Monday, 14 December 2015

The Inside Scoop: Gelaterias of Florence

Florence, Italy (Firenze, Italia)
With our success of testing out as many gelaterias as we safely could in Rome, we figured why not repeat the experiment in Florence? We love gelato, gelaterias love us because money, it's a win-win situation (except where our wallets and waistlines are concerned, in which case it's lose-lose, but we're young and it's worth it). Never mind Michalangelo, these are the true Florentine artisans!
Our first stop was Marco Ottaviano (Il Gelato Gourmet). We chose it simply because as we were walking past we saw that the counter contained shiny metal canisters - almost always a sign of a great gelateria. Every flavour was delightful. The standout was a limited edition flavour - strawberry and Prosecco sorbetto. All I can say is wow. Followed by wow. Paired with the 'crema del duca', which was a delicate cream flavour with a lemon kick, it was mindblowing. We also tried more traditional flavours such as pistachio and coffee, and knew that we would be back again before our time in Florence was up. 
At one point the owner appeared from the back room and chatted with us. When I asked about why metal canisters are important for gelato, he told us that gelato does not react well to exposure to air and sunlight (likening it to wine), so is best kept covered. Sadly, gelato is now mostly sold by how it looks, with elaborate displays to attract patrons. 
This is what he was talking about. All over Florence, you'd see sorbet piled high and topped with fruit, sauces, and sometimes even props like cocktail umbrellas. You don't want that! Flavour should trump appearances every time. A good bet is to choose a gelateria with metal canisters, as they rely on reputation through the flavour of their gelato, and not on bright colours to dazzle passersby. 
During a lull in the conversation with the owner, we asked for more gelato. Yes, seconds! It was that good. With our best interests at heart, he said "Ok! But not too much, yes? Small cup?" Even with this thoughtful moderation, Yannick still felt slightly sick afterwards. 
In the following days, we returned to taste that heavenly combination again. What I wouldn't do for some of that strawberry Prosecco sorbetto right now. 
Just down the road was another excellent metal-canistered gelateria - Rivareno. The expensive pine nut flavour had not been created that day, as there are fewer customers on rainy days. That doesn't stop us - why would we sacrifice sweet sweet ice cream due to a little precipitation?! But it was great to know that all the flavours are made fresh each morning. My favourites were the passionfruit sorbet and fig and ricotta gelato. 
We also made a return trip to Rivareno, and each flavour we sampled was delicious. Bravissimo!
Carapina, a gelateria near the river, turned out to be a bit of a disappointment. The gelato was nice, but nothing special - however I'm sure they are much better than those tourist trap monstrosities! The plum sorbet was my favourite, and that is a difficult flavour to pull off as often it is too mild. Needless to say, with the likes of the first two gelaterias we visited, there was no need for a second visit to Carapina. 
Another riverside vendor, we dropped by La Carraia and feasted upon many wonderful flavours, despite the fact that there were no metal canisters. The memorable scoops were chocolate mousse and crema la Carraia (which was splendidly orangey). 
Our time in Florence also resulted in a trip to Grom, as they had new monthly flavours we hadn't tried before. It will always be a staple on our trips to Italy, though now I am becoming a connoisseur of the metal canistered gelato.