Sweet Italy: How to Order Gelato like an Italian

Adam Jones | 30/09/2019
Ingredients for making and serving gourmet artisanal ice cream

Ordering gelato in Italy has a particular kind of romance to it. You’re on holiday, exploring a foreign city on a hot day, and you stop at one of the local gelaterias for a refreshing break. Fortunately, you’re already aware that Italian gelato has its own etiquette, traditions, and vocabulary. Here are a few tips to  help you order in comfort and confidence. 

Let’s cover some Italian etiquette to begin. Italians tend to eat gelato as a late afternoon snack or an evening treat during an after-dinner stroll. In many places like Rome, you let the cashier know your general order - cup or cone? One scoop or two? After you pay for the order,  you take your receipt, and decide on flavors at the gelato counter. 

Do you need to speak Italian fluently to be able to complete your order? Not at all. But knowing a few words of Italian vocabulary related to gelato will help. To start with, you’ll want to know what vessel you want to use for your ice cream and what size. You may want to order a piccolo (small), medio (medium), or a grande (large). Now how do you want to eat it? The most common options you’ll find are in una coppa (a cup), una coppetta (a small cup), or un cono (a cone). 

Now how to order food in Italian? These basic phrases will help get you started. 

Vorrei una coppa media: I would like a medium cup.

Unlike an ice cream order, gelato will often come with the offer of being topped with la panna (fresh cream) or maybe even la panna montata (whipped cream). 

You might hear the question: 

Vuole la panna? : Do you want cream?

A quick si (yes) or no (no) will work for an answer. Another sign that you’re not from around here is a lack of familiarity with Italian gelato flavors. Flavours tend to fall into one of 4 categories: cioccolato (chocolate ), crema (cream), frutta (fruit), and noccioline (nuts).


Popular chocolate flavors include cioccolato (chocolate), cioccolato bianco (white chocolate), cioccolato fondente (rich, dark chocolate), cioccolato al latte (milk chocolate), and cioccolato all’arancia (orange-flavored dark chocolate). 


For creams, you may find crema (custard), cocco (coconut cream), caffè (coffee), Fior di Latte (sweetened cream), and zabaione (marsala wine custard). Nuts will be a bit more familiar, with pistacchio being a favorite, as well as mandorla (almond) and nocciola (hazelnut). 


We can’t forget fruits either with albicocca (apricot) fragola (strawberry), frutti di bosco (mixed small berries), fico (fig), pesca (peach), and pera (pear). That should be enough flavors to get you started.


Where to Go

Though you can google best gelato in Rome, you won’t find a consensus as to the absolute best. The best gelato in Florence to one person will not be the best for another. That said, there are places that consistently rated in the top few. We’ll give you some examples of shops that come highly recommended so when you’re searching for the best gelato in Venice, you’ll be sure to have a top notch experience.



Most folks will agree that you can’t go wrong with Neve Di Latte (Via Luigi Poletti, 6, 00196, Roma RM, Italy) The proprietor Simone Romano has won accolades for his fresh, modern take on this classic Italian dessert. Freshly made with high-quality ingredients and hand-chosen for import from all around Italy, stopping at Neve Di Latte is definitely going to be a showstopper.



Florence loves gelato so much that it has a whole gelato festival.  Perché No! (Via dei Tavolini, 19r, 50122 Firenze FI, Italy) located near some of the city’s central attractions like the Duomo, is considered one of the best in the world. You’ll find Bronte pistachios, Tuscan rose, and San Gavino saffron as different ingredients in their handcrafted creations. They also offer vegan and dairy-free options, even gluten-free cones.



Gelateria Nico (Fondamenta Zattere al Ponte Longo, 922, 30123 Venezia VE, Italy) doesn’t only have some of the city’s best gelato, but provides an amazing view of the lagoon. Try an affordable bite of the Kinder cereal flavour  while soaking in the sights of Venice.