In my travels through Italy, I have tasted many different types of Gelato. I usually go for similar flavors at each gelateria. I often order cioccolata, strachiatella, canella, or nutella. It is because of my penchant for the same tastes that I can compare and contrast different producers of gelato. There are your basic gelaterias that are commonly found in touristy locations. These gelatos are often decorated with something related to the flavor they represent. The kinder gelato has pieces of kinder, the lemon has lemon rinds, etc. These shops even sell fancy sundaes and may offer more flavors than a Baskin Robbins. All of the flair is used to draw in tourists who are just excited at the prospect of eating any gelato. If you read tourist books closely, they will often point you to the ‘best’ gelaterias in any city. Here, the gelato is made in house, with better ingredients. It is not the mass-produced gelato you would find in the other shops. Each time that I read about a fantastic gelateria, I make it my mission to find it and taste it for myself.
In Florence, I was told that both Grom and Vivoli sold the best gelato. Grom is on a tiny street in the center of the city. Its flavors change on a regular basis and they often sell different types of chocolate depending on the percentage and where the chocolate came from. Vivoli is also on a small street, but in an area that is much less travelled. It was very close to where I lived and studied when I stayed in Florence for a month, so I had more chances to try it. I found Grom to be good, but nothing spectacular. Vivoli’s gelato wasn’t any better, but I did find their granitas to be particularly good. A friend of mine was also told about a gelateria right in the heart of the city. To me, this one looked just the same as all the others, and its flavors weren’t any better. In Rome, I heard over and over again about a mythical gelateria by the Trevi fountain. I heard about it from my first visit to Italy, during my most recent visit to Italy, and in various guidebooks. Every time I was near the Trevi, I kept an eye out for this supposed ‘best’ gelateria. Fed up with my inability to find this place, I went on to google maps and found out exactly where it was. Four years after first hearing about this place, I got my first taste. And, surprise, surprise, it was not any better than Grom or Vivoli. San Crispino, as the gelateria was called, was not as good as it was said to be.
Being quite disenchanted with the phrase ‘the best gelato,’ I was in doubtful when I was told that Nervi had the best gelato and that I had to try it. Always up for anything chocolate-y, I accepted my friends’ invitation. My ride parked her mini cooper illegally because there was no parking (this is Italy). We sat down to order. I was told that I should have canella and nutella, a combination I approved of heartily. I might have chosen it without being told to. This time, the gelato really was the best gelato ever. All of the others had very similar tastes, and I couldn’t distinguish a better one from a worse one. The taste of this gelato left me with no doubt that was superior. I wasn’t able to try any other flavors, but for me it didn’t matter. I would order these two flavors every time. I was tempted to order a second helping, but restrained myself. So, if you ever find yourself in the north of Italy near Genoa, make sure to visit Gelateria Priaruggia at Via Quarto, 1.
(written Fall 2009)