What Tourists Really Need To Avoid While Trying To Find The Best Gelato In Italy

Great gelato and Italy go together like some of the finer things in life. Richer than traditional ice cream, and with the perfect blend of flavor and creaminess, gelato combines indulgence and tradition with every scoop. Originally created in the 16th century — specifically in Florence, according to local lore — the sweet treat has been a staple of Italian culture for thousands of years, and there's no slowing its popularity down.

The ideal complement for a day out — whether strolling through Rome's cobblestone streets, sightseeing in Bologna, or catching the sunset after a day of exploring art galleries in Florence — gelato is synonymous with visiting Italy — especially during the summer. In fact, the country is brimming with gelato shops along pretty much every corner — especially in the more touristy areas — which makes it a paradise for any traveler with a sweet tooth. And with mountains of colorful, fruit-topped gelato on full display calling your name, it's no surprise you'd want to give in to the temptation and try every flavor.

However, according to TikToker @ciarainitaly, you shouldn't let these mountains of gelato fool you into thinking you're getting the most authentic experience. In fact, any time there's a mountain of gelato on full display — luring visitors into the shop — chances are they aren't serving the real deal... and that you'll be falling into the common trap of eating like a tourist.

Recognizing authentic gelato

According to one of her videos on TikTok, Ciara admits that, although these shops look inviting and tempting to the untrained eye — real gelato isn't about flash and showmanship. In reality, unlike their more ostentatious counterparts, authentic gelato is stored in flat, covered containers to keep it fresh and at the perfect consistency since exposure to air can affect its texture and taste. This ultimately means that the piled-on gelato you do see is typically made with added artificial flavors and added vegetable fats to keep it structurally stable and visually appealing.

Another giveaway to spotting the real deal is taking a closer look at the gelato's color. While authentic gelato will have a more toned-down hue — think brown-ish green for pistachio and cream for lemon — the flashier gelato is all about bright, eye-popping colors that don't look natural at all. If someone's trying to serve you a neon green scoop claiming it to be pistachio...it's best to turn the other way.

Lastly, there's the issue of flavor. While mass-produced gelato shops might serve the same flavors year-round — they're not actually using natural ingredients anyway — authentic gelato depends on the seasonality and freshness of its ingredients. That's why you won't see strawberry gelato in January — the fruit is in-season from April to June — or orange gelato in mid-June — there are no fresh oranges at the time. All of which goes to say: if it looks too good to be true... it probably isn't authentic gelato.