Making gelati is in the Italians’ DNA. It’s all good. So deciding who does ‘the best’ is a tall order. Leaving no cone unturned from Sicily to Veneto this summer, here’s my selection of the top five gelaterie, plus an old favourite.
1. Pozzallo, Sicily
Gelateria: Mattioli Cafe, Lungomare Pietre Nere 45
Perfect pairing: Cannella (cinnamon) and panna cotta (Italian ‘cooked cream’ dessert)
Tasting notes: This gelateria is the second reason to visit the port town of Pozzallo; the first is the ferry hop from Malta to Italy. As a cannella first-timer I’d go there again in a heartbeat. I think I’ve found my new BF (best flavour).
2. Agrigento, Sicily
Gelateria: Le Cuspidi, Piazza Cavour 19
Perfect pairing: Pistacchio and nocciola (hazelnut)
Tasting notes: Making gelati since 1960, this classy-looking gelateria does justice to the classics. The real treat, however, is watching the goings-on in the adjacent piazza – everything from local kids kicking around a soccer ball, to nonni line dancing to Italian-style salsa.
3. Spello, Umbria
Gelateria: Caffe Cavour, Via Cavour 61
Star flavour: Meringa alla lavanda (lavender)
Tasting notes: Spello is synonymous with flowers, particularly during the annual Infiorate festival when elaborate pictures are created with flower petals on the cobblestoned streets. It’s also a culinary hub. Combine these elements and you get lavender, orange blossom and rose petal gelati.
4. San Gimignano, Tuscany
Gelateria: Gelateria dell’ Olmo, Piazza Della Cisterna 34
Star flavour: Frutti di bosco (fruits of the forest)
Tasting notes: This mixed berry flavour is less adventurous than fragole e aceto balsamico (strawberry and balsamic vinegar) but delivers a rich, fruity fix. Join the queue in the main piazza of this hilltop town and people-watch while you wait and salivate.
5. Lucca, Tuscany
Gelateria: De’ Coltelli, Via San Paolino 10
Perfect pairing: Zenzero (ginger) and ananas (pineapple)
Tasting notes: Ooh la la – my tastebuds are still tingling! The perfect finale to walking the 4km-long Passeggiata Mura at the top of the city wall that encircles Lucca.
Long-time favourite: Venice, Veneto
Gelateria: Gelateria Ca’ d’Oro, Strada Nuova
Star flavours: Limone (lemon) and pistacchio
Tasting notes: A sentimental favourite of mine since 1998. Buying an ice-cream from this well-established gelateria is the Venetian equivalent of throwing three coins in the fountain: you’re guaranteed to return.