Discover the Art of Gelato in Italy, Just Don’t Call it Ice Cream!

On one of my first international travel experiences, I devoured at every opportunity tasted gelato for the first time. When our tour arrived in Nice, France, the Tour Director told us that from here on out we would be embarking on a culinary discovery of gelato (awesome!). Amongst inspiring stories about historical figures and beholding some of the most amazing architecture, the Tour Director introduced us to tasty bites of gelato from some of the best places I’ve ever been. I ate my way (and weight in gelato) through Provence & Italy. From perfectly rounded scoops of lavender and rose in Nice, to bite-size spades of hazelnut, or nocciola in Rome, I consumed gelato once, sometimes twice a day.

Although gelato may seem very similar to ice cream, this tasty frozen treat should never be called ice cream, especially in the presences of Italians! There are many differences between the two. The first is the fat content, gelato has a lower fat content than ice cream, which is how I justified my twice daily habit, however the sugar content is much higher in gelato (whoops!). Gelato is also frozen quickly in small batches and contains less air than ice cream, resulting in a higher density and more intense flavor. Gelato does not keep as long as ice cream, mostly due to its use of fresh ingredients and flavors, holding its peak taste and texture for only a few days, in comparison to months with ice cream.

Italy is home to tens of thousands of gelaterias, but business is booming and entrepreneurs looking to begin their own careers as gelatieri have a place to learn. Headquartered in Bologna, but with locations stretching the globe, including Winston-Salem, North Carolina,Carpigiani’s “Gelato University” is one place you can learn the art and science of gelato making. When I’ve retired as NETC’s Educated Traveler, I might just enroll myself!

A few of the gelaterias I’ve been to:

Fenocchio – located in Place Rosetti in Old Town Nice, France (although they call it an ice cream parlour)
Fenocchio has an incredible selection of flavors, some very non-traditional, but delicious choices such as violet, rosemary and tomato basil.

San Crispino – in Rome, Italy

Many, including my Tour Director at the time, favor San Crispino and claim it’s the best in Italy. San Crispino focuses on quality ingredients and avoids the use of preservatives and artificial flavors. They serve their gelato senza un cono (without a cone), as they say that the cone interferes with the true taste of the gelato.

Gelateria Giolitti
 – also in Rome, Italy

Established in 1900, Giolitti is one of Rome’s oldest gelaterias. Located “a stone’s throw from the pantheon,” they serve up gelato to tourists and locals alike every day of the year. So no excuse not to try it!

Where have you experienced the best gelato? What is your favorite flavor (if you can pick just one!)?


Article written by Sarah Wyland

Sarah Wyland
Sarah never gets in trouble for being on Facebook and Instagram at work, because its her job. As social media manager, she gets to tell the stories of travelers, teachers, and interesting places. Other titles she enjoys include dog mom to Knox, barre instructor, Crossfit athlete, avid reader, and world traveler.