Written by Isabella Verga, (George Washington University), Student Correspondent for CET Florence, Fall 2022
Rule #1 of living in Florence as a student: at least 1 gelato a day is necessary. However, with gelato shops on every corner, it can be difficult to decide on where to buy your gelato of the day. After two months of living in Florence, I feel that I have done enough “research” to share some of my favorite spots as well as some tips/advice when visiting each of these gelaterias.
Amarena and Nutella from Gelateria dei Neri captured on Via dei Neri.
Gelateria dei Neri
The day that I arrived in Florence, my roommates and I were nearly falling asleep at dinner from jet lag and travel exhaustion, but we were still determined to have a gelato on our first night in Italy. Down the street from where we had dinner was Gelateria dei Neri, which had also been recommended to me by friends who had previously studied abroad in Florence.
At first, I was overwhelmed by the vast flavor options at dei Neri–from fruit flavors like lampone (grapefruit) and frutti di bosco (mixed berries) to a variety of chocolate flavors like gianduja and bacio. I wanted to make a bold choice with a flavor I had not had before so I tried a flavor called riso (rice). This would quickly become my favorite flavor at dei Neri. Although I was not sure what to expect, I was delighted by the similar taste to rice pudding with the creamy texture of gelato and little pieces of rice as well.
Gelateria dei Neri is a reliable gelato spot that is open late and every time I try a new flavor, I am tempted to make it my new favorite (Riso still reigns supreme though). For Nutella lovers, Gelateria dei Neri’s Nutella flavor is also my favorite chocolate/hazelnut gelato that I have had in Florence. While it is definitely one of the top gelaterias in the city, dei Neri also holds a special place in my heart as the first gelato I tried as a student in Florence.
Recommended Flavors: Riso, Nutella, Cookies and Cream, Amarena (creamy with cherries)
The original La Carraia location is right along the Arno River which makes a perfect background for your gelato photos.
Although I am hesitant to name a “favorite” gelateria in Florence, if I had to choose, I would likely lean towards La Carraia as being my top choice. In addition to the countless number of creative flavors, the texture and creaminess of La Carraia’s gelato is simply unmatched.
I initially tried La Carraia at a gelato tasting arranged by CET, and at first, I complained about having to trek far across the river to get there. However, as soon as I tasted their lemon-cookie flavor I realized that the longer walk was 100% worth it. Again, my favorite flavor from La Carraia is the first flavor I tried–the lemon and cookies. It is a refreshing, creamy flavor with perfect pieces of cookie sprinkled throughout that I honestly think about daily. La Carraia can be a bit overwhelming at times with the number of flavors they have, but I have no shame in inspecting the line of freezers to make sure I have evaluated all my options.
Luckily, La Carraia also has a second location in the Santa Croce neighborhood–right near my apartment– that is smaller than the original location, but it always fulfills my craving if I am short on time or do not feel like taking a longer walk. At the Santa Croce location, my favorite flavor is definitely the strawberry cheesecake which tastes exactly like Italian cheesecake but in a colder, creamier form.
Recommended Flavors: Lemon and Cookies (original location), Strawberry Cheesecake (Santa Croce), Ferrero Rocher (Santa Croce)
Vivoli is located on a small side-street near Santa Croce, but once you find it the neon pink sign is hard to miss!
A classic! Vivoli is likely the most famous gelateria in Florence (so popular it even has a location in Disney), and it also holds the title as the oldest gelateria in the city. Before I went to Vivoli, I had heard raving reviews about the chocolate-orange flavor. As someone who adores all things with a chocolate/orange combination, I knew this would become another favorite. The balance of the rich chocolate and the fresh orange–including small pieces of candied orange on the top of the tub–make this a perfectly balanced fruit and chocolate flavor.
Another favorite is a beloved Italian dessert in gelato form–tiramisu. Vivoli’s tiramisu is special because it is one of the few gelato flavors I have encountered with chunks or bites spread throughout. The base is a creamy, coffee flavor that has delicious cookie pieces sprinkled throughout that provide the perfect crunch. Vivoli is a strong gelateria option, but do not get your hopes up for their Tiramisu gelato on Mondays because–as I have been disappointed to remember many times– Vivoli is closed on Mondays.
Recommended Flavors: Chocolate Orange, Tiramisu, Caffe
Pictured is crema (of course) and nocciola (hazelnut) from Rivareno which is only a few minutes away from the Duomo.
This final recommendation is strongly carried by this gelateria’s crema flavor. Crema is a classic Florentine flavor you will find in most gelaterias around the city, but none have quite matched the one at Rivareno. It is described as one that “marries cream, honey, eggs, and orange and lemon extracts”— a perfect blend of citrus and cream. The flavor is said to have been created by Bernardo Buontalenti, and sometimes the flavor is referred to as Buontalenti instead of crema in gelato shops. Rivareno’s crema takes the top spot because of its texture. It is so creamy that it almost immediately melts. I recommend getting it in a cup for this reason and because their small size cups are larger than the average piccolo (small) size around the city.
Recommended Flavor: Crema, Contessa
Ultimately, good gelato is not difficult to find in Florence, but as someone who always wants the best of the best when it comes to food, these four are my go-to options that have never done me wrong. With a month and half left in Florence, though, I will be continuing my “research” to find some new favorites to add to the roster.