Summer is right around the corner. It’s known to get hot—very hot, as in sticky, steaming, sizzling—in the Italian capital. But there is one indispensable item in the Italian culinary repertoire that is sure to cool you down: gelato! It is easy to carry along, and makes for a great companion as you make your way around a city famous for placing ancient history and modern day life in harmonious conversation with one another.
But gelato is a tricky treat. With roughly two thousand vendors in the Eternal City—and plenty clustered around important attractions—it’s important to know where top-quality options can be found. The best locations use natural ingredients with absolutely no additives.
The following guide pairs important tourist sites with gelaterias vetted by local Romans to ensure that you don’t consume anything on the peggio side, and that every euro spent brings you un’esperienza fantastica.
Your gelato journey begins in the center of Rome in Piazza Navona, an open space with the famed Bernini-designed Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi. Equally important for the roving summer visitor is the nearby Gelateria del Teatro, an establishment that uses high-quality natural ingredients and, on any given day, has up to forty flavors to choose from. Adjacent to the gelateria is Pizzeria del Teatro, an equally good bet if you’re looking for something a bit more substantial before or after your cooling session.
Just a couple of minutes’ walk from Piazza Navona (also in the center of Rome) are Piazza della Rotonda and the Pantheon, one of the best-preserved of all ancient Roman buildings. Nearby, stop in at Giolitti, which has its own time-honored traditions. It has been owned by the same family since its founding in 1900, and is one of the hottest [no pun intended] establishments in the city. Recent visitors have included Michelle Obama and her two daughters, among many other glitterati.
There are additional options in every direction. Heading northeast, and just a couple of blocks from the Chiesa di Santa Maria della Vittoria (in which you can find the sculpture Ecstasy of Santa Theresa) you’ll find Come il Latte. While the gelato is top-notch, it’s the overall experience here that will leave you most satisfied. Gelaterias in Italy are not known for well-designed interiors, but the whitewashed walls and clean aesthetic of the location are spot on.
Moving clockwise, you’ll find Rione Monti in a southeastern neighborhood affectionately known for its “‘hipster” character. A stone’s throw away from the Colosseum, among trendy shopping emporia, grab an aperitivo, and stop at either of a couple of solid gelato options. Ciuri Ciuri, an establishment that serves delicious Sicilian gelato, as well as granita, and superb baked goods (be sure to try their cannoli).
If you walk directly south from the Pantheon, you’ll eventually hit some important Roman landmarks near the scenic Tiber River, notably the Jewish ghetto, Teatro Marcello, and Isola Tiberina. The latter is the only island on the Tiber in Rome and is home to a hospital which, first founded in 1584, is still in use today. Just across the short bridge from this island, on the Tiber’s west bank, is Fior di Luna, renowned for its innovative recipes using fair-trade and primo quality ingredients. Its accolades are well deserved—the gelato is melt-in-your-mouth good.
Continue southward into Trastevere (“across the Tiber” in Latin). You’ll be enchanted by the faded colors and cobblestone streets stretching in every direction in this neighborhood. Adjacent to Piazza san Cosimato in Trastevere is Fattamorgana, a gelateria with playful flavors, many of which are lactose-free (gluten-free options are available, too). Don’t leave without trying the banana cream with sesame brittle.
Sizzling summer days will make gelato a staple of perambulations in Rome. Follow this guide, and you’ll pair the finest ingredients with the Eternal City’s indispensable sites. Buon appetito!