Temperatures soar in Rome during the summer months, and there is no better treat to cool you down than gelato – Italian ice cream is among the best in the world. Gelato has a long history; it’s said that an early version was served at the wedding feast of Italian noblewoman Catherine de Medici when she married the future King Henri II of France in 1533 – and thus introduced ice cream to the French.
Made from milk, cream and sugar, gelato is generally lower in fat but higher in sugar than other styles of ice cream; slow churning incorporates less air, making gelato particularly dense, silky and soft. Rome offers a vast range, from classic vanilla, chocolate and fruit flavours to innovative contemporary options. You might take your scoop in a wafer cone or a bowl or sandwiched between sweet biscuits; taste it just as it comes or topped with fresh fruit or drizzled with a sweet syrup. But however you choose to enjoy your ice cream, you will find it hard to resist trying a different flavour of this quintessentially Italian treat on every day of your visit to Rome.
The quirky interior of this ice-cream parlour makes it a favourite with locals and visitors alike, and a charming must-visit. A pastel mint green Volkswagen van has been adapted into a glass fronted bar, and chalkboards display the vast range of flavours on offer. The gelato here, inspired by love of simple raw ingredients, doesn’t lack flavour; try a soft scoop of the namesake pistachio ice cream. For an alternative sweet snack, perhaps opt for one of the gelateria’s traditional biscotti or crêpes, or Verde Pistacchio’s own pistachio-topped cake, the tristacchio.
Verde Pistacchio, Via Nazionale 239, 00184 Rome
This chic parlour originates from the talents of experienced gelato maker Maria Agnese Spagnuolo, who has a passion for food and natural flavours. You can indulge in this ice cream without any guilt as each flavour is 100 per cent natural and the gelato is free from artificial additives. Many flavours include exotic whole spices ground by hand. Unusual options include avocado, lime and white wine; allspice and chocolate; almond, apple and cinnamon; and basil, walnuts and honey – all unique and delicious.
Fata Morgana, Piazza degli Zingari 5, 00184 Rome, +39 06 4890 6955
Il Gelato di San Crispino
The creators of this gelateria have a simple philosophy: their customers are true connoisseurs and their expectations must be satisfied. Every flavour at San Crispino is created using the highest-quality seasonal ingredients. From classic flavours such as pistachio to more innovative and contemporary creations including whisky and liquorice varieties, there is something for every taste in this welcoming spot. For a lighter option, perhaps try a sorbet made from fresh seasonal fruits – melon, clementine and grapefruit are among the choices. Top your selection with whipped cream, if you like.
Il Gelato di San Crispino, Via della Panetteria 42, 00187 Rome, +39 06 679 3924
Family-run La Romana, founded in 1947 by the Zucchi family, is steeped in history. Current owners Ivano and Massimiliano Zucchi remember the queues outside their father’s first store in Rimini; while their father expertly prepared the gelato, the young brothers would help with chores – rewarded with an ice cream cone, of course. Customers still queue for gelato at La Romana, to choose among flavours such as blood orange, cherry with crunchy hazelnuts and meringue, and mascarpone with coffee and dark chocolate. For an inventive twist, try your scoop sandwiched in a brioche bun. The firm also prides itself on its environmentally friendly packaging.
La Romana, Via Venti Settembre 60, 00187 Rome, +39 06 4202 0828
Otaleg gelato is just as inspiring in its presentation as in its taste. Ingredients are mixed and blended to create surprising flavours, with as many as 60 seasonal varieties on offer at any one time. As well as cones and dishes, the gelato is presented in ice-cream cakes, topped with fresh fruit in a decorative display. Otaleg offers courses for connoisseurs who would like to make gelato at home: you are invited to learn about the history, taste and magic that goes into making gelato. The company uses only the best raw materials in the Otaleg ‘ice cream laboratory’.
Otaleg, Viale dei Colli Portuensi 594, 00151 Rome, +39 338 651 5450
Gelateria dei Gracchi
This charming gelateria is loved for its commitment to using only the freshest, highest-quality seasonal ingredients. The gelato is made fresh each day, and can be enjoyed simply in a classic scoop or two, or in one of Gelateria dei Gracchi’s gourmet ice-cream lollies or chocolate-covered cones. The vast range of flavours changes frequently to incorporate the best seasonal produce. Pistachio is an Italian favourite, but we also love the more unusual varieties such as prickly pear or almond and fig.
Gelateria dei Gracchi, Via dei Gracchi 272, 00193 Rome, +39 06 321 6668
In 1890 Giuseppe and Bernadina Giolitti opened a creamery selling milk from cows pastured on their own land. They were soon supplying the Italian royal family, and, just a few years after opening, they began selling the gelato that Giolitti remains famous for today. You may have to queue here, as locals and visitors alike flock to this gelateria for its amazing array of ice cream in different flavours, but it’s worth the wait. Try the homemade ice-cream sandwiches, or the coffee and chocolate ice-cream stick, which you certainly won’t forget.
Giolitti Gelateria, Via degli Uffici del Vicario 40, 00186 Rome, +39 06 699 1243