Delicious Italian ice cream
If you’re still with me, then you’ve finally arrived at the final dish of the holy trinity, ice cream. A sweetness that everyone can appreciate. I don’t say this lightly when I mention that I made it my mission to try every ice cream spot in Florence. What can I say, I was a year old and a bit ambitious. After taking an ice cream class with my Italian group in Florence, I tried over twenty-five places and took notes on what to look for and where to look when it comes to tasting a bit of heaven. I’ll jot down traits on the look and taste factor for your next crossover with ice cream.
You might be wondering what makes an ice cream a ice? Well, first I want to mention that gelato is just translated as ice cream in Italian, but there are some differences in how these two are made. Both treats start with a custard base that varies slightly from each other, but traditional Italian gelato has a higher proportion of milk and a lower proportion of eggs and cream, many not including eggs at all. It’s mixed much slower, which incorporates less air and leaves the ice cream denser than the fluffy ice cream our first Commander-in-Chief knowingly enjoyed.
Many are drawn to the soft ice cream found in gelaterias in metropolitan cities like Rome. You know which one I’m referring to, if not, just search gelato and you’ll see which one I’m talking about. Based on the aesthetics, it’s nice to walk around and seems to taste good and they tend to, but I’ve learned to steer clear of those Italian hills for several reasons. The first is what is added to make them appear as nice towers. They usually contain a binding agent, like xanthan gum, which thickens the ice cream to make it last longer and give it a chewier appearance. They tend to be a natural chemical, although not all do. If you come across any hiding under the silver tops, step into this gelateria and sample those flavors. They are usually cooler and tastier on a hot Italian summer day.
That’s the fun part, but it can also be overwhelming when you walk into a gelateria and aren’t sure what flavor to get, so I suggest you try them out before you commit. I learned to love hazelnut in Florence, especially during the cooler seasons. Yes, I always craved this frozen treat during the winter months. During warmer seasons, I enjoyed pistachio or cherry. My favorite store I found in Florence is Sbrino Gelative Contadino across the Arno which was only a ten minute walk from my apartment and made my visits frequent. They change their flavors weekly and every flavor I tried was amazing and I’m not exaggerating. There are many hidden gems like Sbrino in Italy, so ask the locals for their favorite gelateria.
Hazelnut flavors tend to be creamier because they complement each other so well. Sorbets like Strawberry and Lime, more fruity flavors usually contain no milk or egg and are more traditional ice cream flavors. These ice creams are ideal for summer days when you need a bit of freshness or are more important in the south where you are going because the heat and humidity are more present. If you like it sweet like me and occasionally go for the double scoop, try mixing up the flavors by choosing ones that complement each other. I like to have a thicker ball, more milk and egg presence with a lighter sorbet flavor underneath so it’s not too heavy and overwhelming but still refreshing.
Enjoy these new gelaterias with fun flavors and don’t be afraid to try them. Two of my housemates fell in love with the sesame seed gelato flavor and even claim it’s the best. With the summer heat in Italy, you shouldn’t be surprised if you find yourself having two to three scoops a day to keep you cool. Enjoy a cone walk on the cobblestones and admire the historic towns of Italy while tasting the sweet life.
Tessa Cervantes-Roth, CSU IP Florence, Italy Alumni, 2019-2020, CSUN Study Abroad Advisor
Photos taken by Tessa Cervantes-Roth, CSU IP Florence, Italy Alumni, 2019-2020