Whether it’s a sweet spoonful in the evening as the weather cools or a refreshing cornetto in the hot midday sun, there’s nothing like tucking into a bright tasty cup of Italian gelato. Every September, the Festival del Gelato celebrates this sublime Florence food that has went on to become the pride of Italy, popular the country over.
While this gelato festival is a relatively modern occurrence, gelato is a dessert that Italy has been sinking its teeth into since the Renaissance period. Originally invented in Florence by Bernardo Buontalenti for the Grand Duke, gelato remained a favorite dessert, though its popularity exploded in the 1920-1930s with the development of the gelato cart.
Now we have an Italian food festival in its honor, which brings the best gelaterias and gelato makers from around the world to demonstrate their flavors, techniques, and skill. This festival doesn’t just highlight the best gelato in Italy, but champions gelato makers from around the world.
Stroll through the magnificent Piazzale Michelangelo to find a wide array of food trucks and counters. The festival features tastings, but also workshops, art, and competitions that will eventually crown a World Champion of Gelato. Sample traditional flavors such as coffee, hazelnut or dolce de leche, or maybe cutting edge prize-winners like wild strawberry with black pepper.
Where to find the best gelato in Florence
What if you’re in for a Florence food tour, but not during September when this decadent Italian festival takes place? Well we’ll leave you with some tips for where to eat in Florence if you’re looking for the best gelato.
Via dei Tavolini, 19r, 50122 Firenze FI, Italy
Perché No! (Why Not!) is located in a side street Palazzo Vecchio and the Duomo, considered by many to be the best gelato in Florence, one of the best in the world. The gelato is handcrafted daily from the finest ingredients from every corner of Italy: Bronte pistachios, Tuscan rose, and San Gavino saffron. They are known for their unusual flavors such as rose or sesame honey, as well as having vegan and dairy-free options, even offering the possibility of enjoying a gluten-free cone.
Gelateria del Neri
Via dei Neri, 9, 50122 Firenze FI, Italy
When you’re strolling through the Florentine evening, you may want to consider a stop at this gelateria. Always open until midnight, it makes the perfect place to stop for a late-night treat. While strengths are the classics, they do have a few more international flavors. Check out the matcha or salted caramel. If you want a taste of something more local go for the grezzo di Modica, a traditional form of cold processed Sicilian chocolate.
Cantina del Gelato
Via de' Bardi, 31, 50125 Firenze FI, Italy
The French gourmand Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin was aghast at the concept of dessert without cheese. In this the Cantina del Gelato delivers, not only providing regional Italian and tropical flavors like açaí, but also a bevy of cheese inclusive options. These include classic combinations like gorgonzola and apple, goat cheese and walnut, or mascarpone & Nutella. If cheese isn’t your deal, their house flavor is hazelnut with Nutella and almonds. Or you can take a chance on something more experimental such as black rice or turmeric fig.
There’s nothing more natural than wandering the streets of Florence, cone in hand, taking in the city while engaging in this most Italian culinary tradition. Buon appetito!