A guide to recognising your gelato

Published September 27th, 2015

When is a scoop of gelato more than just a scoop of gelato? When it's made from a prized, third-generation, so-secret-it's-not-even-written-down Florentine recipe in which the only ingredients are milk, eggs, sugar and dairy adoration.

This is what I tasted for myself at Vivoli, a humble gelateria on a funny side street off Piazza Santa Croce in Florence, Italy, that I frequented as a student more than a decade ago. It’s a destination family-run gelato spot, opened by brothers Serafino and Raffaello Vivoli as a latteria and neighbourhood coffee shop in 1929.

The ultimate affogato: vanilla gelato 'drowned' by hot coffee. Picture: Jeralyn Gerba

In the early 1930s, Raffaello started whipping up small batches of cream custard and deep-freezing them between layers of ice and salt. It was a hit at home with locals and tourists, and it launched a new family business that has been roaring for decades.

Since then, Vivoli has been obsessed with making all-natural gelato with the very best seasonal ingredients and without additives or preservatives of any kind. There are about two dozen flavours, a mix of seasonal fruits (fig is the holy grail), nuts (Sicilian pistachio, chestnut), and family favourites (rice pudding, baked pear).

Silvana and her mamma, the ladies in charge at Vivoli. Picture: Jeralyn Gerba

Silvana, Rafaello’s granddaughter, is the head gelato maker. Over a crazy delicious lunch of tagliatelle and Tuscan wine at her favourite neighbourhood spot, L’Antica Noe, and then later over the hands-down best affogato in town at Vivoli, the excellent Italian hostess and recipe gatekeeper gave a few pointers for navigating the gelato bins and waffle cone towers of her country.

How about a Roman holiday? Must-dos for Rome in the summer

Try Spain for some more culinary goodness: A gastronomy guide to Spain

Find great gelato in five easy steps

1. Colour: Good gelato is not flashy; its colour should almost be more pale and subtle than you are used to. If the strawberry is hot pink or the mint is fluorescent green, step away from the display case.

2. Volume: Be incredibly skeptical of huge gelato mounds under glass freezer cases, as it probably means there are stabilisers in the cream, along with other stuff you don’t want to be ingesting.

3. Texture: Real gelato should be soft and creamy. The unnatural stuff is shiny and glossy.

4. Seasonality and locality: Hazelnuts from Piedmont. Summer peaches from Umbria. Early fall figs from Tuscany. Notice where the ingredients are from and which fruit is in season. You should not find blueberry gelato in December.

5. Cones: At Vivoli, there's a strict no-cone policy. Why take unadulterated gelato and scoop it into a cone made out of lord-knows-what?

When you see this sign, you know you've hit the sweet spot.

As for the panna on top, feel free to ask for extra. All the Italian kids do.

Salivating much? Get yourself to Italy with our earlybird sale (offer ends October 31, 2015); or get in quick to tack on a tour with our 2016 Europe Sale (ends September 30, 2015); or move fast to travel by train with our Europe By Rail sale (ends September 30, 2015).

Author: Jeralyn Gerba

This article originally appeared on Fathom.

This article was from Fathom and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.


Fathom celebrates all the reasons why we pack our bags, get on a plane, hitch a ride, and explore beyond our backyards. Fathom is the travel website reinvented — through inspiring stories, practical advice, and useful tools and products. Fathom is where world-curious travelers indulge their passion for travel — whether they're getting on a plane tomorrow or staying at their laptop.