Best Gelato Centro Storico Rome: Giolitti - Italy's Not So Hidden Gem
Where & How to Order a Gelato in Rome
When it comes to finding the best gelato Rome has to offer, you'll get at least a dozen different answers. But if you're only visiting for a couple of days or a week or so, there's really only one place to go -- Giolitti located in the historical center of Rome, only about a 5 to 10 minute stroll from the Pantheon.
Once you discover Giolitti, you'll want to visit once or even twice a day if your waist line allows. I find that no matter how many times I go, I'm caught between wanting to enjoy my favorites and wanting to try new flavors. So it's best to visit with lots of people so you can nab little tastes of everyone's choices.
We have taken many guests to Giolitti and no one has ever left disappointed. It's our go-to gelateria. Giolitti has also been visited by Michelle Obama and her kids. What I love about Giolitti and why I think it's worth going is that it's got that old fashioned ice cream parlor look complete with servers in vests. The service is always friendly and I find you get a generous scoop as opposed to other places where you're barely given that much ice cream.
There's a more famous gelateria that was made even more popular because it was featured in a certain movie starring Julia Roberts, but their ice cream is stored in stainless steel containers so you can't even look at the ice cream and I find their servings are awfully stingy. The tell-tale sign that they're not as beloved, there are never any line-ups out the door.
Hope you enjoy Giolitti as much as our friends and family. Ciao!
Â© Adrienne Jenkins
Giolitti Is Located in the Historical Center - It's Tucked Away Behind Buildings On A Side Street
Where you won't find one of the best ice cream shops in Rome is on one of the major boulevards, streets or piazzas in Rome. Instead Giolitti which has been serving Rome's best gelato since the turn of the century at this historic location since 1900 is located just a short stroll from the Pantheon close to the Italian parliament. It's quite easy to find and if you get lost, just ask a local and they'll proudly show you the way.
What To Do First - You'll Need to Queue at the Casse
As soon as you enter through the glass doorways, look for the "casse" or cash register. In Italian coffee shops and ice cream shops, it's frequently most common to pay for your coffee, pastries and gelato first. Then you take the receipt to the counter.
Don't worry if the crowd at the cash register seems too long as the line moves quickly.
It's best to have exact change or at least small bills, otherwise, the cashier might be a bit exasperated that she has to slow the line down or part with her coins. I've also been admonished when I've thrown down an assortment of pocket change. The last time I went to Giolitti, a small was only 2.50 euros.
You Only Need a Small at Giolitti - Waffle Cones & Chocolate Covered Cones Cost Extra
Even if you don't speak a lick of Italian, the cashiers at Giolitti speak the international language of eating and will understand small, medium or large. They can also count in a multitude of languages. I'm quite amazed that they seem to be multilingual in taking orders in French and Spanish as well.
You just need to order a small cone/cup or "Vorrei un piccolo" which translates "I would like a small". Don't worry at this time about specifying cone or cup, it's the same price. If you haven't mastered your numbers in Italian, don't worry, fingers will do fine especially in Italy, the masters of hand gestures. Just hold up the number of fingers and to get truly fancy, the plural is "piccoli" to ask for multiple small cones/cups.
We've ordered medium and large in the past and trust me, the amount of ice cream or gelato you get with the small size at Giolitti unlike other gelaterias is not that much smaller than when I've ordered the bigger sizes.
What Flavors to Choose? - You Get Three Choices
After you've paid, head back towards the gleaming glass cases full of yummy flavors, that is, if you can walk by the long pastry case without being tempted as well. But you can also pick up marzipan and other sweet delights to go for a snack later on.
Even if the counter looks like a mob scene, no need to panic. It actually gives you more time to choose your flavor. Go ahead and bob and weave through people to take a look at the flavors. That's part of the experience. Also check out which ice cream servers are friendly, speak English and give generous scoops.
If you've never had gelato before, you're in for a treat. It's lighter than ice cream. The best gelato in Italy is made fresh daily. Even ordering a small, you get to choose three flavors. There are basically three types of gelato -- flavors that are similar to ice cream, fruity gelati that are highly concentrated bursts of juicy flavor like sherberts and specialty flavors like cinnamon or fig.
Try to choose flavor combos that go together. Coffee flavor as an example doesn't go well with say pineapple. But coffee, chocolate and pistachio taste great. Chocolate and fruit also are lovely. But I also find, the fruity tastes all go well together, too like cherry, strawberry and lemon.
How To Order Gelato at the Counter - Cone or Cup?
There are no order numbers or formal queues. It's just first come, first shove. Pony up to the counter, nudging your way forward. I tend to stand at the edge near the wall as there are usually less people. The middle of the counter seems to be most crowded with people trying to look at all the flavors.
Ready to order? Put your ticket on the counter and try to catch the eye of one of the servers. It's also a nice courtesy to put a 20 cent euro or 50 cent euro on top of your receipt on the counter, as a way of tipping your server in advance and to also get their attention.
What's nice about Giolitti, is that the servers speak fairly good English. The first question you'll be asked is cone "cono" or cup "copetta". I think you get a little more ice cream when you get a cone. Then tell them your first flavor, they will then ask "Poi?" to ask what flavor you would like next.
Don't Forget to Pick-up - Napkins & Spoons
Depending on how busy they get, they may or may not ask if you want whipped cream. They'll ask "con panna" which literally means "with cream". For yes, reply "si" otherwise a shake of the head or "no" will be understood. I highly recommend the cream. By the way, you know that eating ice cream on vacation, the calories don't count :D.
To be extra polite, say "Grazie" or "Grah-zee-ay" NOT "gracias" that's Spanish. You can even get fancy and say "grazie mille" pronounced mee-lay which means thank you very much or a thousand thanks.
Before you leave the counter, pick-up extra napkins and you'll see paper covered colorful plastic spoons. Even if you get a cone, get an extra spoon so you can try your friend's gelato too.
Stand or Stroll - But Don't Sit
As you turn around, you'll exit back outside onto the street or through the elegant ice cream parlor. Although there are seats and tables, you can't sit and eat your ice cream here. This sitting is reserved for seated customers who place their orders with a server.
It's the same deal with seats outside. It will be awfully tempting to just sit down. But again, these are reserved for higher paying customers who may spend more like 10 euros and up for a fancy ice cream sundae in a glass cup. Sit down or table service usually costs extra in Europe.
So while it may be nice to treat yourself to sit and eat dessert on the sidewalk in Rome, it's equally delightful to just stroll with your gelato in hand and window shop at the many neighboring clothing and gift shops.
Where to Find Giolitti - Open Daily
Giolitti is one of the oldest gelaterias in Rome and is open 365 days of the year, operating during holidays as well.
Opening Hours: 7 am to 1:30 am
Address: via Uffici del Vicario, 40
Best Gelato Prati
Gelateria dei Gracchi
Anthony Bourdain Recommends - Gelateria dei Gracchi in Prati
If you're a foodie and don't mind making a trek to try the then Gelateria dei Gracchi in Prati is a wonderful, non-fussy hole-in-the-wall that's worth seeking out. What I love, is that the whole vibe of the place is understated, it's not some modern, pretentious chain that's more about the design than the gelati. best artisanal gelato shop in Rome
I've tasted their apple gelato and it's gorgeous. Feel free to request a taste or two before you commit to a flavor. I can personally vouch for their pistachio gelato. What makes their gelato wonderfully delicious is that they use natural ingredients and avoid artificial flavoring and coloring.
Gelateria dei Gracchi in Prati is easily accessible by walking from either the Vatican or the historical center. To give you an idea of distances, it's about a half an hour brisk walk or 45 minute leisurely passegiata or stroll from the Vatican to the historical center of Rome to Piazza Navonna or the Pantheon. So you could make this gelateria your half-way pit stop.
At about 7 minutes into this video, Bourdain shares his pick for best gelateria in Rome and shares some other great eats in the Eternal City. You can also checkout Bourdain's latest series The Layover which has sussed out suggestions on where to go when you're short on time in some of Europe's most popular travel destinations.
Address: Via dei Gracchi, 272, 00192 Roma, Italia
La Dolce Vita
Ask a dozen people and you'll get a dozen different answers. Plus if you Google best gelato Rome, you won't get a definitive answer. I think it comes down to your personal preference, quality vs. quantity, convenience vs. traveling to seek out certain gelaterias, etc.
I'd love to hear of some places you've tried or flavors you've tasted so I can give them a try. What's your favorite gelato flavor combos? Feel free to list favorites in other cities in Italy, across Europe and even in the States.
Plus a special shout out to fellow Canadian, James Coleridge, owner of Bella Gelateria in Vancouver who recently won a gold medal at the Florence Gelato Festival 2012 for his pecan and Canadian maple syrup gelato.