Countless travelers love Rome, and are lured to the city for myriad reasons. Some go because they are awed by Rome’s beautiful sights, others visit because of the city’s wonderful food, still others go in search of la dolce vita. Our writer went for the gelato….
By Megan Watkins
When it comes to the job of finding the perfect place for dessert, I take my work very seriously.
If I could eat dessert for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, I would. My stomach might not like me too much after all that sugar. But then, I don’t like to dwell on the negatives.
On a trip to Rome a few weeks ago, my first thought wasn’t about seeing the Colosseum, the Vatican, or the beautiful Pantheon. And it wasn’t about spending indulgent evenings in the city’s excellent restaurants. Or walking about the Borghese Gardens or the Piazza Navona. Or through the little alleyways of Travestere.
My thoughts were about ice cream.
More specifically, gelato, that smooth and creamy, oh-so-good Italian delight. It bursts with sweetness. and tempts one’s palate with numerous and, at times, near-unbelievable flavors.
Research, Research, Research
Even before departing for Italy I had been having a hard time focusing on anything even remotely touristy.
“Let the Colosseum and the Pantheon and the Borghese be fodder for other tourists,” I decided. I set my mind on finding the top gelateria in Rome.
It was not a flippant decision, and I did a lot of research before I left for Rome. I also did a lot more once I arrived, diving into it mouth first.
I was soon devouring gelato after both lunch and dinner, and once, even after breakfast. You drink coffee with breakfast, I reasoned, so why not coffee gelato with your morning sfogliatelle or biscotti?
I was fully committed to providing the most accurate list of the best gelato places in Rome. My personal sacrifices are your gain. Continue reading to see the Top 5 gelaterias in Rome, and one likely the best in the world.
#5: Tre Scalini – Piazza Navona 28
Have you ever indulged in Tartufo? It’s the traditional Italian dessert made of two or more flavors of ice cream wrapped around a fruit center, and all covered with a hard shell of chocolate. Delizioso!
You’ll find the best Tartufo in Rome, at Tre Scalini, a well-known café on the Piazza Navona.
Even though known for Tartufo, when I visited I still had to try the gelato…strictly for the sake of research, of course. (To be totally honest, it was hard to say no to the Tartufo that was staring me in the face. So I just ordered both…again, all in the name of research).
My Tartufo had a cherry center encapsulated in chocolate ice cream, and it was heavenly. It was like nothing I had ever eaten before, and I highly recommend it. My gelato was my trusted flavors, of chocolate and coffee, and was also delicious.
Since it is tucked away on one side of the bustling Piazza, there are plenty of cafés and restaurants nearby. Go to the Piazza in the early evening to take some pictures and watch the street performers before dinner. Afterward head to Tre Scalini for dessert.
#4: Gelateria del Teatro – Via dei Coronari 65-66
I’ve become accustomed to the artificial mint flavoring used in the ice cream we Americans typically buy in grocery stores. I had no idea what I was missing until I visited Gelateria del Teatro. There I found real mint ice cream that tasted as if I was eating actual mint leaves.
My taste buds went into complete shock after my first lick, and it was an incredibly pleasant surprise. The mint cleansed my palette after dinner and prepared me for the coffee gelato at the bottom of the cone. It was definitely something to write home about. It tasted as if I was having a fresh pot of coffee in gelato form. (As I said coffee is my go-to flavor, always.)
#3: Grom – Via della Maddalena 30A
If you are a health nut or simply wonder how organic gelato tastes, this is the place for you. The owners of Grom use only locally grown and sourced products, most coming from their farm just outside of Rome.
Being that I had this gelato at 11 am, it made me feel less unhealthy having dessert before noon. In keeping with my “attempt to be healthy while eating gelato” vibe, I chose the organic strawberry gelato. (With a scoop of the extra dark chocolate.) Of course, I wanted the dark chocolate strictly for its antioxidant and ability to lower blood pressure. See, I was being healthy!
This particular location of Grom (there are two in Rome) also happens to be right near Giolitti (see below) and The Pantheon. If you know you will be in this area only once during your visit to Rome, I suggest going here. Go to Grom at 11 am when there is no line, then head straight over to the Pantheon to be a tourist.
#2: Il Gelato di San Crispino – Via della Panetteria 42
Because this gelateria was directly next to my hotel, I had the luxury of sampling their little temptations most often. In total, I indulged here three times; though it might not seem like a lot, I was in Rome for only five days.
I’m so sorry I cheated on you, coffee, but I had a love affair with pistachio at San Crispino. It was incredible. No matter how you feel about nuts – of which I am not a fan – if you visit this hole-in-the-wall gelateria, try the pistachio since it is quite light and velvety without a nutty flavor at all.
This gelato not only served to cool me off on a hot Roman holiday, but to also tantalize my taste buds. In addition, a photo of my gelato in front of Trevi Fountain was a must for Instagram!
I am not sure if people like my picture for the beautiful, historic fountain or the incredibly photogenic cone full of gelato. All I know is San Crispino’s gelato did the job, being only a two-minute walk from Fontana di Trevi, an incredible sight, especially at night.
#1: Giolitti – Via degli Uffici del Vicario 40
Finally, in my opinion as well as that of many others, Giolitti has the best gelato in all of Rome (possibly even Italy! Or the world!).
Even if you don’t like dessert or are a health nut, you should eat here just once so as not to deprive yourself of one of life’s great pleasures. And it being only a short 5-minute walk from the Pantheon is a definite bonus (perhaps the ancient Romans worshiped the God of Gelato here?).
Once you walk in off the cobblestone street, you are immediately surrounded by about one hundred other gelato enthusiasts, each searching for that perfect cone. After paying, you weave your way to the end of a twenty-or-so person line.
Standing on line, it looked as though it would be an eternity before I could satisfy my craving…I mean before I could continue my “research.” But the two men scooping the gelato behind the counter worked with machine-like precision and in two minutes flat I was happily licking away.
For my flavors, I decided to investigate my go-to coffee and coupled it with a scoop of dark chocolate. I’m not going to lie, but after finishing my coffee-dark chocolate combo, I heavily debated going back in to buy two more scoops, because it was just that good. Sadly, the devil on my shoulder lost the discussion, and I walked away empty handed. But I found that even Giolitti’s somewhat traditional flavors were out of this world!
In addition to being a gelateria, Giolitti is also a café. I have no idea if its food is as good as its gelato, but it smelled and looked delicious. Maybe I should research it for a future article on top Roman cafés?
The Bottom Line
The bottom line is that if you are in Rome, you must try Giolitti’s gelato, no exceptions.
It was fun eating and licking my way through Rome, where I found you cannot go wrong with any of these gelateria.
Each serves ice cream that is much better than what you’ll find almost anywhere else in the world.
Just remember that calories don’t count on vacation.