What could be sweeter than Italy, when the roses are in bloom and the weather is warm? And as Intrepid traveller John Kirk attests, don’t put your Italy trip on ice, because a wonderful gastronomic adventure also awaits…
“Italy offers many tantalising treats, but none so sweet and addictive as its gelato in summer. I pretty much did a gelato tour of Italy with Intrepid’s La Dolce Vita, having at least one, but more often two cones (cono) or cups (coppa) each day.
Within an hour of checking into my hotel in Rome, I was standing at the amazing Trevi Fountain trying to decide which of the many gelateria surrounding the fountain would provide my first taste of real Italian iced confection. I joined the queue in the Gelateria di San Crispino, not knowing at the time that it has reputedly the best gelato in Italy. What a way to start my adventure!
There were too many unfamiliar flavours to choose from, so I began with a couple of old favourites, pistachio with lemon (limone) on top. I could have selected any one of a number of chocolate flavours, nuts (pistachio and hazelnut), a range of creamy delights (zabaione, ricotta, fig) and fruity sorbets (melon, orange and berries). There was plenty of time to explore new taste sensations, but I still couldn’t wait to try them all. From the first lick I was addicted to the dense, smooth ice cream with its delicious flavours.
Italians insist that gelato is not ice cream and that it’s better for you than ice cream because it has milk, water or soy as its base rather than cream. This means less fat, which also means lower cholesterol. Plus it allows you to taste the more subtle flavours in freshly-made gelati. It has less air folded into it than ice cream and is frozen at a higher temperature, resulting in the concentrated, smooth, and flavoursome treat that melts on your tongue.
Everyone has a favourite gelateria in Italy and favourite flavours. Some of my favourites were: Vernazza’s pompelmo rosso (pink grapefruit) in the Cinque Terre; amarena (sour cherry); frutti di bosco (fruits of the forest or mixed blueberries & blackberries); albicocca (apricot) in Asti; fico (fig – a very delicate taste); mandarino (mandarin orange or tangerine); and stracciatella (a kind of chocolate chip). One of the more unusual flavours was liquirizia (licorice). It was a very tricky flavour to pair with, but I liked it with lemon.
My gelato tour ended in Venice. Davina, our gelati-loving leader, had a favourite gelateria that lived up to our expectations. La Boutique del Gelato – on the corner of Salizada San Lio and Calle Paradiso, next to Hotel Bruno. It’s a small place usually with a queue of eager people. There were only about ten flavours on offer, but they were all delicious.
A couple of tips for gelati eating:
* On a hot day, go for the coppa – the gelato doesn’t run down the cone and make a mess on your hands and clothes.
* Don’t be afraid of the queues – it’s often a good indicator of the best gelati.
* Get used to the system of paying first: yes, you need to decide how many scoops when you pay the cashier, but can decide on the flavours when it’s your turn to be served.
Buon Appetito – and remember – I warned you Italian gelato is addictive!”
* photo by John Kirk