Gelato and Florence

Ask anybody who visits Florence: is gelato important there?

Why, certo! Gelato plays a key role in Florence’s history. In the 16th century, a man named Ruggeri, a Florentine poultry seller, who liked to cook as a hobby, took part in a competition put on by the Medici between the best chefs of Tuscany for the “most original dish ever seen.” His “sorbet” ended up winning over all the judges and he and his recipe gained instant great fame.

Also in 16th-century Florence, Bernardo Buontalenti, a famous architect, sculptor, and painter, who also loved cooking, was asked to prepare lavish banquets. His delicious zabaglione cream and fruit were an enormous hit, the start of the famous “crema fiorentina” and “gelato buontalenti” still around to be enjoyed in all of Florence’s top gelato spots.

Venchi (via dei Calzaiuoli, 65/R): a gelato made with select ingredients, like hazelnut (exclusively from I.G.P. Piedmont hazelnuts) and the famous “Venchi” chocolate they make themselves.

Vivoli (via dell’Isola delle Stinche, 7/R): Florence’s oldest gelateria, featuring sophisticated combinations as well as gluten-free options.

Dei Neri (via dei Neri, 9/11): a great variety of flavors, including some original ones, and gelato-based creative pastries.

La Carraia (piazza Nazario Sauro, 25/R): a secret, exclusive recipe, all natural, makes its gelato one of Florence’s most famous.

Grom (via del Campanile, 2): fresh fruit only, from the farm of the owner, uses no dyes, flavorings, preservatives, or emulsifiers for a gelato like “the days of yore.”

And, hand’s down, my favorite ice cream in Florence is “Buontalenti” from Badiani.  It is second to none.

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