My Florentine Gelato Expedition

I had a bit of a gelato problem when I studied abroad in Florence, Italy; I’m not going to deny that. Not exactly ice cream and not exactly Italian ice and yet not exactly frozen yogurt, gelato is a singularly delicious standout among frozen desserts, and I was lucky to have access to it in droves when I was in Florence. Gelaterias lined the streets and were tucked into corners of the city – a new one to try every week (or sometimes every day). I feel like something of an authority when it comes to the Florentine gelato scene, so I hope you will indulge me in a trek through the best places in Florence to eat my favorite frozen confection.

Best Overall Gelato: Sbrino


It was some extreme stroke of good fortune that placed my Florence apartment five minutes from one of the two Sbrino locations in the city. This was a perfect place to visit when it was 10 pm and I just needed to end my day on a sweet note, and it helped that every single employee was kind and helpful and amazingly tolerant of my attempts at speaking Italian. Not only could I try an unlimited number of flavors each time I visited, it seemed like every flavor was good. Not content to just stick with the safe hits of chocolate or peanut butter or salted caramel, Sbrino experimented with blood orange, chocolate and pear, and their signature Speculoos – cinnamon sugar cookie. It seemed to get better each time I returned, and I went 25 times in total, so my last cone, on my last night in Florence, may well have been ambrosia from the gods.

Gelato tip: most shops will let you sample flavors before you decide on your order. If there’s an unusual flavor that you’re unsure of, you can taste a small sample before you commit to a full scoop!

Runner-up: Gelateria dei Neri


Neri had one of the best flavors of gelato I tried – a caramel delicacy that was a mere few steps away from caramel sauce, which I will eat by the spoonful (it’s the flavor on the left in the picture). It was so rich that I had to limit my consumption sometimes, but I gladly suffered the stomachaches when the offending flavor was so singularly delicious. While not as adventurous as Sbrino, Neri still offered a dazzling array of flavors every day, and at a very good price – a small cone with two flavors was €1.80. This was another fortuitously-placed establishment, very close to the main building that housed my host university in Florence, and I stopped here often on the way to class. It was also quite close to my favorite bridge in Florence, Ponte alla Grazie, and I spent many blissful mornings looking out over the mountains as I crossed the bridge and enjoying my favorite treat.

Best Individual Flavor: Gelateria La Carraia (Sinfonia Carraia)


This may have been my third-favorite gelateria in Florence, but they had the best individual flavor: a confectionery delight of a cream base with chocolate and orange swirled throughout called Sinfonia Carraia. One of their three signature flavors, no other gelato shop in the world can boast such specialties, which always made a trip to this shop singular. This was another shop with a most fortuitous placement; one of the two locations in Florence was less than a ten-minute walk from my apartment. On days when I was feeling particularly hungry, sad, happy, celebratory (okay, let’s be real, any day), I would make a stop at Sbrino for my first cone and continue down the road to La Carraia for my second.

Gelato tip: there are a few easy ways to order food in Italian, and the employees of most gelato shops I visited were pleased when I tried to speak their language. You can say vorrei un gelato… (I would like a _____ gelato) or posso avere un gelato …? (May I have a ____ gelato?). My typical order was vorrei un cono piccolo con cioccolato e caramello! (I would like a small cone with chocolate and caramel!)

Most Affordable: Gelateria della Passera (Dondurmaci)

della passera

This gelateria ranked eighth overall (out of 33 total, so a considerable accomplishment), but it was among the most affordable and authentic. One of my professors in Florence, a born and raised Florentine, actually recommended this shop to me, which I believe lends it some credibility. Tucked into a tiny square about ten minutes from my apartment, Passera was a small shop that, like Sbrino, prided itself on interesting flavors made fresh every day. The standout feature, however, was that each scoop was just one euro. Two scoops? Two euros. It was simple and refreshing, just like their flavors. Combined with friendly, local staff, this was a great place to visit to feel like a local.

Gelato tip: some shops that attract a great number of tourists may charge up to €6-8 for a small gelato. You usually don’t want to pay more than €2.50 for a small gelato with two flavors! All of the places mentioned here are reasonably priced, with the most expensive reaching about €3 for a small cone.

Most Interesting Flavor Combination: Cremeria Boni


It might have just been my choices at this shop that led to this particular outcome, but I had the most interesting combination of flavors on the singular occasion I visited this shop: crunchy caramel and variegato all’amarena (it means “sour cherry,” but it’s not particularly sour). Even the color combination was quite striking. I just visited this shop once because it was out of my way – most of the main attractions and places I frequented in Florence are north of the Arno River, and this shop was even further south of where I lived. Still, it made a very nice walk when I decided to go on an adventure and find this gelateria, and I got to explore a new part of the city along the way.

Most Down-to-Earth Shop and Flavors: Gelateria di Filo


Filo was one of the places recommended to me by my study abroad site adviser, and it was definitely one of the most authentic and down-to-earth shops I visited. Not only was it tucked into a street with few tourists and little traffic, making it more of a local treasure than a highly tourist-frequented site, the flavors there were simple yet delicious. If you want gelato made with fresh fruit that tastes just as refreshing and natural as biting into a crisp Granny Smith apple, this is the place for you.

Gelato tip: you usually don’t want to have bright colors in your gelato – that signals additives and artificial coloring. For the most authentic, least processed gelato, seek out stores with natural-colored gelato in either flat metal pans or covered metal containers. Shops with brightly-colored gelato piled up high are not only the most expensive but also usually the lowest quality.

Most Likely to Lead to an Adventure and a Memory: La Sorbettiera


This honorific requires some explaining. Despite it being located approximately eight minutes from my apartment, in the neighborhood where I had lived for two months, it was frustratingly difficult for me to find this shop – and to find my way home again once I had found it. It was a Friday night; I had no plans and decided that I wanted to try a new gelateria, so I selected one nearby and went for a nice walk. The weather was warming up and I was reveling in the fact that I could navigate the area so well – until I couldn’t, and I spent at least 20 minutes getting to a place I should have reached in half the time. Still, the gelato was delicious, and I finished my cone standing on the balcony of my apartment and considering how lucky I was to try a new gelato shop at my whim, which made it a very simple but special memory.

Gelato tip: there is no such thing as vanilla-flavored gelato. For the “base” flavor that would be the closest equivalent, try fior di latte, or plain milk (it’s delicious!).

Special Honor, Best Non-Florentine Gelato: Gelateria Guidi (Como)


Because I was living in Florence, most of the shops I tried were within the city. However, I did try a few other places when I traveled to other parts of Italy, and I was lucky to discover Guidi on a trip to Lake Como. This scenic site is about an hour outside of Milan, where I was vacationing over my spring break, and it housed my overall fifth-favorite gelateria. The dark chocolate (fondente) I had here was the best I ate, and the two other flavors I tried – lemon and lemon with ginger – both made a great complementary flavor to the rich, creamy chocolate. It was so good that I ate it twice in the span of about three hours during my day trip to Como.

Gelato tip: Many good gelato places will give you a wafer cookie in your gelato for free!

Other Gelato Worth Trying


While I don’t have a special award for every single gelateria I tried, there were many others that were just as good and are equally worth visiting! In addition to all of the places above, I also highly recommend Il Procopio (the cover image for this article), Perché No! (pictured here), Santa Trinita, My Sugar, Da Angelo, Vivoli, and Edoardo, all also found in Florence.

I hope that this can help any future Florentine travelers! Buon appetito!

To learn more about the CIS Abroad program in Florence, Italy, please click the hyperlink.

About the Author – Grace Gibson ’20, Spring 2019, Semester in Florence, Italy

Grace is studying English literature and biology at Elizabethtown College. Outside of those disciplines, she also enjoys drawing, painting, music, and theater, and she hopes to spend the rest of her life creating art in various forms.


One thought on “My Florentine Gelato Expedition

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  1. Very nice article! We love ice cream! 💜 If you want take a look at our article about Lake Plastiras! A beautiful lake in Greece with mountains all around, a waterfall nearby and amazing forest! You may find it interesting! If you like our article and our blog, follow us and we will follow you back! Thanks a lot! 🙏
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