There’s no denying it: Sometimes it seems there’s an ice cream shop around every bend in the Mediterranean. The freezer cases are filled with mountains of airy-looking candy-colored gelato in all colors of the rainbow, each topped with a piece of fruit or a chunk of chocolate, candy, or coconut to identify the flavor.
Unfortunately, many of these places sell chemical-laden gelato made from powders and concentrates rather than fresh milk and real fruit. Seeking out the real thing is worth the effort: Once you get a taste of handcrafted ice cream or gelato made from natural ingredients, you’ll never go back. Here, five of our favorite places from Western Mediterranean ports:
R. Buonocore Gelateria
You can smell this tiny little shop before you can see it. And then, even as you round the bend, you see the crowd before you see the store itself. The line winds down the sidewalk, but there, unmistakably in the window, next to the gelato itself, is a hot waffle cone press with a man standing beside it slowly making each one to order and then wrapping the hot waffle in paper to be filled with gelato. The creamy delight is available in Southern Italian flavors like pistachio, chocolate-hazelnut, almond, strawberry, and the local favorite, known as Fantasia di Capri, which is a mix of cream, almonds, and swirls of Nutella® spread.
This famous confectioner in the Eixample district is a great place to get hot chocolate in the morning (traditional, spiced Aztec, or creamy Swiss), sophisticated candy bars (made with liquor, spices, and herbs) for souvenirs, or — our favorite — ice cream from the all-chocolate menu. You can order a “tasting” of three different flavors (dark chocolate, hazelnut, and white chocolate), or a not-too-sweet milk shake.
Just a short walk from Piazza Navona, this small artisanal shop has everything you’d want in a place to take a break from exploring Rome: plenty of seating (inside and out), air conditioning, free Wi-Fi, and (of course) arguably the best gelato in Rome. Look for fresh seasonal flavors made with regional fruit and nuts, such as Amalfi lemon and Sicilian almond.
You know the second you see the chocolate fountain in the window that the chocolate flavors are the way to go at this organic gelato stop for homemade goodness. Fortunately, a dozen flavors have the heavenly essence in them, from the pudding-like dark chocolate to milk, orange, mint, white, Aztec, brutto ma buono (named after a chocolate chip-filled meringue cookie), and the Nutella-like hazelnut and chocolate combinations, including gianduja.
What’s special at these two family-run shops in Nice’s Old Town? The fabulous local flavors, including orange blossom, nougat, lavender, salted butter caramel, honey and pine nut, chestnut, and calisson — a blend of marzipan and melon inspired by the regional candy of choice. But many travelers can’t resist the temptation of the savory, sometimes shocking options here, such as olive, avocado, verbena, and vanilla with pink peppercorns. The sorbet flavors — beer, tomato-basil, thyme, and rosemary — are worth a look, too. Best of all, the shop’s open from 9 am to midnight, so there’s plenty of time to get there before your ship sails off into the sunset.
Nutella is a registered trademark of Ferrero S.P.A.