How to Order Gelato in Italy

In honor of the beginning of warm weather and the Florence Gelato Festival, celebrated in one of the origins of the beloved treat now enjoyed worldwide, this month we’re taking a look at Italian gelato.

Italy’s Favorite Afternoon Snack

how to order gelato in italy cup

Image © Italian Concierge

Perusing the neatly lined-up bins of pale-colored but intensely-flavored custard artfully toped with nuts, chocolate shavings, and cut-up fruit in your nearest gelateria, it's hard to choose just one.

Thankfully, you don’t have to. Gelato is always available by cup or cone and you can typically get more than one flavor even in the smallest size available. And you don’t have to feel too bad about eating one every day. Unlike ice cream, gelato is typically made with whole milk instead of cream, resulting in a significantly lower amount of butterfat.

Choosing a Gelato

how to order gelato in italy

Image © Italian Concierge

Always be on the lookout for signs for “artiginale” or “produzione nostra,” meaning that the gelato is made on-site or by the family that owns the gelateria.

When you enter, start by examining the available flavors. Unlike ice cream stores, where you largely see the same flavors save a few seasonal specials, 50% or more of the flavors you see in a gelateria are subject to change.

Classic flavors – vanilla, chocolate, hazelnut, almond, plain (cream) – and Italian favorites like Bacio, flavored like the small Perugia chocolates that are the Italian, hazelnut-flavored equivalent of Hersey’s kisses, will always be on offer. But fruit flavors, whether gelato or sorbet, will constantly rotate. And every season brings new ice cream flavors based on favorite desserts, like Easter’s panettone flavor.

How to Order Gelato

how to order gelato in italy flavors

Image © Italian Concierge

Once you’ve picked out a flavor…or five…go to the register and pay. First select cup or cone, then the size.

The sizes will typically be displayed and you can simply point, or if you know you want a certain number of flavors, you can say “tre gusti” (three flavors) and the cashier will tell you which sizes can accommodate that many flavors.

Even the smallest cups can have at least two flavors, while large ones can often hold four or five different choices.

Take your receipt back to the gelato counter and produce it when it’s your turn. “Turns” are a somewhat loose notion in gelaterias, as there is no line per se, similar to getting a café at the bar. If you feel people are skipping ahead of you, feel free to hold up your receipt or say “scusi.”

Point to the flavors you want and enjoy!

Gelato Vocabulary

The words you need to know to order the gelato confection of your dreams like an Italian:

    • gusti: flavors


    • piccolo: small


    • medio: medium


    • grande: large


    • sorbetto: sorbet or sherbet


    • cono: cone


    • copetta: cup


    • crema: cream


    • stracciatella: chocolate chip


    • nocciola: hazelnut


    • gianduja: chocolate hazelnut


    • cafe: espresso


    • cioccolato: chocolate


    • fragola: strawberry


    • fondente: extra-dark chocolate


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