Laura, our Airbnb host in Siena, Italy looked at me with big eyes.
“Gelato?” she asked. “Other guests have asked me about where to get the best pizza or pasta, but no one has ever asked me where to get the best gelato before.”
Ay, but gelato had been our daily treat since the start of our recent trip to Italy.
First, in Rome, then, in Orvieto.
And by golly, we weren’t going to do without it now that we were in Tuscany.
I mean, if you’re in Italy for only a few weeks you’ve got to get while the getting is good, right?
So as we traveled city by city seeing the sights, we sampled the gelato. Gelato in multiple flavors, in cups, on cones, every day. Sometimes twice a day.
Yeah, twice a day.
In that way, our trip to Italy was like a crash course in gelato, short but intense. And full of surprises.
The variety of gelato flavors available surprised me. Sometimes they shocked me ~ saffron rice gelato, anyone?
I surprised myself by how often, by my second taste of a new brand or flavor of gelato, I’d already rated it as good, better, or best as compared to all the gelato that had come before.
But the biggest surprise was where I had my very last cup of gelato. And why that gelato was the best gelato of all.
Where did we find the best gelato? Take the tour . . .
So read on ~ Rome is where our best gelato tour begins.
The Best Gelato in Rome
Italy’s capital was our “home” for nearly two weeks.
It’s where Hubby and I, with others from Southern New Mexico, worked with a local church, International Christian Fellowship Rome, by day.
And where the whole lot of us ~ 19 in all ~ converged upon the Gelati & Mozzarelle gelato shop by night.
This gelato shop with its large array of offerings is the best in Marconi, a neighborhood south of Trastevere.
So, from the very beginning, it set the bar high on what we would look for and expect of gelato for the rest of our stay.
Of course, between work and gelato and other good eats, we saw the sights of Rome. These include places you often hear of like the Colosseum, the Trevi Fountain, and the Pantheon.
We also visited lesser-known places like the Mamertine Prison where the apostle Paul wrote much of the New Testament.
Once our work in Rome was done and our friends returned to New Mexico . . . .
The Best Gelato in Orvieto
. . . hubby L. and I stayed on to explore Italy on our own.
That’s where we discovered the region of Umbria and Orvieto, its elegant walled city with winding stone-paved streets.
And more than one good gelateria.
First, there’s il Gelato di Pasqualetti. It’s where, in the afternoon, you can enjoy your gelato in Piazza Duomo, a central plaza, and take in the beauty of Orvieto Cathedral.
Then, in the evening, visit L’Officina del Gelato for gelato with a texture so creamy you can see it.
The Best Gelato in Siena
Our first stop in Tuscany was in the beautiful city of Siena (where you may remember, we quizzed our host for the best place to get our next gelato fix.)
We found that place at La Vecchia Latteria, a short walk from Siena’s magnificent Gothic cathedral.
My gelato combination of choice for that day? Blood orange, cherry vanilla, and chocolate in a large cup. My L., in a minimalist mood, ordered a single scoop of cream gelato.
But this was only AFTER first seeing Siena Cathedral.
You see, I’d wanted to visit this zebra striped-wonder and its star–studded ceilings ever since reading about it in a design history course at the New York School of Interior Design.
The Best Gelato in Florence
The city of Florence, artist Michelangelo’s old stomping grounds, has a few little items worth seeing.
There’s the nearly 800-year old Florence Cathedral, the Uffizi Gallery, and the Accademia Gallery where Michelangelo’s statue of David holds court, to name just a few.
And a place from which to get THE BEST view of them all, Piazzale Michelangelo.
So it’s no surprise that the city has several quality gelato shops as well. We got to know two of these during our 5 days in Florence.
B. Ice was nearest to our apartment in the historic district of the city, a popular place serving very good gelato.
But the gelato served at Gelateria La Carraia, south of the Arno River, was our fave ~ and worth the trip across the bridge.
Worth the trip for us and, I’m guessing, all these others who waited on the line with us.
La Carraia had all my favorite flavors and then some, including the yummiest stracciatella (chocolate chip) gelato of all. The shop’s creamy creations are what gelato lovers dream about.
The Best Gelato in Pisa
Pisa’s famous tower may be off kilter but its gelato shop in Piazza Garibaldi is straight up super. La Bottega del Gelato where we had our very last gelato on Italian soil was among the very best of our trip.
But like every good dream ends when we wake up, even the best gelato tours must end when we leave Italy.
However, did you know . . . . there is such a thing as gelato in New Mexico? Even . . . GASP . . . in Las Cruces?
Yes, that’s how my very last gelato ~ a small cup of Chocolate Cheesecake ~ has turned out to be the very best gelato.
Because I had my last gelato just the other day at Sam Steel Cafe on the NMSU campus in Las Cruces, where
- it’s made with fresh ingredients by students of food science who give a flip.
- it tastes pretty good now and (since students continually perfect their techniques and pass them on, I expect it) will come to taste even better.
And best of all,
- it’s right here in Southern New Mexico, not over 5000 miles away.
So then, are you ready to take a “best gelato tasting tour” to find YOUR favorite scoop in Las Cruces?
Use this info to start:
Sam Steel Cafe ~ Gerald Thomas Hall, NMSU, room 150; 575.646.2230; open weekdays 9a-4p, spring and fall semesters only.
Luna Rossa ~ 1321 Avenida de Mesilla; 575.526.2484; open M-Sat 11a-9p, Sun until 8p.
Red Brick Pizza ~ 2808 N. Telshor Blvd. #2; 575.521.7300; open daily 11a-9p.
True, with only three restaurants serving Italian-style ice cream in Las Cruces, your tour will be a short one.
But never mind that.
With fewer Las Cruces eateries serving gelato now than a year ago, you’ve got to get while the getting is good, right?