Homing in on...The best gelato in Italy

Arguably one of the greatest perks of house hunting in Italy is having access to some of the greatest ice cream in the world – gorgeous, glistening gelato.

Most things in Italy come with a historical link – it goes with the territory – and it’s easy, though not correct, to think of Italy as the birthplace of ice cream. Credit for that apparently goes to China, but the tempting frozen treat had an early adopter in the form of the Roman Emperor Nero who ordered snow to be brought from the mountains and mixed with fruit and juice. That sounds very much like the modern granita, a summer favourite originating in Sicily, commonly flavoured with lemon, mint, coffee or almond.

Every Italian town – or neighbourhood, when the town is of a considerable size – will have its preferred artisanal ice cream shop called a gelateria. Here are three of my own favourites.  

In the centre of Florence, the best-known gelateria is the historic Vivoli. Vivoli is tucked away in a side street in the Santa Croce area, a short stroll from a couple of other Florentine gastronomic giants, Enoteca Pinchiorri and Cibreo. Its fame transcends national borders as a framed postcard written in the 1960s demonstrates: it is addressed simply 'Vivoli – Ice Cream – Europe'.

A little farther south in San Gimignano, Gelateria Dondoli has twice won the Ice Cream World Championship. It even has registered trademark flavours, such as my favourite, Champagne & Pink Grapefruit. Dondoli's gallery of celebrity visitors includes fans as diverse as Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Andrea Bocelli and the Blair family...

If you are on a tight schedule and do not have the time to seek out local gems, a new chain has taken a foothold in many Italian cities. It's called Grom, and you will recognise it by the queue often snaking its way around the block. For me, a visit is a must every time I am in Italy – even at the risk of almost missing my flight once just to get a scoop of that delicious, dark chocolate sorbet. 

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