In Italy, gelato is available literally on every corner, and several points in between. You can buy it in supermarkets and at street stands; you can buy it at pubs and pizzerias. But for a true Italian gelato experience, you can buy it at one of countless gelaterias scattered throughout whatever Italian city in which you may be.
Based on my observations, every gelateria in Italy claims to be the best in Italy. I even saw a handful that claimed to be the best in all of Europe. Each declares their product a must-eat if you want your visit to their country to be complete, and I maintain a scoop or two of gelato definitely is recommended for anyone whose digestive system can handle it. But, while my field tests did confirm consistently unfailing tastiness of every scoop I’d consumed, I didn’t find any that stood out above the others in quality until I neared the end of my travels, in Roma.
I followed a morning in Italy’s capital of exploring ancient Rome with a solo lunch in a self-serve snack shop near Piazza Navona, and planned on paying a visit to the Pantheon before putting my map away and partaking in some aimless wandering around the city centre.
Having lost all sense of orientation upon arrival at the piazza, I took a moment on my way out the door to ask a couple of Germans at the table next to me if they could point me in the right direction. Instead, I found myself joining them on a trip to Roma’s oldest gelateria – Giolitti for a scoop of Italy’s favourite frozen treat.
Founded in 1890 by Guiseppe and Bernardina Giolitti, Giolitti has remained in the family since, and has grown to offer over 160 flavours of quite possibly Italy’s best gelato. And we certainly weren’t alone in appreciating it.
The four of us pushed our way into the little establishment on via Uffici del Vicario intent on having a scoop or two in our bellies before the sun went down. The place was practically bursting at the seams with people waiting to pay, and people waiting to choose their respective flavours – to say that there were 300 people in there would not be an exaggeration. But, having, like the locals and like everybody else in the shop, ignored all line-up etiquette and pushed our way to the front, we were in and out within 20 minutes. With 2.5€, I bought a piccolo cono di cioccolata fondente e menta (small cone of dark chocolate and mint) that made the chaos and the wait entirely worth it. I’d officially experienced the awesome that is real Italian gelato, and if this wasn’t the best gelato in Italy, I don’t know what would be.