Valentina's 5 favourite ice cream shops in Florence
First things first
When approaching a foundation of Italian food such as ice cream it is better to start with first things first. Almost every traveller, as soon as he steps on Italian land, wants to try the original gelato. But as the number of "gelaterie" (the Italian word for ice cream shop) increases proportionally, or even excessively, to the arrival of tourists, the single visitor can find it difficult to choose, whether on the spot or browsing the web, where to try the renowned made in Italy ice cream.
"Beware of the tourist trap" might sound a worn-out notice. But it is also true that some tourists are used to a totally different idea of what makes ice cream appealing and tasty. Some are used to be charmed in their own country by the bright colours of the different flavours and are disappointed by the faint green of Italian pistachio flavour; others might prefer a very sweet ice-cream and dislike the delicate flavour of the "Fiordilatte" (how poetic are we... to call vanilla ice cream "the flower of milk"?!). Don't worry, of course I am also going to talk about the crazy names of Florentine ice cream flavours too in this article!
So for those who really want to taste Italian ice cream this is secret: what gelato lacks in appearance or sugar it definitely makes up for in intensity of flavour.
What is gelato? Gelato vs ice cream?
Many tourists keep asking me the same question "what is the difference between gelato and ice-cream?". Sincerely I think it is a question for a "Chef pâtissier" or even a "Chef glacier" (for those who don't speak French - like me - the pastry cook and the cook who specializes in frozen and cold desserts).
But to come back to us on Earth I believe that the matter can be summed up like this: you can call it as you want, gelato or ice cream, the important thing is that the ingredients have to be genuine. Handmade gelato has cream or milk as its base and can contain egg yolk. Generally speaking when it is produced by a small artisan shop it must be daily made...so it is fresh.
Top 5 gelato shops in Florence
Perhaps I am partial to my neighbourhood, the Oltrarno, so I will start with the Gelateria Santa Trinita. I am also personally attached to this ice cream shop because the owner of this now very famous "gelateria" started in 2000 with a little shop literally next to my door. I used to see him go in and out with baskets of fresh fruit. I have to admit I was kind of sad to see him move to a bigger shop further away…luckily even though I have to walk 10 minutes to buy an ice-cone, the taste is spectacular as always and definately worth the distance!
The Gelateria Vivoli claims to be the oldest ice-cream shop in Florence and for sure it has been in the same place for 89 years. The story is fascinating: two brothers, living in a little town near Florence, seeked their fortune in the big city, precisely in the neighboorhood of Santa Croce, where they opened a dairy shop in 1929 and by the beginning of the 30s were selling ice-cream too.
When you are wondering in the center of Florence in summer and one every two shops sells ice-cream you should resist the temptation, get away from the main stream and look for the Gelateria Perchè no! In a little street, just 5 minutes from the main landmarks this ice-cream shop is hidden in plain sight. With a section dedicated to the “sorbet” (gelato made with water instead of milk and no eggs, usually fruit flavours) it also eases things up for the vegans or the lactose-intolerant people.
The mediaval bending alley Via de de’ Neri is famous for the sandwitch shop All’Antico Vinaino, but walking away from the center down the street you will find the Gelateria dei Neri. There is always a queue (not as bad as the one for the wine-shop mentioned before) I blame it to the fact that they have too many flavours to choose from! I go crazy for their Malaga flavour (raisins and sweet Malaga wine).
Coming back to the south side of the Arno river I can’t not mention the Gelateria la Carraia. This ice cream shop is at the top of the list on TripAdvisor and the reason I put it last is because fame and fortune can go to your head…For now I believe the quality hasn’t gone down (even if the prices have gone a little up)…anyway don’t worry I am keeping an eye on this for you!
Welcome to my brand new blog! I would like to inaugurate this more personal part of my website talking about a favourite thing of mine: "gelato"! Where to eat the real thing in Florence and more!
Welcome to Valentina's Florence Blog.
Here you will find posts and articles about my city, about the things I enjoy and recommend, about places and museums still to be discovered. I am writing with the sincere hope that everybody will find some uselful tips to make the most of their time in Tuscany, to be inspired to have me take them around the less traveled paths, or to stay in touch with Florence and me.
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February 14th, 2018
Firenze and the invention of gelato
Not many know the origins of gelato, a even fewer know that it is closely linked with Florence! Like all greatest inventions, everybody claims it. In Asia probably the custum of preserving the fruit using sugar to create a kind of sorbet was known since antiquity, but the invention of gelato is 100% Italian.
The Florentine artist Bernardo Buontalenti, who was entrusted by the Medici family to organized the big events held at the court of the Grand Dukes, served the first cold cream made from milk and egg yolk at a banquet in 1559. A tradition wants it to have been a mistake, freezing the cream with ice (a luxury that only the kitchen of the palace had at the time)…either way the gelato made its way to the French court with the Queen of France, Catherine de’ Medici. The rest is history. So don't be surprise that the Florentine typical flavour is still called nowadays “Buontalenti”, a name maybe hard to pronounce, but definetely worth trying!
A recipe for the ice cream machine
I have a simple Simac ice cream machine (model Il Gelataio GA1050) and if you google it you can see that is not a professional tool, but I enjoy making my own gelato sometimes. This is a basic recipe that you can try at home for the Malaga Gelato.
125 gr. or 2/3 cup or 4.5 oz sugar
150 ml or 1/2 or 6 oz cream
250 ml. or 1 cup or 8oz whole milk
75 gr or 1/2 cup or 2,5 oz raisin
a bit of rum
Wash raisin and macerate it in enough rum to cover it. Whisk eggs. Put the sugar in a saucepan and melt down in 1 tablespoon of water. Measure the tempertaure of the sugar with a digital food thermometer until it reaches 121 °C or 250 °F, then pour it on the egg while whisking with a mixer until it cools down. Then add milk and cream. When the mix is at room temperature turn ice cream machine on and the pour it inside until set and creamy (5-10 minutes). When the gelato is ready add the dried raisin and some of the rum (as much as you like) to add some flavour.
This is a picture I made at the last Gelato Festival at piazzale Michelangelo