How To Get The Best Gelato In Italy

If you are traveling to Italy anytime soon (or ever!) there are 3 things you can pretty much guarantee you will eat at least one time while you are away.

Pasta. Pizza. Gelato.

Some people are lucky enough to have a digestive system and a metabolism that lets them run wild with all three, others of us have to be selective as to how many times we can indulge while away. Whether you fall into the once only category or the multi times per day group, you have to make every time count.

Today we are talking gelato, Italy’s answer to but 1000 x better than, ice cream.

lemon gelato in Capri Italy
Lemon gelato in Capri. Not to be missed!

So what’s so hard about ordering ice cream you say? Well, there’s a little more to it than meets the eye.

It Starts With Where You Buy Gelato

This is in my opinion the most important factor when getting a gelato.

With tourism being so huge in Italy (it is one of the most visited countries in the world) gelato chains started popping up everywhere. Mass made, factory made ice cream with added color, added sugars, added God-only-knows-what. Chain store gelato doesn’t taste as good and can be so over sugared that it bites the back of your throat. As authentic as a Big Mac and with a provenance and nutritional value equally as questionable, these are not the places to buy gelato in Italy.

Their gelato either ships in frozen or is made from a packet. This is not the gelato you traveled across the world to eat!

Gelato franchises/chains are always scattered through the high tourist areas and are generally very close to major tourist attractions. If you have read my book Glam Italia! How To Travel Italy: Secrets To Glamorous Travel (On A Not So Glamorous Budget) then you already know to avoid tourist trap eateries of any kind!

RELATED POST: HOW TO ORDER COFFEE IN ITALY

Always Buy Artiginale

Everywhere you go in Italy you can find fantastic, artisanal or artiginale gelato shops. These are owner operated stores where gelato is made freshly each day from fresh ingredients. The taste, texture and quality are superb. Think of it as chain store gelato being like eating Kentucky Fried Chicken versus artisanal gelato being like fine dining. Technically both will fill your belly but the experience is drastically different!

Buon Gusto artiginale gelato in Pienza Italy
Inside Buon Gusto gelateria in Pienza, Italy

Artisanal gelato flavors tend to be only what is in season. You won’t find strawberry year round.

Some artisanal shops only make a handful of flavors each day. In Pienza my friend Nicola’ from Buon Gusto makes only 6 flavors per day. When I take my Glam Italia Tour groups to Pienza I have learned to take them to his store when we first arrive, because we only spend a few hours in town and everyone always wants to go back for another gelato before we leave!

Explore the Flavor Profiles

Artiginale gelato shops offer some really fascinating flavor combinations. Don’t order the flavors you do at home – try something different! Look for things like raspberry and rosemary, peach and sage, figs and honey.

RELATED POST: HOW TO MAKE ITALIAN COFFEE IN A MOKA

They always offer samples so you can try before you buy. I find the more unusual the flavor combination (unusual to us, quite normal to them) the more amazing the gelato is. I always try anything with lavender, sage, basil or rosemary as they give such a fantastic flavor to gelato.

strawberry gelato italy
Gelato made with strawberries and basil.

On one of my tours one of the travelers tried orange,carrot and spinach gelato, the thought of which wasn’t overly enticing, but it was so incredibly good we all ended up going back and ordering one!

Gelato from Buon Gusto in Pienza
The one in back is the spinach and carrot gelato. As awful as it sounds it was actually sensational!

Mix It Up

Can’t decide which flavors to order? Try a scoop each of two or three!

Don’t be surprised if they refuse to pair the flavors you want or if they look at you funny. They get so invested in their creations and your taste experience is so important to them that sometimes they won’t want to put two flavors side by side.

gelateria Teatro, rome
white peach with sage and raspberry with rosemary gelato at Gelateria Teatro in Rome

One time in Sorrento a gelato guy refused to give me 2 flavors together. It was pretty funny! I couldn’t decide between the two so in the end he gave me 2 separate cups each with one flavor, then told me which one I was to eat first. He wasn’t being a jerk, it was because he didn’t want me thinking his gelato flavors were bad.

I go back every time I’m in Sorrento, which is multiple times per year, and now he just chooses two flavors that play nicely together for me. And I feel no guilt at having two scoops either, because the walk up the hill to the apartment I rent there is savage, so I’m convinced I burn it all off on the way home…

RELATED POST: HOW TO USE THE TRAINS IN ITALY

How Can You Tell If It’s Artiginale?

Most artisanal or artiginale gelato shops will proudly post signs saying they are artiginale/artisanal. You can also just google artiginale gelato near me and get walking directions, invariably just around the corner from where you’re standing!

An easy way to tell if gelato is artisanal or not is to just look at it. Chain store/mass made/made from a packet gelatos tend to have punchy, bright colors, whereas artisanal gelato colors tend to be more dull.

artisanal pistachio gelato in Volterra, Italy
Real pistachio gelato will be a slightly dull shade of green

Gelato made with fresh strawberries will be a slightly dull pinkish hue, whereas mass market strawberry gelato will be bright pink. Another one to look for is pistachio, a flavor you will find year round. Artisanal pistachio gelato will be a dull, mossy or grey/green whereas mass market pistachio will be a vibrant green.

Have you read my books yet? Glam Italia! How To Travel Italy: Secrets To Glamorous Travel (On A Not So Glamorous Budget) and Glam Italia! 101 Fabulous Things to Do in Rome: Beyond the Colosseum, the Vatican, the Trevi Fountain, and the Spanish Steps are both available worldwide in paperback and on Kindle and the Kindle App. Both books are bestsellers and will change the way you experience travel in Italy!

Look For Locals

The best gelato shops are like the best little local eateries – heavily populated by Italians. Watch where they go, and buy your gelato there! Sometimes you will see long lines of people stretched out across the piazza waiting to buy gelato. At Dondoli Gelato in San Gimignano the lines get crazy long and sometimes stretch beyond the well in the middle of Piazza Cisterna, but the gelato is award winning and is definitely worth the wait. Funnily enough the café across from it also sells gelato and never has a line. Those in the know prefer to wait and have the good stuff.

This tends to be a really good sign, unless it is a bus tour and that’s where the tour guide told them to go. Bus tour groups are generally easy to spot though – if everyone in line looks like a tourist, this is not the place for you to be!

If you can’t spot a good gelato shop don’t worry – ask a local. There is always a good gelato shop close by.

Rail Europe (Americas)

What To Eat In Sicily

I’m so excited! It looks like I will be leading another private tour of Italy and Sicily at the end of summer. ( Glam Italia II). 

I was just thinking the other day that if I were to find out I was never going to set foot on the magnificent isle of Sicily again, I would probably just curl up and die right there on the spot.

Sicily is one of the most magnificent places I have ever traveled to. And I can never wait to get back.

I think about Sicily every day.

There are so many things to love about Sicily. One of them is the food.

American Sicilian food is nothing like the food in Sicily. Sicilian food is spectacular. Everything has been grown locally in nutrient rich volcanic soil, the seafood is caught in the pristine waters of the three seas that frame the island, and the exotic blend of flavors reflect the multicultural history of this place.

If you are heading to Sicily make sure don’t leave before you try each of these:

Arancini

Arancini-Sicily


These are rice balls filled with ragu and deep fried. They are soooo good! And very filling. Your eyes might be bigger than your stomach!

Seafood Antipasti

What-To-Eat-In-Sicily-Seafood-Antipasti
seafood antipasti at my favorite restaurant in Giardini Naxos. Alici bottom left.


Especially Alici. (anchovies)
There is something about the way Sicilians prepare their anchovies. You couldn’t pay me to eat them at home where they are horrible, salty and pungent. But there they are sensational. The first time I ate them I didn’t know what they were, and probably wouldn’t have even tasted them had I known they were anchovies, now I eat them every day in Sicily! And every day I eat the local seafood. The restaurant menus change all the time as they are based on today’s catch, not on what is in the freezer.

Pasta Alla Norma

Pasta-alla-Norma
Pasta alla Norma


At some point during a trip to Sicily you have to try this dish of pasta made with fresh tomatoes, fried eggplant, basil and fresh firm ricotta. 

Fresh Peasant Salads

What-To-Eat-In-Sicily-simple-salads
Eolie salad, Blu Caffe, Canneto Beach, Lipari


We ate this salad at a little cafe on the beach in Lipari on the 2014 Corinna B’s World Glam Italia tour. It looks simple enough, but was so amazing we went back three times! Simple “peasant food” in Sicily is so good 

Cannoli

Cannoli-Sicily


This is another food that I really don’t care for stateside, but in Sicily (where they are from) fresh cannoli are just amazing. Crispy shells filled with fresh sweet sheep’s milk ricotta flavored with chocolate chips or local pistachio. There’s just nothing quite like them! 

Granita

Granita-al-cafe-con-panna-Lipari
Breakfast granita al cafe con panna, Canneto beach, Lipari


You can’t beat an icy cool granita on a hot, sunny Sicilian day. They come in a variety of flavors are super refreshing and are nothing like Italian ices in America. The texture, consistency and taste are completely different.

In Sicily, when the days are long and hot and start early, granita and gelato are also breakfast food. A coffee flavored granita with cream ( beware – they add a very generous serving of cream) or a limon granita make a divine way to start the day. 

Brioche With Gelato

Brioche-con-gelato-sicily
Brioche con gelato, Sicily




The first time I went to Sicily my friend Silvana made me a list of foods I HAD to try. One of them was brioche with gelato, a combo I would otherwise have passed on. Believe it or not this is another breakfast food! Warm sweet brioche filled with the creamiest gelato on earth. It is super sweet, gets a little melty, and is the food of the gods.

Pistachio Anything.

Pistachios were introduced to Sicily during the Arab rule, and now find their way into all kinds of foods. There are so many pistachio flavored foods to try – don’t miss out on them!

New Travel Bags from Stephanie Johnson

If you are starting to work out and diet to get ready for summer, and planning summer vacations, spring break getaways, long weekend mini-breaks, or a honeymoon its a good time to start thinking about how you will be traveling your makeup, skin care and haircare products. 

Chic air travel

I travel all the time both for work and for pleasure, and being that I am a makeup artist and a devotee of makeup, skin care and hair products its really important to me that I have an organized system to move everything around the country and around the world, and have it all arrive in one piece. Anyone who has ever traveled anywhere knows what a nuisance it is to arrive somewhere and find your makeup has broken, lotions and potions have leaked, or even worse the debris from this has migrated into your suitcase.

I have found that the key is to have incredibly well made, structured, strong cosmetic bags that are designed to hold up to the rigors of travel. Years ago I started to realize that all the celebrities I was working with traveled with beautiful, stylish travel cosmetic bags by Stephanie Johnson. Allowing for the fact that my actors and musicians traveled even more than I did, I knew they had to be onto something!

Gelato in Turin

Consequently I too became a devotee of Stephanie Johnson travel makeup bags. I have used them for years, and if you have been a follower of this blog you will know that I have blogged about them frequently.

 

I’m busy organizing spending the summer in Italy again this year, so was super excited to see the new Stephanie Johnson Torino collection.

Stephanie Johnson Torino Collection

Isn’t it lovely?

It’s an update of the Turin collection. The gelato hued zigzag weave is offset by a luscious raspberry patent leather trim and raspberry tassle zipper pulls. Inside the lining is fresh lemon.

Each bag is available individually, or if you’re like me you can choose an assortment, or the full collection.

I sometimes use the smaller bags as chic little clutch purses when I go out at night, and love to use the smaller bags as cosmetic purses inside my handbag year round.

Here are the bags individually

I use the Jenny Train Case to death when I travel. Its super sturdy and is easy to organize all my items and see them clearly. 

Stephanie Johnson Torino Collection Jenny Train Case

Hanging bags are ideal for travel. You can clearly see all your things and don’t lose valuable counter space.

Stephanie Johnson Hillary Hanging Bag, Torino Collection
Stephanie Johnson Torino Collection Hillary Hanging Bag

 The Large Fiona Trapezoid sits upright on your bathroom counter, and is surprisingly spacious.

Stephanie Johnson Torino Collection, Laura Trapezoid Bag

The Fiona Dome Cosmetic case slips into your handbag and is nice and slim. The extended zipper opening enables you to not only fit a lot inside, but to access it easily, as it opens wider than most bags.

Stephanie Johnson Torino Collection Fiona Cosmetic Bag

The Mary Brush Case hold both makeup and brushes

Stephanie Johnson Torino Collection, Mary Brush Case

And a girl has to have a color co-ordinated iPad case when she travels!

Stephanie Johnson Torino Collection iPad case

For those of you getting married this spring/summer, Stephanie Johnson Travel Cosmetic bags are ideal to take on your honeymoon, and also make deliciously stylish and chic bridesmaids gifts.

Everyone knows that kisses taste better in Italy!! ~ Kissing in Turin…

If you are a travel enthusiast (like me!) or if you just enjoy looking at other people’s travel, Stephanie Johnson has a fantastic blog that gives you a window into her chic and exciting life of travel, called 

Stephanie Johnson Style Compass. In her blog she introduces you to fabulous places to go, where to stay and what to wear. Last year my entire wardrobe for Capri was based on the advice in Stephanie’s blog!

If you are an Italophile (like me!) and want to look at life in Turin,another blog I adore is 

All Roads Lead To Pecetto. This is the lifestyle blog of an expat American girl now living in Turin with her handsome Italian man. It doesn’t get much better than that!

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