How To Order Gelato In Italy

I love me some gelato - it’s similar to ice cream, but so much better (IMHO)!! You can enjoy it while taking an evening stroll ("passeggiata") or find a sunny bench in the piazza to sit and take in all the sights around you. Every town in Italy has at least one gelateria and experiencing this heavenly frozen treat is an authentic Italian tradition that’s a must do for any visitor. But, ordering gelato can be a bit intimidating for a first timer - or even if it's just been a while since you've done it - so here are three easy steps for you to follow to make you feel like a pro!

1. Check out the quality of the gelato first. Keep in mind that natural flavorings will produce natural colors so you’ll want to look for less vibrant, more muted color tones. For example, banana should be a pale yellow not neon yellow. Also, fake gelato that’s puffed up with a lot of artificial powders will generally be piled high and covered in fancy decoration whereas the real stuff will usually be kept level with the metal container it’s in (to keep it at the right temperature) and be more simple in appearance overall.

2. In most gelato shops in Italy, you’ll need to pay the cashier before you actually order the specific flavors ("gusti") you’d like – you just need to know the size and container ("una coppa" = a cup, "un cono" = a cone) you want at this point. Be sure to keep the receipt that the cashier gives you as you’ll need to show it to the server when you order (these are often two different people).

3. You’ll need to be assertive (yet still try to be reasonably patient) to get the server’s attention as customers tend to just crowd around versus forming a single file line. It’s ok to ask for a taste, but try to avoid doing this if the shop is particularly busy - and you’ll want to limit it to just one or two regardless. Once you know which flavors you’d like, you can hand your receipt to the server and order away!

INSIDER TIP: If the server seems especially friendly, ask for his/her recommendation for combinations to try – you might be surprised by how lovely some unexpected combos can be : )

BONUS, here's a list of some common flavors you'll likely see:

Chocolate

Cioccolato fondente: dark chocolate

Cioccolato al latte: milk chocolate

Cioccolato con peperoncino: hot pepper-infused chocolate

Cioccolato all’Azteca: spicy Mexican chocolate with cinnamon

Bacio: dark chocolate and hazelnut

Gianduia or gianduja: milk chocolate and hazelnut

Nut

Pistachio: pistachio

Mandorla: almond

Nocciola: hazelnut

Castagna: chestnut

Cream

Fior di latte: sweet cream

Zabaglione or zabaione: custardy flavor sweetened with Marsala wine

Cocco: coconut

Caffe: expresso

Stracciatella: vanilla with drizzled, hardened chocolate

Panna cotta: cooked cream

Cassata: cream base with chocolate and dried fruit

Amarena: cream base with sour cherry sauce

Fruit

Fragola: strawberry

Lampone: raspberry

Limone: lemon

Banana: banana

Frutti di bosco: mixed berries

Fico: fig

Mela: apple

Pesca: peach

Ananas: pineapple

NOTE: you might be asked if you want your gelato “con panna” which means with a dollop of whipped cream

Heading to Italy soon? Be sure to ask me to share my favorite gelaterias for you to try like Gelateria Vivoli in Florence, which is known for having over 100 flavors!

And, I'm beyond excited to share that I’ll be back in Italy myself this fall so I’ll definitely be keeping my eye out for some more places to add to my list for you : )

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