I know you’re all going to feel VERY sorry for me when I report that I’ve just returned home from another GRUELING research mission. After 21 days in 11 different places in Europe, I have much to report. It was tough work, but somebody’s got to do it. Just goes to show what I’m willing to endure to bring YOU, the ice cream lovers of the world, the information you so desperately need.
All right, I’ll cut right to the top of the pile: Florence. Still the ice cream capital of the WORLD, in my opinion, but the balance of power has shifted slightly since the last time I was there. I am sad to report that Il Gran Duca–formerly the owner of the coveted #1 in the world (as we had discovered thus far) spot, has backslid since my last visit. It’s still FANTASTIC gelato. It’s just no longer noticeably a cut above the rest of the wonderful gelato in the magnificent city of Florence. They’ve scaled their production way back and now no longer even offer a dark chocolate flavor (the quality of which had A LOT to do with their supremacy).
While this is a very saddening turn of events, the GOOD news is that I found several other gelaterias worthy of note. We were already familiar with the Gelateria dei Neri (which may now have overtaken the #1 spot… I think it may have been #2 before and their quality has NOT gone down–if anything, it has improved since my last trip to Florence), a few blocks east from the Piazza delle Signioria on the Via dei Neri. Definitely worth the TWO visits made on this trip–and when you’re trying to hit as many different gelaterias as possible in a day and a half in Florence, that’s really saying something. Their dark chocolate flavor still makes me go weak in the knees, and they have a lot of other interesting options, such as a wide assortment of very authentic fruit flavors (usually featuring bits of the ACTUAL fruit mixed in with the gelato) such as pear, mango, and frutti di bosco, or wildberry.
They also offer 9 different flavors of granita, which would loosely translate to “slushy,” but it’s so much more than the syrupy gunk that bears the same name here. For one thing, like with the ice cream, they use ACTUAL fruit (or in the case of the mint flavor, actual mint leaves) in the production. They’re incredibly light, refreshing, delicious and remarkably thirst quenching–there’s not much that can beat them on a scorching afternoon in August. I myself partook (AFTER a small pear/pineapple gelato, of course–I have to put my research first!) in a mandarin orange granita on my second trip to the dei Neri–and was not disappointed!
My first trip featured a dark chocolate/fior di latte (literally “flower of milk”–a delicate and superbly flavored member of the cream flavor family) that knocked my socks off. The contrast of the incredibly dark chocolate and the lighter-than-air fior di latte was particularly effective. Others in the party sampled such flavors as chocolate orange, peach, lemon, tiramisu and biscotti (Italian cookies).
The charming service (particularly from the older gentleman who I suspect may have been the owner/author of the edible art we saw before us), the somewhat tucked-away location, the variety of flavors and the consistency of the excellence of the gelato all come together to make the Gelateria dei Neri one of the best (if not the best) gelaterias in Florence, and therefore, quite possibly, the world.
Looks like it’s going to take more than one entry to cover my adventures in Florence. Stay tuned!