Written by Danielle Hafer (University of Virginia), Student Correspondent CET Siena, Summer 2016
Obviously Italy is known for pizza and pasta, but the culinary crown jewel is definitely gelato. Gelato is a type of ice cream that uses less fat and more sugar so that the product has a richer flavor, a difference that is immediately discernible. In Italy, gelato isn’t just for tourists or children. On a hot day it’s commonplace to observe groups of adults sitting in the shade and enjoying a cone, which I take as a signal that it’s acceptable for me to eat gelato as often as I want!
Gelato comes in all shapes and sizes and is thankfully cheaper than its American counterpart. A small cone is generally two scoops that can be different flavors and costs two and a half euro. Most gelateria will have a standard offering of flavors and a few that are either rotating or their specialty. A common list of flavors includes:
Caffe: Coffee, Limone: Lemon, Pistacchio: Pistachio, Nocciola: Hazelnut, Straciatella: Vanilla with chocolate shavings, Fragole: Strawberry, Ciocciolata: Chocolate, Frutti di bosco: mixed berries, Cannella: cinnamon
While I absolutely recommend digging in at any local shop, here’s a showcase of some of Tuscany’s best.
Grom is actually a chain of gelatteria throughout the world—they even have a shop in Japan—and is well known for their commitment to 100% natural gelato. What actually puts Grom on the map though is a specific desert: their Affogato. It’s a delectable scoop of gelato that is chilled below normal temperatures with a shot of espresso poured over top. I’m not a coffee lover, but this dessert has definitely converted me. The espresso slowly melts the gelato, balancing the bitter with sweet and swirling to create a creamy coffee color. For an extra hint of delicious, request Nocciola instead of the typical vanilla!
No self-respecting gelato lover in Tuscany can skip this gelato shop. For a CET class excursion, my art history class ventured to San Gimginano, a small town about halfway between Florence and Siena, best known for its wine and gelato. Unobtrusively tucked among these shops is Gelateria Dondoli, a four-time gelato world champion with similar All-Italy honors. With flavors like Champelmo—a trademarked combination of Spumante and grapefruit—and Blackberry-Lavender, it’s not difficult to understand that their Master gelato maker is truly a genius. Champelmo has all the lightness of sparkling wine and the ripeness of the blackberries is not overhyped. A special shout out to our fantastic Sienese Art History and Architecture professor, Piergiacomo Petrioli, for treating the entire class to the world’s best gelato. Thank you for all you do!
Bonus: The Magnum Pleasure Store in Firenze
Although it’s not technically gelato, I have to recommend that anyone visiting Firenze (in addition to grabbing a cone of gelato) stops by the Magnum store to design their own ice cream bar. Be forewarned: these bars are decadent! But what could be better on a hot day than eating their own signature ice cream with rose petals, coffee mix, and pretzels?!