Here are the best and most beloved gelaterie in Florence
Gelato is everywhere in Italy, but did you know its modern incarnation was invented in Florence? There are tales of the Roman emperors enjoying crushed ice with honey and there’s no question that fruit flavored sorbet came to Italy via the Arab influence in Sicily. But the milky, creamy treat as we know it today begins its journey with the alchemist Cosimo Ruggieri who created the first gelato flavor for the Medici court in Florence at the end of the 16th century. Famous architect Bernardo Buontalenti is also credited in the mythical gelato origin story, when he concocted an egg and cream based gelato for the court of Catherine de Medici (who knew architecture and dessert making went together?) but it wasn’t until 1686 that Sicilian Francesco Procopio Cutò opened the first gelato shop to the public in Paris and gelato mania was on.
Gelato is unique from other ice creams in that it uses a higher percentage of milk than cream, cutting out much of the milk fat that can cover flavor. It is also whipped far less meaning less air is in the gelato and this denseness combined with a higher serving temperature makes the flavors of the gelato more pronounced and powerful. So, knowing this, you might want to avoid the gelato shops with miles high mounds of brightly colored gelato – you can bet that they will be more airy with artificial flavoring … a bit of a waste of what makes gelato so special.
This list of gelato spots in Florence were selected because they offer the real deal: full force flavor, seasonal options and artisanal specialties. Most gelaterie have lactose-free variations as well or fruit based sorbets that don’t contain any milk products.
Via dei Tavolini, 19/r
This is one of my favorite gelato shops in Italy and it’s located right smack dab in the center of Florence, around the corner from the Piazza Signoria. There is usually a long line in the summer but it’s worth it to try some of their truly special flavors they have been whipping up since 1939. At Perchè No, they handmake their artisanal gelato every day using Slow Food products and seasonal fruits. Depending on the day and the season, you can try rose, lavender, persimmon, pomegranate and one of my favorites – the delicate fior di latte with honey and sesame seeds which pairs well with anything. Its name sums up the appropriate response to anyone who asks, “Shall we have a gelato?” Perchè no? Why not?
Via dei Ginori, 49/r
The best gelateria in the San Lorenzo neighborhood and just four minutes walking from David at the Accademia, this gelateria is the new kid on the block in comparison to some of the historic gelaterie in Florence but it’s already making waves. Opened in 2015, My Sugar uses fresh ingredients, many of them bought daily at the nearby historic San Lorenzo market to make their artisanal flavors. They offer traditional favorites and seasonal specialties and their “melacotta” is a must try: ricotta, apple, cinnamon and honey. And in case you need an excuse to dream about gelato, check them out on Instagram @mysugarfirenze for your daily dose of heaven.
Via Pietrapiana, 60/r
This is a family-run gelateria located in the Sant’Ambrogio neighborhood not far from Santa Croce that is known for its thick and particularly creamy scoops. They may have upped the cream factor compared to most Italian gelatos so if you’re looking for something particularly creamy and delicious, this is your spot. Try the pistachio or their signature “La Follia” (meaning: madness or insanity!) made of cream, carmelized figs, almonds and toasted pine nuts. They also offer a large variety of sorbetti so for those who want to avoid dairy, try some of their incredible seasonal fruit offerings like melon or frutti di bosco.
Piazza Nazario Sauro, 25/r
Located just across the Ponte Santa Trinita, La Carraia is perfect for its location as well as its cheerful interior and its selection of traditional and seasonal flavors with some American favorites like Arachidi Salate (peanut butter) and Florentine specialties like Castagnaccio (based on the Florentine chestnut cake). They also have some great specialties like Delizia Carraia (white chocolate with pistachio sauce) and Sinfonia Carraia (Cream with orange and dark chocolate sauce). I love that you can also get a mini cone of one flavor for just a euro when you’re in the neighborhood and need a quick little gelato fix.
Piazza Torquato Tasso, 11/r
If you’re in the San Frediano neighborhood, you must stop in at La Sorbettiera to try their sublimely creamy gelato and fresh fruit sorbets. The owner Antonio, who you can often find serving behind the counter or see in the back preparing their artisanal gelato himself comes from a long line of gelato makers. His vision is to marry those traditions with new innovations which you can see in some of their snazzily international flavor options: for example “Thai” is made with lemongrass and coconut milk and “New England 1776” with fior di latte, maple syrup and candy bacon!
Gelateria Dei Neri
Via dei Neri, 9/11r
Located between the Uffizi Gallery and Santa Croce, Dei Neri is a local classic you’ll find on all the gelato lists. Why? It’s reliably delicious, the portions are generous and the selection of flavors is abundant from salted caramel to the best matcha in town, ricotta and fig to pistachio cremino. They also offer icy granitas that hit the spot in the heat of summer and semifreddo – a sort of frozen custard made of eggs, cream and sugar. Dei Neri also has something rare in hole-in-the-wall gelato shops across the city: some indoor seating!
Via Isola delle Stinche, 7/r
Vivoli is a must for any tour of Florence’s gelato joints – it holds the title of oldest gelateria in the city. Opened in 1929, VIvoli is an institution and with a location right in the city center (close to Santa Croce) surrounded by leather shops, it’s easy to find. They aren’t known for their innovations like some of the newer gelato shops in town, but they provide what they always have for coming up on a century: good old-fashioned, classic gelato from a family with generations of experience.
Gelateria de Medici
Piazza Beccaria, 7/r & Via dello Statuto, 3/5r
With its wooden detailing and chandeliers, this gelateria lives up to its stately name and is also run by a family determined to pass down their gelato secrets through the generations. It’s worth the walk beyond Santa Croce to Piazza Beccaria or to their second location on Via dello Statuto to try the intense flavors on offer at Gelateria de Medici. Along with a selection of over 40 flavors both seasonal and traditional, they offer a variety of cakes and frozen desserts.
Viale Dei Mille, 20/r
If you want to get an idea of what the first gelato may have tasted like, you can’t do better than to make your way out to this gelateria. Badiani is located near the Campo di Marte train station and the stadium so while it isn’t exactly in the city center, it’s history and signature flavor should be enough of a draw to tempt you out here. In 1970, they won a contest for making the best gelato of just cream, milk, sugar and eggs which they duly named the “Buontalenti” after the architect who made one of the first gelatos for the Medici court in the 16th century. Buontalenti remains it’s most requested flavor to date.