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10 best gelaterias in Florence

10 of the best gelaterias in Florence

by Jennifer Cauli 09 August 2019

There are many good reasons to visit Florence – art, culture, architecture – but gelato is a true Florentine speciality that simply must be tasted. We sent Jennifer Cauli to the beautiful Tuscan city to seek out its ten best gelaterias.


Though Florence is believed to be the birthplace of modern gelato, the origins have become hazy over time. What we think of as gelato today actually started in China – the original was more of a sorbetto, and it first arrived in Europe with Attila the Hun and his Mongolian hordes as they swept across Asia in the fifth century. The Romans had their own version, the so called ‘Nivatae Potiones’ – cold desserts of honey mixed with ice or snow. But it was the Florentine architect Bernardo Buontalenti who created the oldest gelato – he blended milk, honey, egg, salt and ice into wooden containers, to serve at luxurious Medici banquets.

If there’s one thing I learnt during my search for the best gelaterias, it’s that not all gelato is created equal, and there are plenty of traps out there! I came across lots of places with vibrant, highly decorated mountains of gelato, made with artificial colouring and ingredients. Often the real treasures are hidden to the eyes – when you’re looking for a good gelateria, look for subtle displays and gelato stored in metal containers. The gelato should be flat or in soft waves, not piled up.

Gelato Artigianale is what I was looking for – artisanal gelato, made fresh every morning using the best natural ingredients with no artificial preservatives and colouring. When gelato is made from natural ingredients, the flavour dissipates quickly on the palate – by comparison, artificial flavours linger. Whatever you do though, don’t call it ice cream – gelato is a totally different thing. The ingredients are similar, but the proportions are very different. Gelato contains less air, giving it a richer, more concentrated flavour.

On top of that, ingredients are always slightly different, and the weather affects the way we perceive certain flavours. If you visit your favourite gelateria on a cloudy day and eat your usual gelato, there’s a good chance it’ll taste sweeter than it does on a sunny day. The best gelaterias will keep an eye on the weather every day and adjust their recipes slightly to make sure what they serve is the perfect flavour and consistency. This just goes to show what an art creating amazing gelato can be.

So without further ado, here are ten gelato shops in Florence that can’t be missed!

Perché No!

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It was 1939 when Mr Ravaioli walked past a chestnut shop and realised it was the perfect place for the gelateria he’d always dreamed of having. His wife agreed and so Perché No! was born. With Mr Ravaioli the shop survived wars and floods, but in 1991 new owners took over. Thankfully, Mr Ravaioli’s reputation has been maintained, as has the original name – Perché No! uses the best ingredients available, often focusing on pure flavour at the expense of other considerations like texture and creaminess. Gelato here is like eating a pure distillation of the fruit or ingredient – no wonder this is reported to be Nigella Lawson’s favourite gelateria!

The most popular flavours are the classics, such as chocolate and pistachio, but Perché No! has a special for every day of the week, including sacher torte on Wednesdays and cheesecake on Thursdays.

Via dei Tavolini, 19r | Firenze

Vivoli

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Founded in 1930, Vivoli is the oldest gelateria in Florence, and has been run by the same family for three generations. The offering changes according to what is available each day at the market. Silvana – one of the co-founders – doesn’t believe in limiting the business to only using local ingredients, so Vivoli makes gelato using ingredients from all over the world, following meticulous research and tasting.

The concept is simple, natural and genuine. The gelato is flat – there are no mountains or big waves on display, and when you eat their gelato, flavours explode into your mouth. The flavours on offer are quite simple as well, with crema (cream) being their signature.

Via Isole delle Stinche, 7r | Firenze

Gelateria della Passera

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Cinzia Otri opened her first gelateria in 2010 after she finished her studies at the University of Gelato in Bologna. This cosy shop is only about one metre squared in size, but the location – on the Piazza della Passera – is lovely. Gelateria della Passera has gained a lot of recognition in the last few years, with many recognising it as one of the five best gelaterias in Italy.

You’ll only find a few flavours here – a maximum of twenty – all made to the highest standards. The choice changes daily depending on what ingredients are in season; among the best are mandorla (almond), crema pasticcera (pastry cream) and coffee.

via Toscanella 15 r | Firenze

Grom

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If you want to try the gelato at Grom, you have two options: get here early, or brace yourself for a long wait – this is one of the busiest shops in Florence. The first Grom opened in Torino back in 2002, and it didn’t take long for the group to establish itself – now it has several branches across Italy and the world.

Every ingredient that makes the gelato is carefully selected, from the free-range eggs to pasteurised milk and fruit from the best farms in Italy. Grom gelato is generally thought to contain less sugar and more fruit than most, and they tend to change their gelati every month to offer whatever is in season. Among the unmissable ones are sorbetto al limone di Siracusa (Siracusa lemon sorbet), torrone Barbero d’Asti (Asti nougat), caffè Guatemala (Guatemalan coffee) and sorbetto al cioccolato Ecuador (Ecuadorian chocolate sorbet)

Via del Campanile | Firenze

Gelateria de’ Medici

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The wooden walls and glass chandeliers give Gelateria de’ Medici an elegant and retro feel – it’s tucked away near the Piazza Beccaria, which was once one of the medieval gates to the old city. The shop has about forty-four flavours available and offers a good selection of bespoke luxurious cakes and ice cream creations, including a wonderful fior di latte (a milk gelato).

Among the other recommended choices are the classics chocolate and hazelnut, but if you want to try something different you must try their Inferno, a special gelato made to celebrate the 700th year of Dante Alighieri’s Divina Comedia. If you’re feeling adventurous, try the gorgonzola and pear, and the tamarillo, dragon fruit and sweet granadilla sorbetto too!

Via dello Statuto 3/5 r | Firenze Piazza Beccaria 7 r | Firenze

Strega Nocciola

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Daniele Badi opened the first Strega Nocciola in 2004. Now he has three shops in the city, so I visited the one just behind the beautiful Ponte Vecchio. Daniele’s gelati are all stored inside metal jars, and made fresh every day following old recipes.

If you want to taste something you can’t find anywhere else, go for the house special Strega Nocciola. Otherwise, stick to the classics – nocciola (hazelnut), pistachio, chocolate and the Buontalenti cream. Every gelato is topped with a waffle cookie, too.

Via dell’Olivuzzo 118 | Firenze Via De’ Bardi 51r | Firenze Via Ricasoli 16r | Firenze

Gelateria La Carraia

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This is probably the gelateria with the best view of Florence. Located by the River Arno near the old Carraia bridge, Mrs Eleonora opened her first shop in 1990, and it became so popular that the whole family had to step in to help. Tourists come here in their droves every day, so much so that it’s hard to get into the shop to see the gelato sometimes! All the staff are women and the display is very glamorous, with a wide selection of about forty different flavours.

The gelato here is very flavoursome and rich in dairy. Don’t miss special flavours like Delizia Carraia (white chocolate and pistachio), Sinfonia la Carraia (orange, black chocolate and shortcrust pastry) and Marmo di Carraia (panna cotta with chocolate and wafer).

Piazza Sauro Nazario, 25/R | Firenze Via dei Benci | Firenze

Venchi

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Venchi made its name as a chocolate shop as far back as 1878, before getting into gelato fairly recently in 2007. The idea was to celebrate chocolate in every form.

Entering one of their stores is like entering another world, perhaps how the kids felt when they first walked into Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. The interiors are sparkling and dynamic, with golden walls, mirrors, chocolate fountains and chocolate waterfalls.

The gelato choices focus, unsurprisingly, around Venchi classics – there’s nougatine, cremino (a layered Piedmontese chocolate made with gianduja and hazelnut paste), cuor di cacao (Venchi’s dark chocolate), Gianduiotto (a hazelnut chocolate sweet from Piedmont), Bronte pistachio and nocciolato al latte (milk chocolate with hazelnuts).

Via Calimaruzza, 2-4 | Firenze Via dei Calzaiuoli, 65 | Firenze Firenze Santa Maria Novella | Firenze

Gelateria dei Neri

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Owner Maurizio gave up his career as a bus driver to found Gelateria de’ Neri in 1989 and follow his passion for gelato. The store boasts a fantastic location just behind the beautiful Piazza Signoria, and as a result it can get quite busy.

The recipes are traditional and haven’t changed since the shop first opened. Flavours change seasonally depending on what is available and Maurizio sources his ingredients from all over the world. Gelateria De’ Neri also serves a variety of granitas (a refreshing, icy delicacy). Cookies and cream, pistachio, ricotta and fig and salted caramel are all unmissable.

Via dei Neri 9/10r | Firenze

Cantina del Gelato

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Cantina has two shops in Florence – one near Ponte Vecchio facing the museum of the Uffizi and another near the Cathedral of Santa Maria Del Fiore. Like many other artisanal shops, the gelato is stored in metal containers, and there’s a small but interesting selection of gelati made with Italian fruits and nuts, as well as a selection of tropical ingredients from Brazil.

Among the best flavours are goat’s cheese and walnut, Vinsanto (a traditional Florentine liqueur) with cantucci biscuits, whiskey and cinnamon – just to mention a few.

Borgo la Croce, 30/red | Firenze Via de’ Bardi, 31 | Firenze

Staying in Florence? Jennifer recommends Il Salviatino.

Via del Salviatino, 21, 50137 Firenze FI, Italy

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