Gelato is an Italian luxury unparalleled in any other part of the world.
Pro-tip: One thing to look for when scouting gelaterias is what the gelato looks like in the tubs. If its shape is tall and boxy then it probably wasn’t made locally, and it is probably lower quality. If the gelato sits lower in the container and/or takes a more organic shape it’s more likely made in-house.
When I landed in Rome in June of 2018 I vowed to live like an Italian and eat gelato at least once a day for the next two months. As a result, I spent many evenings traveling to new parts of the city in order to try new and delicious flavors. Italians take their gelato seriously. Most gelaterias have a wide variety of flavors that range from seasonal fruits, like fig, to Italian favorites, like strachiatella. My favorite combinations were spicy dark chocolate with lemon sorbetto and bacio (similar to Nutella) with café. I highly recommend trying a new flavor every day if you are in any way a foodie. Restricting your diet while traveling in Italy will limit your experience. Let yourself eat what you want in order to fully embrace the Roman experience to the best of your ability.
As a result of this approach, I was able to sample flavors from over a dozen gelaterias in Rome and I have compiled a list of the top 5.
This gelateria was founded in 1890 and embodies the classic Italian café. Most people will mention Giolitti in their gelato suggestions. As a result, this gelateria and pasticceria is often packed with tourists and travelers and is a little overpriced. Giolitti offer a myriad of flavors and even special cones. It was overwhelming trying to decide what to order because they have really unique flavors and tons of them. It was a unique experience and the gelato is definitely impeccable. I highly recommend visiting Giolitti to anyone traveling in Rome.
Frigidarium is a quaint gelateria near Campo di Fiori in the center of the city. There is often a line outside on hot, sweltering summer days. What makes Frigidarium one-of-a-kind is that they offer to dip your order in hardening chocolate at no extra cost. They offer dark and white chocolate dips. Two scoops is €2. This is unique to Frigidarium and something that I didn’t see at any of the other gelato shops. This is why I would advise anyone in Rome to try Frigidarium.
Located in Quartiere Portuense is an underrated must-see in the city. I lived right down the street from Cucurucho and it was my go-to late at night when I was craving something sweet. One of my favorite combinations from them was Nutella with banana. Two scoops on a waffle cone was €1.80. What made Cucurucho special was that they had as many vegan gelato flavors as they had non-vegan flavors. Many other gelaterias have vegan options but they usually don’t pay as much attention to them. At Cucurucho the vegan flavors are nearly indistinguishable from their non-vegan flavors. The employees have spent time and energy perfecting their vegan gelato and it shows in the flavors and textures. I highly recommend this spot for vegans and non-vegans alike.
This gelateria is found in Quartiere Prati and is home to some of the freshest Gelato that I’ve ever had. The authenticity was imminent from the first taste. I had a cone with nocciola and café which cost €2. This gelateria makes classic favorites with a uniquely impeccable technique and premium ingredients. On their website, it is stated that Gracchi’s gelato is “made exclusively with natural products, without preservatives, dyes and hydrogenated fats.” Additionally, they use local and seasonal produce in order to create a genuine product of Italy. It is clear from their flavors and texture that Gracchi’s creator, Alberto Manassei, was striving to create a “point of reference in Rome for those who love and appreciate quality artisan gelato.” This hidden gem is definitely a crucial stop to make while in Rome.
In Trastevere is the most creative gelateria I visited while in Italy. I have deemed Oltaleg number one on my list because they push the limits of gelato while still managing to stay true to classical Italian techniques. When I was there I tried several different flavors that were inspired by different cheeses. I’d never had gelato or ice cream like it before. They offer a myriad of surprisingly delicious flavors with impeccable textures. On their website, there is a statement which encompasses their philosophy and “There is a precise moment, lasting no longer than three seconds, during which our ice-cream conquers the taste buds of whoever happens to taste it.” In addition to creating decadent gelato for modern Romans to enjoy, Oltaleg offers events and courses so that the techniques can be continued into further generations.
As you might expect, gelaterias are abundant in Rome and all throughout Italy. Each of these spots is special which is why I recommend visiting all of them. If you can, you should try every bit of gelato you can because it truly is an Italian luxury that is unparalleled in any other part of the world.
Storrey spent 2 months in Rome.