In the echelons of sweet-tooth history, few desserts have a pedestal as tall as gelato. Frozen yet silky, so sweet it’s savory and somehow creamier than cream, this treat can be simplified down to ice cream—but royal. You can find good gelato all over the world, but the best gelato has always been found in Florence.
The informal birthplace of the creamy concoction, legend has it that gelato was invented here in the 16th century—the predominant account being that alchemist Bernardo Buontalenti presented his creation to the court of Caterina Dei Medici, and the rest is history. Today, the town that started it all still has a certain soft spot for its dessert, with gelato holding the acclaim of a national treasure. There’s plenty else to see and do when visiting Florence, but coming here without sampling the world’s best gelato would be utter madness. We’ve compiled how you can tell if the gelato is the real deal, and some of the tried-and-true spots for the best gelato in Florence. But truly, the only way to know for sure which is the best in Florence is to try them all.
We probably all picture the same image when envisioning gelato: heaping, colorful mounds of frigid cream, tastefully drizzled with toppings like crushed pistachio and chocolate shavings, lined up one after another like a dessert mountain range. Truthfully, this is the telltale sign that you’re in the wrong gelateria. Those heaping mounds are near-guaranteed to be mass-produced; those colors all but certain to be artificial. Additionally, if everything within the gelateria is in English, that’s not a good sign. All in all—if it sports all of the above—it’s the tourist-trap-McDonalds equivalent of the authentic delicacy.
Look instead for a shop a little off the beaten path: Places with high tourist foot traffic are perfectly primed to cut quality for higher profits. Also look for shops with the gelato in covered steel tins—this is the telltale sign that the dessert is artisanal and freshness is a priority.
If your discovering of Florence dictates a little more direction and a little less meandering, fear not: We’ve compiled a medley of shops known for serving the best gelato in Florence. Any of the following are certain to treat your taste buds.
My Sugar is everything that gelato should be: fresh, forward-thinking, fresh, fun, and fresh. Found in the San Lorenzo neighborhood, the ingredients for the day’s flavors are sourced every morning from the nearby San Lorenzo Market. From there, tradition meets innovation: the gelateria sports a mastery certification from the local gelato maker’s guild as well as a strikingly diverse menu. Classic flavors like tiramisu, melacotta and pistachio are no doubt decadent, but Asian-inspired flavors are well worth trying. Black sesame, adzuki bean and black milk tea all might just become your new favorite flavor.
The oldest gelateria in all of Florence, the fabled Vivoli is more of an institution than a gelateria. Dating back to approximately 1926, it’s survived wars, floods and the test of time to still stand today—a living artifact of Florence’s gelato. The interior is unchanged, as is the menu: every choice of gelato is a classic—be it the amarena, the lime and mint, the saffron or the zabaione—as well as the fresh pastries or the semifreddo desserts. Typically, you’d be advised to steer clear of a gelateria that also sold x (pizza, pastries, etc.) but Vivoli outdates that wisdom by several decades. Everything is made fresh daily, and almost all the ingredients are in-house—the exceptions to the rule being pistachios and hazelnuts. Of the best gelato in Florence, this is arguably the most famous.
One of the few gelato shops that can challenge Vivoli’s historical acclaim. Perché No is a (comparatively) tiny gelateria nestled into the middle of the historical center. Open since 1939, they’ve been family-run for all these years—adding a certain charm to their authenticity. While they got their start with semifreddo offerings, today you can expect droves of people patiently waiting all hours of the day for the chance to sample the likes of their gelato—Tuscan rose, Sicilian Pistachio, and Sesame & Honey to name just a few.
Il Procopio earns its acclaim for the best gelato in Florence for a different reason. Most gelato is primarily milk-based, and thus has little cream. Il Procopio is predominantly cream-based, with the end result being richer than what any collection of words could ever describe. We’ll try anyway: imagine a cup of deep, dark amethyst in a world comprised of shades of grey. That’s what tasting gelato here is like—especially with flavors like black forest cake and “Madness” (toasted almond, fig, orange peel and homemade pistachio paste). Skip the pasta or pizza, and just have a savory dinner of gelato here—it’s your vacation, after all.
Eager to head to the enchanting town of Florence and feast on gelato for every meal of the day? Speak with one of our travel agents first. The benefits are like ordering multiple flavors at once: One moment you’re breathing easy from the fact that all of your travel was professionally taken care of, the next you’re thankful for the unique insights they provided, and then you’re relishing exclusive perks and amenities with industry-leading names like Celebrity Cruises. Put succinctly, travel agents are the gelato of vacationing.