After spending five days in Rome with my core course, Cultural Diversity and Integration, I’ve decided to review all the amazing gelato I ate. Spoiler alert: I ate a lot. Don’t worry, I’ll write a full post on the actual experience with my core course in Rome, but for now I’m just going to reminisce about all the heavenly and mouth-watering ice cream I enjoyed during this time. So, for those of you planning to visit Rome, or really just anyone who just wants to look at aesthetic photos of yummy ice cream, here are my seven different experiences with Roman gelato in five days.
First, for those of you wondering what makes gelato so different than ice cream, there are three main reasons:
- Fat – Ice cream uses more cream so it has more fat, whereas gelato uses more milk and has less fat. Yep, that means gelato is healthier for you.
- Air – Ice cream is churned at a higher rate which means it has more air than gelato, which is churned at a slower rate making it more dense with a concentrated flavor.
- Temperature – Gelato is generally served warmer than ice cream which makes it more smooth and creamy.
I followed a few rules when it came to picking gelato stores to stop at. The first rule? The gelato should be stored in metal containers; gelato is best when it is stored this way because of its temperature. It’s actually a really good sign when you can’t even see the ice cream because it’s in metal tubs behind the counter. A second test is to look out for the color. Bright and artificial colors are a bad sign, especially in flavors like pistachio and mint because it means they are artificially colored. Fruit flavors are an exception, and deeper colors mean real fruits were used to make them. Finally, the gelato should not be piled above the container; there shouldn’t be mounds of ice cream sitting high above the tub. This is because gelato is more creamy and rich when it is less fluffy and less full of air.
Alright, now everyone knows how to judge a good gelato store!
From day one to day five, my body slowly started hating me for having three scoops or more on a daily basis. But the fact of the matter is that I simply love gelato too much to skip out on at least a daily dose, especially in one of the best places in the world to enjoy this gift to humanity. Considering this, I hit the ground running on day one; I had four ice creams with a grand total of ten scoops in the first two days. Yikes.
By now you probably want to hear what it actually tasted like instead of the frightening amount of ice cream I consumed on this trip. So let’s get to the fun part! I’ve ranked all seven places I visited, from least to greatest. I considered taste, texture, cone, and overall experience in my rankings. Here we go!
7. San Crispino
If you’ve seen the movie “Eat Pray Love” featuring Julia Roberts walking around Rome with her gelato, this is the place she went to. Naturally, I had to go here. Overall, I was a little underwhelmed, especially considering this shop was on a couple lists of best gelato in Rome. I got pistachio and nocciola, and although they were both good, in comparison with others throughout the week they definitely weren’t my favorite. The consistency was harder than the others, and both flavors came with small chunks of real pistachios and nocciola mixed in. Personally I prefer pistachio and nocciola to be silky smooth, but if you like things mixed into your ice cream, maybe give this place a try. They only serve their ice cream in cups in a narrow shop just a few blocks from the Trevi, perfect for a nice stroll, gelato in hand, to this iconic fountain, just like Julia Roberts.
6. La Nazionale Gelateria
The decision to visit this store was really a matter of convenience. It was right across the street from our hotel and I hadn’t previously heard of La Nazionale Gelateria, but it actually turned out to be pretty good! I tried cremina, which is a delightful combination of nocciola, pistachio and Nutella. I also got biscotti, which is cookie ice cream with bits of cone mixed in. The texture was extremely soft, and luckily I got it in a cup because it would have been difficult to balance on a cone! Both flavors were quite sugary for my taste, but I did pick two sweeter options. They had great prices, and also let me try a ton of different flavors, which other stores were not as willing to allow.
5. Gelateria del Teatro
This was my very first gelato stop, situated super close to Piazza Navona on a cute little side street. I was way too excited to pick out flavors that matched well with each other, and also overwhelmed with all the options… they had over seven different types of chocolate alone! (Red wine chocolate, orange chocolate, tartufo… the list goes on). When it was my turn to order, I made a spontaneous decision to get pistachio, truffle, and rosemary honey lemon. Although they weren’t the best combination together, individually each was outstanding. Truffle was literally like eating a chocolate brownie in ice cream form with chunks of chocolate and cake generously spread throughout rich and fudgey ice cream. Even though it sounds like a weird combo, I highly recommend the rosemary honey lemon. It was amazingly refreshing, and the honey added a delicate creaminess to the lemon which made it ridiculously smooth.
This was the first gelato paid for by DIS; ice cream is already a wonderful thing, and then when someone else pays… it can’t get better than that. I had pistachio again (surprise), but oh was she good. The chocolate was super rich and fudgey and the Nutella had legit chunks of chocolate and Nutella just piled into it. While the gelato itself was great, my only slight complaint would be the cone. But overall, perfect for a little pit stop in Trastevere.
This famous gelato stop was recommended to us by our teacher, Stine. And for a good reason. You could either order gelato at the counter or sit down and order fancy-looking drinks and milkshakes involving gelato. The place was very busy, and it was a bit hectic to order because you couldn’t see the flavor options. So I just opted for my classic cone of pistachio, chocolate, and hazelnut. The cones are dipped in chocolate, but I wasn’t as impressed by the cone as I was at other stores throughout Rome. However, what I did love was the option to added fresh whipped cream to your gelato; it’s insanely fluffy and is like adding another scoop to your cone. The ice cream itself was one of the most creamy and smooth I had while in Italy and the pistachio genuinely tasted like real pistachio nuts more than any other one I tried during the trip. I had the regular chocolate, but they had a dark chocolate option which was literally black it was so rich.
*The next two are tied for first*
One of my favorite gelato’s of the week. I tried their special flavor, Frigidarium, which consisted of caramel, chocolate, and cookies. Do I need to say more? Dark chocolate was actual heaven and their nocciola was the perfect amount of hazelnuttiness mixed into the smoothest, creamiest, delightful scoop. If you get three scoops (you must) they give you a cookie on top. Oh, and there is also the option to have the entire thing coated in white or dark chocolate. I’m not really sure why I didn’t opt for this… again I think I was overwhelmed. Ordering gelato is stressful when there are so many good flavors to choose from! There was a line out the door on a Monday night around 10 pm, but by all means wait for this gelato. You will not regret it.
1. La Romana dal 1947
This is tied for my top choice with Frigidarium. Let me start by saying that they first fill the cone with white or dark chocolate, before adding generous scoops of the softest and creamiest gelato in Rome. The chocolate gelato was definitely my favorite of the entire trip, and I just couldn’t get over how soft it was. The flavors were fun and unique, and they had some different options than other places. I had biscotto della nonna, which consisted of traditional Italian cookies and cocoa shortbread in a sweet cream gelato. I combined this with hazelnut truffle and of course chocolate. Oh and the last bit of the cone is the best part because all the chocolate falls to the bottom and you’re left with a wonderful surprise after you finish the ice cream.
So there you have it! My rankings of seven gelato shops across Rome. As a disclaimer, I did not have a single bad gelato, and even comparing them all was hard when they were all so delicious.
And yes, I did have nineteen scoops of ice cream in five days, and I am proud.