As beer is to the Czech Republic, gelato is to Italy. A staple, something you’ll find on every street in every Italian city in the world. It’s smooth, it’s delicious and whilst gelato is the Italian word for ice cream, there are some key differences in the two.

As part of my trip to Rome (check the full city break guide out) I took it upon myself to find out more about gelato – how it’s made, how to spot good stuff from bad and most importantly, where to find the best gelato in Rome.

It’s a tough job, but somebody’s got to do it!

Gelato in Rome

What is gelato?

Whilst gelato and more traditional American ice cream has its similarities, gelato is made with more milk and less cream than its counterparts, making it a healthier and less rich alternative. As an example I definitely have no off switch when it comes to gelato, but struggle to eat nearly as much ice cream as it’s so much more dense. Because there is less fat, the flavours are stronger in gelato which is why those fruity varieties might leave you squinting with their tart nature!

Gelato in Rome

Finally, the way they are churned is different too. Gelato is churned much more slowly, which essentially means less air gets in. So when you are eating gelato you are getting more gelato and less air in every mouthful!

Hands up if you love gelato?! Here's a guide to getting the good stuff when you visit RomeClick To Tweet

How to tell good from bad

I’ll be the bearer of good news – even bad gelato tastes good. It’s a sugary, flavoursome, creamy delight and depending on your palate, it’s all going to taste various shades of “yes please”. But if you are in Italy, it’s worth finding and seeking out the good stuff because then you’ll know what true joy is. And your tastebuds will thank you.

Here’s how:

1. If you see gelateria with all their lovely gelato piled up into enticing mounds, calling you in and begging you to try, that’s a sure sign that you won’t find good gelato there. Gelato doesn’t naturally pile up like that, and so in order to do that they either have to freeze the hell out of it, or add a chemical. Neither of which is good for your gelato experience.

Great gelateria are pretty confident in their greatness, and so don’t feel the need to pile up high – you’ll find their gelato straight in the metal containers or sometimes even under cover – they don’t need to show it off!

2. Colour matters, especially where natural flavours come in. If you’ve been to a gelateria where the pistachio was bright green or the lemon bright yellow, they have most likely not made this from real fruit and nuts, but from powdered flavouring. Lemon sorbetti should be almost a white, translucent colour, and any fruit should be the colour you’d get when you’d crush them up.

Often that means the colours are quite dull (or in the case of some berries very dark), which is why mediocre gelateria will make from powder to make their sorbetti stand out to lure the tourists in. Even if fruit flavours aren’t your thing it’s important – making these from real fruit is far more laborious than powder mix, so you know you are buying from a gelateria that takes their art seriously.

Gelato in Rome

3. Simple flavours are extremely hard to accomplish, so if a gelateria has fior de latte (essentially just milk) or fior de creme (just cream, and more expensive to produce), you are on to a good thing. If they’ve covered either with syrups or other things it’s likely they are covering up inferior production and flavours.

4. If a gelateria has hazelnut you are on to a total winner – it’s the most expensive to produce so many places will mix in chocolate or other flavours with it. That doesn’t make them bad (see checklist above) but if they are selling you pure hazelnut, you know they mean business.

Where to find amazing gelato in Rome

I ate A LOT of gelato in Rome, purely for experimental purposes you’ll understand. Here’s my pick of the best gelato in the city, including a mediocre pick if you are in a pinch in the historic central district.

Gelato in Rome

Il Gelato di San Crispino

You’ll find this gourmet gelato if you hunt for it, but it is a little off the beaten track. About a 3 minute walk from the Trevi Fountain is a gelateria of the gourmet kind – modern flavours combine with new textures (try their merengue flavours, they’ll blow you away!). The orange sorbet and caramel merengue were spectacular and despite its super modern vibe and location, not too expensive either. Two medium cups were 7EUR.


We knew we’d done well with our hotel booking when we discovered Gelato right next door! Although not quite as good as others we’d tasted, and definitely not the purest form of Gelato out there, even mediocre Gelato is good Gelato.

I grabbed a small cup of the biscotti flavour and it was really delicious – with pieces of biscotti + chocolate wrapped inside. If your palate requires more novelty flavours such as snickers, this is where you should head. At just 3.50EUR, it was a welcome after dinner treat.

Gelateria del Teatro

Tucked away down a little street (via dei Coronari) not far from the Pantheon and the Piazza Navarro is this gorgeous gelateria which gave me my best experience of Gelato whilst there. Not only were the basic flavours exquisite, the more trend led flavours were out of this world – quite literally.

Gelato in Rome

For just 3EUR a cone I treated myself to a spiced pumpkin with almond and chocolate chips and it honestly felt like autumn had exploded up in my mouth. Andrew went for mint choc chip, and I’m not sure how either of us will now do without the subtlety of fresh mint in an ice cream. 10/10.

Bar Giolitti, Testaccio

Gelato in Rome

Little sister to the much bigger Giolitti in central Rome, the quieter, altogether more local experience was just the ticket for us after a hard evening touring the best food spots in Testaccio. They still have Rome’s famous Zabaglione flavour, and it was here I learnt two key things about Gelato in Rome. Firstly it’s absolutely wrong to only have one flavour and secondly it’s illegal in Rome to charge more for panna, the whipped cream that you may get offered on top.

The wonderful man behind the counter is super serious about his Gelato, and he will (very nicely!) try and talk you out of a combination if he doesn’t think it works!

Gelateria dei Gracchi

Tucked away from the main tourist areas of Rome, about 20 minutes walk from The Vatican you’ll be treated to some very good, no frills Gelato. Absolute proof that good Gelato doesn’t need to be sold in a fancy shop, I had an amazing combo of Pear + Caramel sorbet with Gjanduja and Mr S went for Vanilla Bourbon + Caffe Latte. The sorbets are the right sort of colour (the pistachio is not bright green!) so you know you’ve come to the right place. This was only 5EUR for a small cone and small cup!

Gelato in Rome


Fatamorgana is a small chain located across Rome well known for firstly being 100% gluten free and secondly for some stellar flavour combos. Their waffle cones are to die for – I wish I’d had time to have more than one!

Where have you tasted the best gelato?

You can also read a massive food guide to Rome and all about our food tour we took with Eating Italy!


Rome | City Breaks | Gelato Guide | Europe Travel

Rome | City Breaks | Gelato Guide | Europe Travel
Rome | City Breaks | Gelato Guide | Europe Travel

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  • STOP. HOLD THE PHONE. I NEED TO GO BACK TO ROME. (Wow, that rhymed!)

    Heading to Rome consisted of lots of ice cream and boy did I enjoy it. My bounty & Nutella concoction was quite simply, THE BEST!

    Bee xxx

  • Great post. The fact that gelato contain less cream than the original ice-cream doesn’t mean it is healthier while it still loaded with sugar, which can be more harmful than cream.

  • Roma

    Love this post. Didn’t realise they could use powered ingredients to get rich colours, how cheeky! Would love to go back to Rome soon thanks

  • Danik Bates

    Why is Italian ice cream the best in the world (apart from honeycomb ice cream in Dorset, UK!) Cant wait to hit Italy again in a few weeks time for some special creamy treats.

  • If you’re a gelato lover, there’s something extra special about eating gelato in Rome. I can’t wait to go back to Italy to try some of these delish treats.

  • Katherine Nairn

    Hard life trying all those gelatos 😉 can’t wait to have some scrumptious gelato in Rome!

  • I don’t know if I’m going to love or hate your good news. Hahaha! But I will take note of your tips so I won’t get the bad gelato!

  • Paige Brown

    Well, I’m glad someone took one for the team and had all of that gelato! 😉 I LOVE Gelato – I got it at least twice a day both times I was in Italy, That Vanilla Bourbon + Caffe Latte combo sounds INCREDIBLE!

  • There’s nothing quite like having gelato in Italy, is there? But I never know how to tell the good from the bad. Your tips are amazing–I had no idea about the color, for example, but it makes such good sense!

  • Opium teahouse

    As I read “it’s all going to taste various shades of “yes please”.” it made me chuckle! Great tips on how to find good gelato, looks like all of that research was totally worth it 😛 Thanks for sharing!

  • I didn’t explore the gelato in Rome, I feel like I missed out. I am however visiting Italy again this winter and I won’t let the cold weather put me off sampling the gelato!

  • Adrenaline Romance

    We have a popular gelato stall here in Cebu, and we got addicted to gelato ever since we tried it a few years ago. But that was “local” gelato,made from local ingredients due to the difficulty of logistics and high expense of importing genuine Italian ingredients. We would definitely want to experience the real Roman/Italian gelato.

  • Vyjay Rao

    Having a gelato in Rome is really a unique experience and one not to be missed. We did manage to fit in a couple of gelato eating experiences during our packed trip of Rome.But I can see you have done your research and have come up with some great recommendations. Next time we are there we will take a leaf or two from this post to have a more fulfilling gelato experience.

  • Neha Verma

    We visited Italy few months back. We visited Rome, Florence and Venice. And yes, we had gelato in all three places. They are just so delicious. And being vegetarian when it was difficult for us to find anything else to eat, the delicious gelatos were always there to our rescue 🙂 Your post brought back those fond memories.

  • Kevin del Prado

    Ohh! I really love sweets. Top of them is gelato. I agree with you that naturalness of the color gives you the idea if the gelato is made from real fruits and nuts.

  • I want to visit Rome after I read this blog. First time to heard Gelato, they look so delicious 😀

  • Saint Facetious

    I thought great gelato was in Italy, but then I visited Paris. There’s a place near the pantheon that has straight up drop your socks amazing gelato. I had to gorge myself several times a day on that during our visit.

  • I’ve been told all I need to do in Rome is eat gelato. I cannot wait.

  • Katelyn Brin Bossany

    I love gelato! I really couldn’t have articulated the difference between this and ice cream before reading this, so this was really informative! I also didn’t know hazelnut was the most expensive to make. When we return next fall, I’m definitely using these tips to hunt down the best possible gellaterias!

    Kate Bossany