Updated December 6, 2023
Let's be honest, a trip to Italy is, in some ways, simply an excuse to eat gelato.
My first exposure to Italian gelato was in Florence. It's actually quite fitting, seeing as Bernardo Buontalenti is said to have invented it in Renaissance Florence.
If you ask 10 Florentines where to find the best gelato in Florence, most likely you'll get 10 different answers. Whether you prefer your gelato in a cone or the more traditional cup, there are so many options.
But there are a few things to keep in mind while you're looking for good gelato.
Look for a shop that sells “artiginale” gelato. Italian for “artisinal”, it means the gelato is homemade using fresh ingredients, without artificial colors or preservatives.
Avoid shops with brightly colored gelato mountains in their cases. A gelato shop catering to tourists will mound their gelato high by injecting it with air, and the bright colors are the result of artificial dyes. When real banana is used as the primary flavoring ingredient, the gelato will be more grey than yellow. Pistachio gelato is more likely to be pale green, or even a light brown, not the bright almost mint green you'll see in some shops.
Don't be afraid to mix and match flavors. A small cone or cup is normally two flavors, and you can get three or four flavors in a medium or large. Experiment with different combinations, and make sure to try seasonal flavors.
If it's really hot, order your gelato in a cup. Italian gelato is soft, more similar in texture to soft serve than regular American ice cream. In hot weather it will melt and run down the cone faster than you can eat it.
With that in mind, let's take a trip through my favorite gelato shops in Florence!
Florence's oldest gelateria, founded in 1929, Vivoli is a Florentine gelato institution near Santa Croce. Family owned and operated through four generations, you won't find any cones here. Gelato is served the traditional way, in small paper cups.
The gelato is made with quality natural ingredients like organic barn eggs and fresh cream and milk. Other than a few of the ingredients, like hazelnut and pistachio, everything is raised or grown by the family who runs it.
They also serve a variety of cakes and pastries, as well as a delicious affogato (fior di latte gelato with espresso poured over it).
Location: Via Dell’Isola delle Stinche, 7r Florence, Italy
Gelateria dei Neri
If you're near the Palazzo Vecchio, head down the Via dei Neri (on the Uffizi Gallery side of the Palazzo Vecchio) toward Piazza Santa Croce. On the right side of the street, just before the Via dei Benchi, you'll find Gelateria dei Neri.
Unique flavor combinations include ricotta with fig, rose and gorgonzola, mango cheesecake, and chocolate with hot chili and pistachio. They also sell a large selection of fruit gelato, sorbeto and granitas (blended frozen fruit, ice and sugar).
Location: Via dei Neri, 9/11R, 50122 Firenze FI, Italy
Located just over the Ponte Carraia in the Oltrarno (the opposite side of the river from many of the main sites of Florence), you'll find Gelateria La Carraia.
You'll never run out of new flavors to try, since one of the things La Carraia prides themselves on is continually developing new, unique flavors.
Whether you're looking for a fresh gelato flavor like melone (melon) or ricotta e pere (ricotta and pear), or something richer like cioccolato fondente (dark chocolate) or caramello al burro (salted caramel butter), you'll need to stop by more than once to see if you can pick a new favorite flavor.
Location: Piazza Nazario Sauro, 25/r, 50124 Firenze FI, Italy
Italian for “Why not?”, is there a better name for a gelato shop than Perchè No!…?
This tiny gelato shop near Piazza della Repubblica is easy to miss, but if you've been there once you'll make a point to find it again. My personal favorite in Florence, they've been selling artisan gelato since 1939.
The shop is still family-run, and Ciro Camilli, the owner, was just awarded a lifetime achievement “Maestri Gelatieri” award from the Salone Internazionale della Gelateria, Pasticceria, Panificazione Artigianali e Caffè (International Exhibition of Artisanal Gelato, Pastry, Bakery and Coffee).
You'll need to stop in every day to try their daily flavors, like matcha green tea, pine nut, rose, and apple pie. They also have a fairly large selection of vegan gelato and dairy-free, non-GMP soy-based gelato as well.
Location: Via dei Tavolini, 19r, 50122 Firenze FI, Italy
One of the more recent additions to Florence's gelato scene, founded in 2007, La Sorbetteria's recipes have been passed down through a family of gelato makers since 1934.
Located in the San Frediano neighborhood in the Oltrarno, La Sorbetteria takes pride in their many unique flavors. You can stick with the classics, or try something new like Tai inspired gelato with lemongrass and coconut milk.
Location: Piazza Torquato Tasso, 11r, 50124 Firenze FI, Italy
The bottom line: The best gelato in Florence Italy
You’re never far from good gelato in Florence. Whether you prefer the classics, like chocolate, pistachio, or fior di latte, or are looking for a new favorite flavor, it’s perfectly acceptable to have gelato at least once a day while you’re there.
Want more posts about amazing food? Discover the best places to eat cicchetti in Venice!