In Florence, they take their gelato as seriously as the wine. And that’s saying a lot, given that Florence is moments from Chianti, one of the world’s most famous winemaking regions. It’s no surprise really, given that Florence played a crucial role in the history of gelato. While frozen deserts had existed since ancient times, the creation of gelato as we know it today is credited to Bernardo Buontalenti, a native of Florence. He delighted the court of Catherina de Medici with his ice-cold creations, and we’ve all been happily scooping ever since.
Provenance is really key in Florence – you’ll find pistachios from Sicily, lemons from the Amalfi and additives, flavourings or thickeners are strictly frowned upon. But with a gelato shop on every corner (and that’s underestimating it), how do you find the best? Here’s our handy guide to seven of the best gelato shops in Florence.
Where to find the best ice cream in Florence
Possibly as famous as the Ponte Vecchio amongst locals, Gelateria Perchè No is a real institution. Founded in 1939, it’s a no-frills and faff-free sort of joint, with hardly any seating. But people don’t come here for the views, they come for that tantalizing gelato. When it was first established, proper refrigeration was in short supply so Gelateria Perchè No became masters in semifreddo, something they’re still considered to do best in Florence today.
You’ll find all the classic flavours here but they don’t shy away from more innovative flavour combos either, like green tea and lavender. There’s a selection of vegan-friendly gelato too, made with soy milk too. It’s also conveniently located slap-bang in the middle of Piazza Signoria and Piazza della Repubblica, so it’s easy to pop in for more.
Gelato pioneer Simone Bonini founded Carapina in 2008. Tired of the age-old techniques and flavours he saw across the city, he wanted to shake up the industry. Popularity spiralled and he’s since opened another gelato shop in Florence, as well as in Rome.
The gelato here is made from high-quality ingredients and whipped up using innovative processes, which you can watch live on large TV screens. Flavours are seasonal too, so at Christmas, you’ll find panettone. It’s sleek and modern inside, with as well as shelves brimming with artisanal products to buy. You can even buy the furniture.
Offering a more upmarket scooping experience is Gelataria de’Medici. You’ll need to hop on the tram to visit either shop, both located out of town in Statuto and Piazza Beccaria. The wooden gelato counter offers a staggering variety of flavours, with more than 40 to choose from. They’re masters of the traditional here and have perfected classic flavours like chocolate, crema and banana. But you’ll also find some interesting flavours, like rose-scented chocolate or gorgonzola and pear.
It’s a very Florentine experience – all low-hanging chandelier and panelling. Head here for a sweet treat after lunch or for dessert after dinner. They also sell some of the prettiest packages of cakes and pastries we’ve ever seen so make sure you leave space for them.
4. My Sugar
Look past the name and hotfoot to the front door for some of the best gelato in town. Husband-and-wife duo Alberto and Julia opened the shop over a decade ago in San Lorenzo, on the cusp of the area’s renaissance. What makes the shop so interesting is that the young couple source all of their ingredients from the sprawling San Lorenzo Market, which means you’ll never see more than 16 flavours on the menu. You’re also almost always in for a surprise.
Flavours tend to be creative, always created onsite daily. Crowd pleasers include Melacotta, made with ricotta, apple, cinnamon and honey, as well as the Asian-inspired black milk tea. If you baulk at anything beyond chocolate, you’ll find all the classics too, including a delightful tiramisu.
Run by another husband-and-wife team shaking up the gelato scene in Florence, Gelateria la Carrai now has two locations in the city. Expect a line – always – but it’s well worth the wait. Flavours include classics like strawberry and Nutella, as well as more creative offerings like After Eight Mint. Don’t miss the signature specials: cream with waffle and chocolate, white chocolate with pistachio and cream with orange and dark chocolate. It’s okay, just remind yourself you’ve *probably* already burned off the calories pounding the floors of the Ufizzi if you’re feeling greedy. And you know what else will make you feel better? It’s a bargain – a mere one euro per cone.
Gelataria la Carraia is located a stone’s throw from the River Arno. It’s named after its neighbouring bridge Ponte Alla Carraia, which is incidentally the city’s second-oldest bridge.
One of the most traditional gelato shops in the city, Gelato dei Neri is conveniently positioned around the corner from the Uffizi Gallery and Santa Croce. It’s not a lingering sort of spot and inside its standing room only. You’ll find some of the creamiest ice creams in Florence here, made with whole milk. Crowd favourites include ricotta with figs, pure caramel and passion fruit. You might even find fashionable flavours like matcha. They also make a mean granita, made with fresh or frozen fruit, ice and sugar. Perfect for balmy summer evenings.
Antonio Lisciandro comes from a long line of gelato makers in his native Messina, Sicily. In 1980 he opened up Carabè and he’s been serving up Sicilian-style scoops ever to happy visitors ever since. Gelato here is inspired by the flavours of Sicily so expect plenty of Sicilian lemons and Bronte pistachios. The “Spirito Sicilian” is a must-try, made with Sicilian mandarins, lemons and native Sicilian flowers, like jasmine.
You’ll also find other Sicilian specialities here, like cannoli made with creamy ricotta-filled pastry and sprinkled pistachios. The granita is as authentic as it gets, also available with mandarin and almond syrups. And don’t get us started on the cremolata, made with all-natural products. It’s also within spitting distance to the Galleria, home to Michelangelo’s white marble masterpiece, David.