For all you ice cream lovers out there, be prepared to have your mind blown away by  Italian ice cream, known as gelato.  Good gelato is characterized by its intense flavor and its super smooth and creamy texture (not icy, like some ice creams). 

There are a lot of options for gelato in Italy; you can get it at a “gelateria”/restaurant/patisseria (bakery), street carts (not recommended), and dedicated gelateria shops of varying quality.  How to tell if a place will have good gelato? Do not depend solely on the crowds, because sometimes a place is popular based on its touristy location.  Instead, take a look inside at the actual gelato display; the gelato should look super creamy, fresh, and clean. 

Most shops are open late (midnight) but some may be closed 1-2 days during the week.

Happy eating! 

Notable gelato places to try:

1. Cremeria Funivia in Bologna (www.cremeriafunivia.com):

Two locations: Piazza Cavour 1/de (south of Piazza Maggiore) and Via Porettana 158/4de

This bright, colorful gourmet gelato shop has super creamy gelato, beautiful gelato cakes and gelato sandwiches.  Try to pick from many of the standard flavors plus creative mixes like cherry with almond crunch.  You can select from cup, cone or make a giant brioche (sweet bread) gelato sandwich! The flavors are kept under metal tins but just ask for a flavor description or a sample to taste.

2. Gelateria Santa Trinità in Firenze: (www.gelateriasantatrinita.it):

Piazza Frescobaldi, 11,12/R; south side of Ponte Santa Trinità 

This beautiful gelato shop has great flavors (sesame crunch and cookies) with super creamy texture, and also has some fancy pastries.  

3. Gelateria Gianni in Bologna:

Across the plaza from the two towers (Due Torri)

Bright lights invite you into their wide selection of yummy flavors, a favorite being the candy/chocolate/candy bar mixed into the super creamy gelato base.  How can you go wrong?

4. Della Palma in Roma:

Via della Maddalena 19/23 (near the Pantheon)

Some may think its cheating to add candy bars (Kinder, Mars, Duplox) to gelato, but if you like chunky ice cream, this is the place for you.  Over 2 dozen gelato options, many contain candy chunks, and at least half-a-dozen chocolate flavors.  The consistency of the gelato seems to be different depending on the flavor; some creamier than others.  You must pay before you order (give your receipt to the guy behind the counter and order your flavors). They also serve “mousse” and soy milk gelato.

5. Bianco Latte in Milano (www.bianolattemilano.it):

Via Turati 30; south of Republica Metro stop

This is a beautiful candy/pastry/gelato shop with a restaurant at the back. They offer almost 2 dozen delicious flavors; something to please everyone!

6. Venchi Gelato and Cioccolato shop in Bologna (www.venchi.com):

Via Degli Oregici 23; near the food streets by Piazza Maggiore

This high-end chocolate shop also makes gelato, and though they offer a limited selection of flavors (~8-10), they make it well.  The pistachio flavor is so intense and flavorful!

Update: There are shops in Venice and in Florence as of June 2014.  The gelato is hands down the richest, most decadent gelato.  There was a more extensive selection of flavors.

7.  Gelateria dei Gracchi in Roma:

Two locations: via dei Gracchi 272 (just south of the Lepanto Metro stop on the “A” line) and viale Regina Margherita 212

Take a number at this gelato shop; it gets so busy that you can wait up to 10 mins for your turn, but it's worth it.  They’re known for their fresh pistachio flavor (expect to find some whole pistachios), but their almond and chocolate flavors (chocolate Grand Marnier is quite boozy) are also good.

8. Attimi di Gusto in Milano (www.attimidigusto.it):

Two locations: Via Vigevano 13 (near the P.TA. Genova Metro stop) and Via Correnti 20

With creative flavors like wine and strawberry and black sesame, this place is definitely worth checking out.  The gelato is hidden in metal containers, but ask for a taste to check out the goods.

9. Lo Sfizio Gelateria in Pisa:

Borgo Largo 39

You will pass this nice gelato shop on your way from the train station to the Leaning Tower; delicious and creamy. Definitely stop by if you’re in Pisa.

Some other gelato spots worth mentioning:

-Giolitti in Roma:

Via Uffici del Vicario 40 (close to Pantheon)

One of the most famous gelato shop in Rome (at least it was), also offering tempting pastries and seating for customers that are willing to pay the extra fee for sit-down waiter service (though they have lots of tables and chairs, you’ll find most customers standing outside eating their gelato in the alley). You have to pay first then give your receipt to the staff behind the gelato counter. And while their gelato is super duper creamy (artisan of course). Most gelatos here are smooth (no “chunky” candy/nut pieces). Good hazelnut flavor though.

-San Crispino in Roma:

Two locations Via della Panetteria 42 (near Trevi Fountain; look carefully, its hidden) and Piazza della Maddalena 3 (near Pantheon and Della Palma)

This well-known gelato shop in Rome is often in guidebooks, featured in newpapers etc for their “artisan” approach to gelato.  The gelato is a bit expensive for the small portions that they give and they don’t offer cones (supposedly it disturbs the taste of gelato).  Gelato is kept in metal tins, you might get some attitude from the staff when you ask them about their flavors or for a taste.

-Gelateria Del Teatro in Roma:

Via di S. Simone 70 (hidden in the corner of Piazza San Salvatore in Lauro across the river from Castel Sant'Angelo)

Another “artisan” gelateria, known for their pistacchio (sourced from Sicily).  The hard-to-find location and so-so gelato .

-Gelarmony in Roma (www.gelarmony.it):

Via Marcantonio Colonna 34 (south of Lepanto Metro station; around the corner from Gelateria dei Gracchia)

Not as elegant as some of the other gelato places, and not as busy as its rival around the corner.  You can get a Silician-style gelato-filled brioche sandwich, however, the brioche didn’t look too fresh.  They also do mousses and soy milk gelato. 

-Gelateria Spicchio di Sole (webpage on Facebook):

Via Pannini, Quartiere Flaminio, Roma Nord, not far from Museum MAXXI and the new Auditorium: Parco della Musica.

Is a very clean place not a fancy place. Here you can get a very good Granita di Caffè con panna done with fresh home-made coffee from a big Moka machine (very yummie!), but not too late or you'll shake till next morning! Try a refreshing Granita di Limone or a delicious strawberries and panna. Brioche con gelato (brioche must be daily fresh or not worth the try) best filled with chocolate ice-cream. The gelato here is done with fresh dairy products and first quality ingredients. Good ingredients, good taste, classic ice cream, that's it. And it is not by chance, that in the afternoon all the bambini with their mamma pass by and have a cono or a coppetta of this delicious ice-cream.

-Suso in Venezia:

Sonnenblume San Marco; hidden in a corridor near Rialto

Pretty good gelato in Venice; made fresh each day.  Their signature “Suso” flavor is delicious but the mint chocolate chip was only mediocre. 

-Festival del Gelato in Firenze:

Via del Corso 75r

Huge selection of standard and creative flavors (think snickers and kinder)

-Amorino Milano in Milano:

Via Fiori Chiari 9

They shape the gelato like flower petals when you order it on a cone.  Cool, but they skimp on the portion sizes.

-Grom (www.grom.it):

Many locations throughout Italy

This modern organic gelateria has your standard flavors housed in metal containers, creamy and delicious.

Other honorable mentions:

-Gelateria Brivido in Siena:

Via dei Pellegrini 1; behind Piazza del Campo

-Gelateria Odeon in Milano:

Two locations:  Piazza Duomo 2 (right across the piazza from the duomo) and Via Marghera 51

-Gelateria Cavour in "Attracco Traghetti, Lago di Como": in the plaza outside of Lake Como Ferry Station