way to get it to heap up in mountains like that is to freeze it absolutely solid, meaning if you opt for something from one of these mega-heaps, you’ll either get something icy or full of solidifying chemicals. The best gelatos don’t rise above the rims of their containers or—even better—are served from covered metal containers that are placed into special slots in the gelateria counter.
Speaking of that gelateria counter: If you can see the gelato on display, are the fruit colors what they should be? At its most basic, gelato can be made from pre-packaged powdered mix and milk, yielding something that’s incredibly easy to make and can be good in that sort of “gas station cookies” kind of way. The best gelaterias make their product in small batches every single day, without using additives or anything that could affect the flavor or consistency. If a spot is selling a neon green mint or a pure yellow banana flavor, run.
Gelato should be the color of the fruit that it’s made from, meaning berry flavors should be deep, dark red, and banana should be almost gray. Apple and pear will look almost white-brown, and a good lemon can be almost translucent. All gelaterias are required to display the ingredients of their gelato flavors, so when in doubt, check those out. If a glance at those lists reveals vegetable oil (olio vegetale) or various artificial flavors, head back out the front door.
A good gelateria also considers seasonality. While most spots will consistently carry flavors like lemon, strawberry, and fior di latte, top-notch gelaterias will have flavors inspired by the seasons and created with whatever they found at the farmer’s markets that week. If it’s summer, you could get watermelon or peach, while in the fall, you might find fig or apple.
If you find a good gelateria—more on that to come—then consider asking the people working there for their tips on what combinations to consider. Oftentimes, it’s not ideal to combine fruity and creamy flavors, because it can sort of muddy what the pure flavor of the gelato should be. If you’re dead-set on a lemon, say, consider inquiring as to what a good counterpart should be.
Gelato should be a true celebration of its ingredients, and when gelaterias skimp, you’ll be able to taste that in your dessert. Why waste a minute eating something that’s not all that it really could be? With that in mind, here’s our guide to 12 amazing gelato spots in Rome that are worth the splurge.
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Located in Trastevere, Fiordiluna has been making delicious gelato for more than 25 years. The owners say they use just two ingredients to make their base and make every effort to purchase their raw materials from small, local producers. As they write on their site, “From hazelnuts to cocoa, we know the people who take care of the ingredients in our ice cream.” Fiordiluna doesn’t use additives, and also offers a number of gelato flavors without added sugar, which it boasts taste “indistinguishable” from those with a little additional sweetness.
Gelateria del Teatro
A small chain with a few locations around Rome, Gelateria del Teatro is part ice cream shop, part chocolatier, and part patisserie. Owner Stefano Marcotulli says he’s committed to only using seasonal ingredients in his gelato, often doing the shopping for his stores by himself at local markets. His only exception is strawberry, because as he explains on the gelateria’s website, one of the shops is located near an elementary school and, “after my several negative answers to children asking for the strawberry flavor in winter, I decided to stop seeing those sad faces.” The strawberries he uses, though, are from a nearby greenhouse. Altogether, the gelateria mixes up over 200 different flavors every year, including interesting herbal flavors like white chocolate and basil, sage and raspberry, and lavender and white peach.
Il Gelato di Claudio Torcè
A master gelato maker, Claudio Torcè is renowned the world over for his creative, all-natural, and ingredient-driven gelato. There are several Il Gelato di Claudio Torcè locations spread across Rome, all offering dozens of flavors at any given time. Options range from the traditional to the bizarre, meaning you can pick anything from chocolate or strawberry to celery, Sichuan pepper, or even gorgonzola with vinegar. If those last three turn you off, allow us to just say this: When else will you ever have the chance to try carrot gelato or a nice, cooling scoop of habanero ice cream? You only live once, so why not try something new?
Owned by a sister and brother, Gori Gelato is situated in Piazza Menenio Agrippa, in an area not always frequented by tourists. Locals love Gori for its indulgent flavors, refined elegance, and great quality raw ingredients. Most rave about the pistachio, which they say is truly delicious in a way that’s hard to find elsewhere, with a salty back-end that makes it lean a little more savory than sweet.
Gelateria del Gracchi
More and more Roman gelaterias are offering non-dairy and vegan options, and Gelateria del Gracchi is no exception. Even though Gracchi has four locations around Rome, it still manages to produce all of its gelato daily, using high-quality Italian milk and seasonal produce. The brand prides itself on never adding dyes, preservatives, or hydrogenated fats to its gelato, which it displays in open trays “to show its quality and freshness.” Flavors include pepper and nut, rice with honey, and dark chocolate Grand Marnier.
Palazzo del Freddo Giovanni Fassi
The oldest gelateria in Rome, the Palazzo del Freddo Giovanni Fassi is part museum, part delicious ice cream shop. The surprisingly large space in Esquillino has been owned by the Fassi family for five generations, and not only sells delicious flavors but also offers daily tours of its space, which still boasts equipment used to make gelato over 100 years ago. Each tour is full of information about the history of gelato, but you’ll also get a look inside the production laboratory, where you’ll get to taste flavors that have just come out of the freezer. There’s a cup or cone at the end of the tour, as well, lest you fear you will walk away hungry.
There’s a reason Fatamorgana has pushed beyond Rome and opened gelaterias in Los Angeles: True excellence needs to be shared, and Fatamorgana’s Maria Agnese Spagnuolo is truly excellent at creating delicious gelato. The brand has gelaterias all over Rome, from Via Lago di Lesina to Trastevere, packed with flavors like Paracea (ginseng, almond milk, and mint) or Kentucky (dark chocolate and tobacco.) There’s a great dark chocolate option, as well, and an interestingly complex Thumbelina, which mixes Sorrento walnuts, rose petals, and violet flowers.
Old Bridge Gelateria
Located near the Piazza Risorgimento not far from St. Peter’s Basilica, Old Bridge Gelateria has been serving locals and tourists alike for over 30 years. While the gelateria offers more tourist-friendly flavors like Oreo cookie, steer clear of those and opt for more traditional fare, like pistachio, lemon, or hazelnut.
Set outside central Rome in the residential Colli Portuensi, Otaleg! pokes a bit of fun at traditional gelato. (If that wasn’t obvious from the name, which is just “gelato” spelled backward. The shop offers an open-view workshop so you can see the makers crafting the flavors while you ponder what to get—and those flavors do change every day, based on what’s available and in season. Owner Marco Radicioni is a bit of an outside-the-box thinker when it comes to gelato, as well, meaning that on any given day, flavors could include prickly pear, mustard, gorgonzola cheese, or beetroot. On the day we wrote this story, there was even one listed that translated to “fishing snuffbox,” so prepare to be surprised.
It’s kind of a cliche at this point to say that good gelato is made from good ingredients, but it is really true. Traditional gelato is made up of so few ingredients that every little choice matters. That’s where Gunther Gelato excels, with owner Günther Rohregger making a point to pick only the finest ingredients, from fresh, seasonal fruit to organic milk. He even sources pure, microfiltered alpine water for his sorbets. Flavors at Punto’s Rome locations include all the basics, but also interesting picks like Mountain Pine, Eggnog, and ricotta stregata.
Come Il Latte
Located in Rome’s Sallustiano quarter, Come Il Latte is a vision in black, white, and stainless steel. Owner Nicoletta Chiacchiari used to be a stenographer, so she’s paid special attention to the store’s layout, design, and aesthetic. Luckily, she’s also put the same kind of care into the shop’s gelato, which is always fresh and can come packed into a delicious, wafer-thin cone. There are dozens of delicious-sounding gelato flavors on the shop’s website, so it’s perceivable that if there was one you were interested in—let’s say maize—that you could time your Rome trip accordingly, just to get there for that seasonal flavor. Not that we’ve thought about that or anything.
Neve di Latte
An all-natural gelateria with two locations in Rome, including one near the Zaha Hadid-designed MAXXI art museum, Neve di Latte uses only organic and biodynamic ingredients. That means their flavors can be pretty intense, depending on what you pick. Visitors rave about the cherry brittle gelato with hazelnuts and chocolate, as well as the maple syrup and persimmon flavors.