Florence, Italy is known as the birthplace of the Renaissance, modern Italian fashion and – arguably most importantly – gelato. One of Italy’s most visited tourist destinations, Florence experiences millions of visitors annually, most of who spend the majority of their time in a historical center spanning less than 5 miles from end to end.
So while there are quite a few gelaterias in Florence turning out high-quality frozen desserts and respecting age-old recipes and traditions, you’ll find even more trying to earn a few bucks from non-discerning tourists (luckily, there are telltale signs to spot gelaterias to avoid). But here are five of the best gelato shops in Florence, each of which still turns out artisanally made flavors using traditional methods:
Wedged between Piazza della Repubblica and Piazza della Signoria on a tiny, inconspicuous side street, this gelateria has been setting the standard for quality gelato since 1929. Smack dab in the city center, it’s a rare example of quality in the heart of the city’s tourist zone. Don’t leave without tasting the Bronte pistachio, seasonal fruit, sesame honey or any of the weekly specials from Tuscan rose to green tea.
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Located near the Accademmia museum, this new-generation artisanal gelateria is carrying the torch of traditional Florentine gelato, emphasizing quality, freshness and local identity by sourcing seasonal fruit from the nearby San Lorenzo market. You’ll find classic flavors done exceptionally well, along with contemporary concoctions like black sesame to keep up with an evolving culinary scene.
I Gelati del Bondi
To understand Florence’s vocational dedication to gelato, you have to make a visit to Tulio Bondi’s gelato parlor steps from the main train station and the San Lorenzo district. Bondi helms the city’s artisan gelato guild and trains aspiring gelato makers while traveling the world to spread the Florentine gelato gospel via events and cooking shows. In his shop, you’ll find a slice of old-school Italian soul with an espresso bar and old-fashioned candies at the register. The gelato case inspires the child in us all with nostalgia-inducing flavors like cookies and cream and mint chocolate chip, along with more sophisticated tastes like salted caramel, pistachio and saffron.
Gelateria della Passera
While Piazza della Passera is an important landmark, it’s a bit off the tourist track, wedged in the artist quarter across the river from the city’s main attractions. It’s probably for this reason that Gelateria della Passera remains one of the few, if not the only, exceptions to rule never to buy gelato from a shop in a historical square. Gelateria della Passera gets creative with its gelato, calling upon spices like cinnamon and foraged botanicals like lavender, along with classic fresh lemon and coffee made from local roasted espresso.
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Florence’s most successful gelato institution is just a stone’s throw from stunning Basilica di Santa Croce. Vivoli has long been a requisite stop for visitors from all over the world, and the shop even has its own branch representing Florence’s gelato culture at Disney World, and for good reason: it’s been making some of the finest gelato in town since 1930, and is still run by the same family three generations later. No cones are offered here; flavors like dark chocolate swirled with orange, pear and caramel, and Florentine cream only come in cups.