Is Italian ice cream the best in the world? Yes and no. Yes, because Italians know how to make it. No, because not every ice cream cone or cup you buy in Italy is actually good. Last year I ate a tropical fruit ice cream cup in Queensland, Australia, that was easily one of the best I’ve ever had. The truth is, it is not so easy to find real Italian ice cream. You have to know where to go, because the best gelaterie are hidden and usually popular among locals only. This is why I decided to write this post. I want foreigners to know where to buy delicious, authentic Italian ice cream and really enjoy it. I start from the cities I know best, Milan and Bergamo, but I will update my list every time I’ll find more addresses.
Why real Italian ice cream?
Because it’s delicious! There are million reasons to eat ice cream: it lifts your mood, it’s nutritious, it’s our favourite summer comfort food – as long as it’s natural and healthy. Good ice cream must contain fresh milk, eggs, and high quality ingredients. We do not want any fake colours of flavours in our ice cream, do we? It may or may not be organic, but it has to be genuine. In Italy, I expect to find pistachio and almond made with Sicilian nuts, and seasonal fruit flavours. I wouldn’t eat strawberries at Christmas, or pumpkins in June. The same goes for ice cream. Also, no fragments of ice in my cone, please. It has to be smooth and melt in my mouth.
The best ice cream in Bergamo and Milano
I’ve already mentioned La Romana, one of my favourite gelaterie in Bergamo. Another ice cream shop has just opened in the same street, Carmen Gusto Mediterraneo. I saw it while I was walking towards La Romana and was surprised to find this new store, all white, with few but inviting flavours. Pane e marmellata, which means bread and jam; almond and rosemary; dark chocolate and orange zest; carrot, orange and ginger. Waffles are homemade, crunchy and thin. Still wondering why they had decided to open Carmen next to La Romana, I went inside. And I loved their ice cream. So how do you choose between the two, when you are in Bergamo? The answer is easy: you don’t, and try both.
Pavè, the “light” gelato
When I heard that Pavè had opened a gelateria in the city center, I felt delighted. Pavè is a renowned bakery in Milan, their croissants, pastries and chocolate are among the best in town. They also make vegan cakes and sourdough bread. Last year they hired an ice cream maker and opened a new store next to the city court. They only have seasonal flavours that recall their baked products, from sbrisolona (a typical Italian crumble cake) to almond and cherries, or dark chocolate and lavender. Their ice cream is light and soft, a little bit too sweet maybe, but of excellent quality. You have to know where it is located, or you won’t see it. The shop is small and Cesare Correnti is not one of the most popular shopping streets, despite being close to the Duomo.
Massimo, the top choice
In a residential area called “corso Indipendenza”, which you can reach by underground (MM1 Porta Venezia) and then on foot, there’s another famous ice cream shop, Il Massimo del Gelato. And its fame is well-deserved. It’s always included in the best gelaterie in Italy, and if you try one of their chocolate flavours, you’ll understand why. “Azteco” is dark chocolate with cinnamon and chili pepper. “Oro puro” is 100% dark chocolate. “Domori” is still dark chocolate, but a little sweeter. And the list goes on. I also suggest trying their Greek yogurt and almond granita (snow cone), which is so good you feel unreasonably happy while you’re eating it.
Summer can be really hard in Milan. In the afternoon, when the heat starts to become a little more bearable (usually after 5.30 pm), I walk to Corso Indipendenza, crossing a quiet residential area with white houses and little front gardens in which roses grow, protected from the pollution of the main streets. I treat myself with a dark chocolate and Greek yogurt cone or an almond granita, and I sit on a bench, watching kids playing in the park or listening to their mothers’ conversations. There’s something intriguing in peering into other people’s life for a while.
Artico, the very best
Near the skyscrapers of Porta Nuova there’s an old suburb called Isola (island). Independent bookshops and cafés make this area particularly dear to those who don’t like the commercial streets of the city center. But I come here especially for one reason: Artico. This gelateria might be less famous than Massimo, but it’s equally good. Fresh ingredients, 100% dark chocolate, and handmade cream make their gelato an unforgettable experience. The shop is finely furnished and you can sit on the wooden benches, enjoying your cone or cup.
Ice cream and music
Another Italian ice cream shop popular among the Milanese is Gelateria della Musica, which started out as a small store in the outskirts and then became so famous that other stores were opened in the city center. One is not far from Porta Venezia, the other is right behind the Duomo. Every flavor is associated with a popular singer, hence the name. They have lactose free flavor, such as salted chocolate, raw pistachio, fruit smoothie, and crunchy waffles. Will the fact that it is now a franchise impact on the ice cream quality? I hope not.
Finally, there’s Grom, with many stores all around Italy. Their ice cream is good and they claim to use local, season ingredients. If you’re in Italy and are in doubt on where to eat real Italian ice cream, you can safely go to Grom. But remember, it’s not the best you can have.
I’ve already written about ice cream shops in Rome (here). I’ll keep looking for the best ones in other Italian towns, too, so stay tuned.