After living in Florence for four months, I consider myself to be something of a gelato expert (check out this post about my favorite gelaterias.) While it might seem easy enough to get gelato, there are some things you should know in advance.
1. Don’t be tempted by the colorful mounds: seek silver tins
Any person walking down the street in Florence can easily find a gelateria. The colorful, fruity mounds of frozen delight seem to be found on every corner. The tricky part? Finding a good, authentic gelateria. The shops with colorful mounds, while arguably the prettiest, aren’t the homes of the best gelato. They are often artificially dyed, made with mix, and the closest thing they contain to real fruit is the decorative pieces sitting on top.
Gelato is an art and the best places treat it as such, a (small) selection of flavors, stored in their temperature controlled and covered silver tins. These tins are the key to good gelato: find them and you will find bliss.
2. Cones are pretty, but cups are better.
This might be a little subjective, but gelato is significantly easier to eat out of a cup than a cone. Because gelato is served at a higher temperature than ice cream, every time I got a cone I found it dripping down my hand before I could find a scenic spot to eat it.
3. Get a flavor recommendation.
When I went to Italy in high school, I started ordering one flavor I picked myself and whatever the person scooping recommended. I kept up the tradition (for the most part) while I was living in Florence. I’ve gotten flavors I loved but never would have thought to try, flavors I would never eat again (I’m looking at you, fichi), and looks of confusion from scoopers who had absolutely no clue what I was saying.
4. Order two flavors
Any true gelateria will expect you to order two different flavors, no matter what size you get. One of my favorite combinations was pear and chocolate. Chocolate goes with pretty much anything: chocolate and hazelnut, chocolate and fruit, chocolate and pistachio…
Along the same lines, know that mixing sorbetto (sorbet) with creamy gelato is a big Italian no-no.
5. Vorrei una coppetta/ un cono con (insert flavors here), per favore.
If you learn how to say anything in Italian, learn thank you (grazie) and how to order a gelato. The only complete interactions/ conversations I ever had that were completely in Italian were centered around ordering gelato. In other contexts, I would attempt to speak Italian and would be responded to in English or I would get the Italian out and then have no clue what their response meant. But gelato? It was like I was fluent…but maybe that’s just because I ordered it so often.