Are you searching for great places to taste gelato in Florence?
Whether for an afternoon snack or a post-meal treat, you must not leave without trying gelato at least once.
This is easy enough to do in Florence. There appears to be a gelato shop at every corner.
Also, there is no better place to get your fill since Florence, Italy, is widely considered the birthplace of gelato.
While attending a family wedding nearby, we all sought out gelato daily. We randomly popped in and out of whichever shop caught our eye.
We soon discovered that all gelato is not created equal. With that in mind, I am here to share some of our top picks from the trip.
I’ve included some helpful information about gelato for the lactose intolerant and vegans in your group as well.
Read on to learn more about this yummy treat and some great places to taste gelato in Florence, Italy.
What is Gelato?
Gelato is a creamy frozen dessert like ice cream but with a few essential differences. In Italian, the word gelato means “ice cream” or “frozen”.
Its existence dates back to the 16th century, created as a delicacy for the royals in this charming Italian city. Many Italians are very passionate about gelato making and consider it an art.
Gelato comes in many traditional and innovative flavors.
Some of our personal favorites were pistachio, cioccolato (chocolate), Nocciola (hazelnut), and stracciatella (with chocolate chunks).
How is Gelato Different Than Ice Cream?
Both are primarily made up of cream, milk, and sugar.
It is the ratio of ingredients and the process in which they are executed that makes the difference.
Ingredient ratio in gelato vs. ice cream
Gelato is made using more milk and less cream than the traditional ice cream in the U.S.
Using less cream decreases the butterfat in gelato to about 5 -9%.
Typical ice cream in the States contains at least 10% butterfat and usually much more than that.
Since fat tends to coat the tongue while eating, having less fat in the gelato helps to intensify the flavors.
Speed of mixing ice cream vs. gelato
The speed at which the mixtures are churned makes a difference.
Ice cream is churned faster, adding more air to the mix. Ice cream can have as much as 50% air, making it light and fluffy.
Gelato is churned slower, so less air creates a denser texture. The high density creates a creamy texture and concentrates the gelato flavors.
Temperature difference between gelato and ice cream
Gelato is also served warmer than ice cream, making it softer and more flavorful.
The softness also makes gelato less “scoop-able” than ice cream.
It is traditionally added to a cup or cone with a flat spade instead of a scoop.
This continues to create the soft texture of the gelato, and it is fun to watch the skill of the server as well as they pile it on with a flourish.
More often than ice cream, gelato is made with natural sugars such as fruit.
Less fat? Natural sugars? For these reasons, gelato may be healthier for you than ice cream, but the nutritional value of gelato compared to ice cream remains highly variable.
I can tell you about the personal mental health benefits of this delicious creamy treat. Gelato makes me happy!
When you taste the gelato in Florence, Italy, you’ll be happy too.
Is There Gelato for Vegans?
Yes, there is gelato for vegans. Because we have people who can not tolerate lactose, as well as vegans in our family, I always consider what options are available for them.
My niece was very happy to discover La Gelatiera. “They had a very clearly marked menu which was helpful! And more than just sorbets, which is always hard to find for us vegans”.
*Helpful tip for my vegan friends: Go to Happy Cow to find vegan eating options when traveling. They also have an app for your phone.
Where Can I Get Gelato?
If you are visiting Florence you will find a gelateria (gelato shop) or kiosk on just about every corner. It is sold all over Italy and internationally as well.
When searching for the best gelato look for shops that advertise artigianale (artisinal) or organica (organic).
The gelato in these places will be most likely be hand crafted and made with natural ingredients.
Brightly colored gelato piled high in the containers will probably contain artificial colors and preservatives.
Not all gelatos are created equal and it will be worth your while to seek out the best.
While you can find commercial gelato packaged and sold in the grocery store nothing compares to tasting it freshly made by the artisans of Florence.
Taking in the enchanting views of Florence while you savor your gelato only makes it taste even better.
Here is a list of some of our favorite spots. The entire extended family contributed.
List of 7 Great Places to Taste Gelato in Florence, Italy
1. Gelateria la Carraia -located in Santa Croce- made traditionally- *vegan options
Try the Buontalenti Cream containing Marscapone, egg yolk, honey, and bourbon flavors. Named after the inventor of gelato.
2. Gelateria Dei Neri – specialties like ricotta and fig or gorgonzola and nuts. Try their Mexican Chocolate containing pistachio and chili pepper. *vegan options.
Over a dozen sorbets, coffee, and pastries.
Via dei Neri, 9/11R, 50122 Florence FI, Italy
3. My Sugar– winner of Gelato Festival Firenze 2016- we stumbled upon this one as we walked back to our apartment. It didn’t look like much from the outside and you could easily walk past it. It turned out to be one of our favorite spots.
Via de’ Ginori, 49/red50123 Florence FI
4. La Gelateria– 100% natural handmade on-site- *vegan options
Via de’ Ginori 21R, Florence, Italy 50123
5. La Strega Nocciola– translated The Hazel Witch. Prides itself on having no artificial ingredients. Many sorbet vegan options and a rich dark chocolate vegan gelato that is amazing.
There are multiple locations including ones near the Duomo and Ponte Vecchio.
6. Gelateria de’ Medici – With two shops in Florence this is the place for innovative flavors and tradition. Here you will find elegant stuffed fruits and desserts that stretch the imagination.
7. Rivareno Gelato – small batches made each morning and throughout the day. Try the Zafferano al Sesamo for saffron and sesame flavors. Or the Contessa if Hazelnut butter and caramelized almonds sounds good to you.
Florence location- Via Borgo Degli Albizi, 46/R
Has locations across Italy and in multiple countries abroad.
Don’t miss all of these cool and unique things to do in Florence before you leave.
If you love gelato, try some tart and sweet limoncello in Italy too
“Gelato vs. Ice Cream: What’s the Difference?” Food Network, https://www.foodnetwork.com/how-to/packages/food-network-essentials/gelato-vs-ice-cream-whats-the-difference. Accessed 4 Oct. 2022.
GELATO! What’s Your Flavor? https://www.tasteatlas.com/gelato. Accessed 4 Oct. 2022.
Morano, Morgan. The Art of Making Gelato: More than 50 Flavors to Make at Home. Race Point Publishing, 2018.
Poon, Linda. “Why Scream For Gelato Instead Of Ice Cream? Here’s The Scoop.” NPR, 16 June 2015. NPR, https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2015/06/16/413223571/why-scream-for-gelato-instead-of-ice-cream-heres-the-scoop.