The best gelato in Rome
In the 1930s there was only one gelateria in Rome – Fassi. Now there seem to be hundreds, and the choice can be overwhelming. Once you’ve chosen a gelateria, there’s an even harder decision to make. Which flavours to choose? Chocolate? Lemon? Pistacchio? Basil? Most gelaterie have at least 10 mouth-watering flavours to choose from, and gelato-makers are becoming increasingly inventive. Basil with honey and nuts is just one quirky flavour offered by Fatamorgana, and elsewhere you’ll even find cheese-flavoured gelato.
Once you’ve chosen the gelateria and the flavours, the only decisions left to make are ‘Cono o coppetta?’ (‘Cone or cup?’) and ‘Con panna o senza?’ (‘With or without whipped cream?’), and then you’re ready to stroll the streets of the Eternal City, gelato in hand. We can’t help you with every choice, but some kinds of gelato are definitely superior. Steer clear of the lurid colours – neon blue or fluorescent pink – as they’re bound to be packed with artificial ingredients. Instead, try the most delicious, authentic gelato in one of Rome’s best gelaterie for a true taste of la dolce vita.
Giolitti (Via degli Uffici del Vicario 40)
Many visitors to Rome head straight to Giolitti, which has been run by the same family since 1900. Located close to the Pantheon, Giolitti is technically a café, but it’s best known as Rome’s most famous gelateria. Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck got their gelato here in Roman Holiday, and Giolitti has also been popular with popes and politicians.
With such a reputation, it’s not surprising to find crowds of tourists and locals queuing up for a cone even on rainy January afternoons, although regulars can now buy a ‘FastPass’ to skip the queue. The gelato is soft and creamy, the perfect refresher on a hot day of sightseeing.
Fatamorgana (Piazza degli Zingari 5, Via Roma Libera 11, Via Leone IV, 50)
This gelateria has several branches in the centre of Rome, including Monti, Trastevere and Prati. It specialises in gelato naturale and has a creative range of flavours, including grapes and nuts, pear and gorgonzola, black cherry and beer, and black rice and rosebuds. On my last visit I sampled ‘bacio del principe’ (a deliciously creamy scoop of gianduja and hazelnut), and zabaione with strawberries. Fatamorgana somehow manages to make gelato that tastes good, and yet is healthy at the same time.
Apparently some Italians try to lose weight by going on a gelato diet, where they replace a meal with gelato. Whether you’re on a gelato diet or a regular diet, Fatamorgana gelato is a good option if you want a lighter, less decadent dessert.
Fassi (Via Principe Eugenio 65)
Officially called Palazzo del Freddo, this Roman institution near Piazza Vittorio Emanuele is commonly known as Fassi. Founded in the late 19th century, most of the people queuing up for a gelato today are the Italian and Chinese families who live nearby.
Most tourists flock to Giolitti and are unaware of Fassi’s existence, but they’re missing out. Fassi uses the freshest ingredients to make the best gelato in Rome. The most popular flavour is cream with chocolate and hazelnut, but the fruity flavours are excellent too, and portions are generous – €1.60 for two massive scoops.
Gelateria del Teatro (Via dei Coronari 65)
Walking down Via dei Coronari, one of the most elegant shopping streets in the centro storico, you’ll mostly see shop windows full of antiques or leather goods. But one window stands out for being much brighter and livelier than all the others, as the gelato-makers at the Gelateria del Teatro put on a suitably theatrical display of making gelato in full view of the street.
The gelato at this gelateria stands out for its rich flavours. The pistacchio gelato is deliciously nutty and genuinely tastes like pistachio, rather than an artificial imitation. Inside it can be a little chaotic, with tourists confused by the queuing system and the occasional loose dog, but once you’ve got your gelato, you can go for a stroll in one of the most scenic parts of Rome.
Gelateria La Romana (Via Cola di Rienzo 2, Via Ostiense 48, Via Venti Settembre 60)
La Romana started as a family business in Rimini, but there are now a few popular branches in Rome; one near the Vatican, one close to Piramide, and another a short walk from Piazza della Repubblica. The gelato is dense and rich, and the creamy and nutty flavours are particularly good. If you want to make it even more decadent, you can have melted chocolate poured into the bottom of your cone.
Carapina (Via dei Chiavari 37)
Originally from Florence, this gelateria is tucked away on a side street near Campo de’ Fiori. It’s one of the priciest gelaterie in Rome – €3 for a small cup or cone – but their gelato is made of the highest quality ingredients. You’ll find the classics, as well as some more experimental flavours, such as chestnut with rosemary and raisins, and even pecorino cheese. Adventurous chocolate lovers should try ‘Neroassoluto’ – the darkest of dark chocolate.
Panna & Co (Via Marmorata 115)
If this gelateria was located right in the centre, it would be packed. But luckily for the locals, this gem of a gelateria in Testaccio is never too crowded, and you can choose your flavours at leisure, without being elbowed by other tourists.
All the gelato at Panna & Co is made on site, using only natural, Italian ingredients – they’ve even been awarded with a certificate of ‘Eccellenze Italiane.’ I had a chat with the owner, who explained that they use seasonal ingredients. That means no strawberries in winter, but at least you’re getting the freshest flavours.
The gelato is full of flavour and exactly the right texture, as it’s filling and satisfying without being too heavy. The zabaione is exquisite, and the one flavour to break the ‘only seasonal ingredients’ rule – mango and ginger – is perennially popular.
Note: I wrote this for Insight Guides. My personal favourites are Fassi and Panna & Co.