Stephanie Yoder a RoamRight Blog Author

A Guide to Italian Gelato

Gelato is the Italian word for ice cream. In English it generally refers to varieties of ice cream made in a traditional Italian style. CT

Rich, creamy gelato is one of the small, everyday delights of traveling in Italy. You can find this delicious Italian version of ice cream on nearly every street corner, in dozens of flavors and combinations.

Not all gelato is equal however, and to truly appreciate the dessert it's important to know a little bit about this famous dessert and how it's made, as well as where to find the best quality.

Gelato vs. Ice Cream

First let's get some terminology straight. What is gelato and how is it different from ice cream?

The biggest difference is fat content. Your typical ice cream has a minimum of 10% fat composition. Gelato on the other hand is made with more milk than cream, so the fat content is usually around 4 or 5%. In addition to making gelato arguably healthier, this lower fat content leads to a more vibrant flavor because the fat doesn't coat your mouth the same way it does with standard ice cream.

There are other differences too. Gelato is denser than ice cream, which is usually about 50% air. This makes gelato thicker and less creamy but softer and smoother. While ice cream is usually frozen, gelato is optimally served at a warmer temperature, which means less chance of brain freeze!

Classic Gelato Flavors

Gelato can be found in hundreds of different flavors ranging from simple chocolate to dozens of fruit or even coffee flavors. A few classics to try are pistachio, stracciatella (milk flavored gelato with chocolate chunks), hazelnut and amarena (cherry). Fruit flavors like lemon, banana and orange have become more popular over time. Water-based flavors (as opposed to cream based) are known as sorbetto.

Most gelato shops will let you pick up to three flavors at a time, which means a nearly endless combination of flavor profiles.

Where to Find Good Gelato

Finding gelato in Italy is easy: it is hard to walk more than a few blocks without passing a gelato shop. Finding exceptionally good gelato however, that is another story. Many cheap gelato shops are now selling “fake gelato,” mass-produced stuff made from bagged mixes and chemicals. Tourist areas in particular are crowded with profit-based gelato parlors selling low-quality gelato. The difference in taste is significant, so it's worth seeking out an authentic gelato parlor that uses quality ingredients.

Here are some factors you can use to determine if a gelato shop is authentic:

  • The color of gelato. Naturally flavored gelato should at the very least resemble colors found in nature. Steer clear of any gelato with bright neon coloring.
  • Look for the word artiginale which signifies artisan, hand made gelato.
  • The arrangement of the gelato. Be suspicious of gelato which is piled very high, as that signifies the product has been pumped full of air. The very best gelato is stored in metal tureens with round tops which protect the gelato from outside contamination.

Once you've found a legitimate, honest gelato shop, be prepared to enjoy one of Italy's greatest treats.


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About the Author

Stephanie Yoder

Stephanie Yoder, a RoamRight Blog Author

Stephanie Yoder is a girl who can't sit still! Since graduating college in 2007 she has either been traveling or planning to travel. She's lived on four continents and visited everywhere from the Great Wall of China to the Great Barrier Reef. She now writes and travels full time, blogging about her adventures on Why Wait To See The World? (formerly Twenty-Something Travel). Follow Stephanie on Twitter or visit her on Facebook.

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