Eating gelato might not be your number one reason to visit Italy, but it will probably be in the top 10. And why not. Artisan gelato is made with fresh ingredients such as eggs, milk, fresh fruits, and nuts, so if not a full meal, it can definitely make for a healthy snack.
This is why it’s important to know at least the most common gelato flavors in Italian so that you are sure you are ordering what you actually like and making the right combinations of scoops.
My simple yet exhaustive list of gelato flavors will help you navigate the wide range of Italian gelato flavors in any region and city you are going to. I’m going to name the main gelato categories and ingredients so that you have all the necessary tools. To make things even easier, I’m also going to help you with the pronunciation of the main gelato flavors in Italian.
Gelato in Italian
Gelato is the Italian word for ice cream. It’s pronounced jeh-lah-toh and it literally means “frozen”. Gelato in Italy is a broad category that includes creams (flavors with milk) and sorbets, “sorbetti” (usually fruit flavors without milk). Since they are mainly water, sugar, and fruit, sorbetti are great gelato flavors to order on a hot summer day and they also melt less fast than creams and milk-based flavors.
Italian gelato differs from ice cream in so many aspects that they are two different products altogether.
First of all, ice cream is fatter than gelato. Even in the creams of Italian gelato, those containing animal fat, usually whole milk, together with the eventual nuts, the amount of fat doesn’t go beyond 8%. Ice creams never contain less than 10% of fat as per FDA regulations.
Another difference between gelato and ice cream is the production method. Ice cream is made in large quantities on an industrial scale, then stored and transported. This makes it incorporate air for up to 100% of its weight, as allowed by local law.
Gelato, on the other hand, is usually an artisan product and is made to be consumed in a matter of few days so it incorporates less air. The result is that ice cream is fluffier, while Italian gelato is thicker and less soft.
Last but not least, a huge difference lies in the ingredients. Ice cream is made with powdered milk and semi-finished goods, while Italian gelato is usually made with fresh milk, eggs, and fruits, as well as all types of nuts.
If you are traveling to Italy, I suggest you have gelato at least once a day in summer, and from time to time even in winter. Slightly differing in styles and flavors, gelato is a love affair in all Italian regions. Even though it was born in Florence, gelato in Rome is such an institution that we have it year-round!
There are some classic gelato flavors you will find in most gelaterias and other original flavors and combinations that each master gelatiere creates. Let’s find out what they are.
Don’t miss our tips for the best food tours in Florence.
Classic and most popular gelato flavors in Italian
Gelato flavors in Italian translate into “gusti di gelato”. You are bound to find the most common and diverse range of colors and names. Learning some of what you might find in Italian gelaterias will help you when you want to order your sweet treat.
|Gelato flavors in Italian||Pronunciation||English translation|
|Cioccolato fondente||choh-koh-lah-toh phon-dehn-teh||Dark chocolate|
|Fiordilatte||fyor-dee-lah-tay||Sweet milk cream|
|Frutti di bosco||froo-tee-dee-boh-skoh||Berries|
|Stracciatella||strah-chah-teh-lah||Sweet cream with chocolate chips|
|Zuppa inglese||dsuh-pah een-gleh-zeh||Zuppa inglese|
|Malaga||mah-lah-gah||Malaga (Spanish flavor with rum and raisins)|
More unusual gelato flavors in Italy
I love gelato and I eat it often regardless of the season. Many gelato shops like to offer original flavors and daring combinations. Some work better than others but to me, they are all worth trying! Here are some creative flavors I’ve found over the years.
|Gelato flavors in Italian||English translation|
|Miele, limone e rosmarino||Honey, lemon, and rosemary|
|Pesca e lavanda||Peach and lavender|
|Cioccolato bianco al basilico||Basil-flavored white chocolate|
|Salvia e lampone||Sage and raspberry|
|Pino Mugo||Mountain pine|
Italian gelato flavors explained
If you are not familiar with Italian gelato, sometimes the big variety of flavors displayed might confuse you. While it would help to know the colors in Italian, having a general knowledge of ingredients and the most popular flavors and combinations will certainly make things easier and increase the chances to order what you really like and want.
Let’s see how to navigate the selection you are likely to find in many gelato shops in Italy.
Let’s start with one of the favorite flavors among children and adults alike. Chocolate is such as versatile ingredient that you can find it served in many different flavors. The main difference is between “cioccolato al latte” (milk chocolate) and “cioccolato fondente” (dark chocolate). Usually, they all contain milk, even though many gelato shops offer also dairy-free chocolate, so sorbet-like gelato.
When you see dark chocolate, check out the percentage as it tells you how dark it is, so how much cacao bean. In the gelaterias, you will see written “cioccolato fondente al 70%, 72%, 80%, 85%”, and similar. Chocolate flavors vary also depending on the cacao beans’ origins. So you can have chocolate from Ecuador, Venezuela, Amazonia, and more.
Apart from the simple chocolate, you can find many flavors combining the main ingredient with others. These include “cioccolato al peperoncino” (chili pepper chocolate), “sacher” reproducing the sacher torte with chocolate and apricot jam, “cioccolato all’arancia” (orange chocolate), “gianduia” chocolate with hazelnut, and “cioccolato bianco” (white chocolate).
There are also flavors that combine chocolate with one or two more ingredients. Some of the most common are bananas, cinnamon, pear, or mint.
Part of the chocolate flavors are also Nutella, inspired by the famous chocolate and hazelnut cream, and Bacio, inspired by the famous Perugina chocolate company from the Umbria region.
Fruit-based gelato flavors
A little like with chocolate, there are countless fruit combinations and flavors. While the most common are “fragola” (strawberry), “limone” (lemon), mango and banana, in recent years gelato masters have really unleashed their imagination and created the most original flavors.
In the best gelato shops, fruit flavors are seasonal so you are not going to find watermelon in winter. These are the flavors to opt for because you will be sure they are fresh and artisan-made. So depending on the season, here are some of the most famous and popular fruit flavors:
- Cocco (coconut). You can find this flavor made with or without milk and by itself or combined with other ingredients such as chocolate.
- Melone (melon). Fresh summer flavor, you can find melon in most gelato shops in Italy, sometimes as a single flavor, sometimes with other ingredients such as herbs, spices, or creams. Famous is melon with basil.
- Anguria (watermelon). Anguria is a popular summer flavor because of its freshness. I’ve only seen it scooped as a single flavor and usually a sorbet, so dairy-free.
- Frutto della passione (passion fruit). This is a tropical fruit
- Pompelmo (grapefruit).
- Mandarino (tangerine). Tangerine makes for a delicious Italian gelato flavor but I don’t see it very often.
- Pera (pear). You will find pear more often combined with other fruits or ingredients in flavors such as “pera, uvetta, e cannella” (pear, raisins, and cinnamon) and “pera e cioccolato” (pear and chocolate).
- Mela (apple). Mela is delicious with cinnamon (“cannella”) alone like a sorbet or with the addition of ricotta cheese.
- Fico d’India (prickly pear). This is a common fruit in southern Italy but less common as a gelato flavor even though you can find it sometimes, mainly in summer.
- Fichi (figs). This is a fantastic flavor that you can find on its own or combined with other ingredients, mainly nuts such as almonds or pine nuts. One of the best fig gelatos we’ve ever had has been in the Hedera gelato shop in Borgo Pio in Rome near the Vatican.
- Ananas (pineapple). A very refreshing summer flavor that you can find as a cream or dairy-free as a sorbet.
- Cachi (persimmon). Being such as sweet fruit, it’s quite often used as a gelato flavor.
- Mirtillo (blueberry). This is a great flavor both alone and combined with other flavors such as creams and nuts.
- Mora (blackberry). Often found alone, sometimes they match it with ricotta or cream.
- Lampone (raspberry). This is a very versatile fruit that you will often find in Italian gelato shops both alone or combined with nuts or even chocolate.
- Kiwi. Often found as a single flavor.
- Ciliegia (cherry). This is seen as the single flavor when cherries are in season, but often you will find its sour version known in Italy as “amarena”, which is also the name of the flavor. However, when you see the “amarena” flavor, you shouldn’t expect sour cherries alone but usually mixed with cream or fiordilatte. Often, amarena is also mixed with other ingredients such as cookie crumble or nuts to create other flavors.
- Gelso (mulberry). This is truly delicious. You can find both black or white mulberry, both alone or combined with other flavors but without covering its delicate taste.
- Melograno (pomegranate).
- Papaya. This is a tropical fruit but it’s possible to find it quite often in Italian gelaterias.
- Pesca (peach). Summer fruit, peach is found both as a single flavor and mixed with others.
- Albicocca (apricot). Just like the peach, this is a summer fruit. You can find it around June, July, and August usually as a flavor of its own.
- Sambuco (elder). This is not really a fruit but mainly the flowers, the leaves, the berries, and even the bark of the elder tree. They are used to infuse flavor in many combinations including fruits and nuts.
Nut-based gelato flavors
From almonds to pistachios, nuts are a huge component of Italian gelato flavors. Try them alone or in the many combinations they are served. Usually, nuts are combined with fresh fruit, chocolate, spices, and occasionally even with liqueurs for more original flavors.
- Castagne (chestnuts). You will find chestnuts more often combined with other flavors.
- Mandorla (almond). You can find the almond flavor with milk or as a sorbet, and alone or combined with other flavors such as apple, cinnamon, peach, coffee, dates, cardamom, salt, and more.
- Pistacchio (pistachio). You will find it with or without milk, more or less sweet, most often alone. When you see written “pistacchio di Bronte” (Bronte pistachio) from Sicily, go for it because it’s great. You can find pistachio from several locations including Syria, Iran, Turkey, and California. Once I even found it from Afghanistan, which is one of the best in the world but sadly rare.
- Nocciola (hazelnut). The best you can find will have the label “Nocciola tonda gentile delle Langhe”, which is the type from the Piedmont region, and from Viterbo in the Lazio region.
- Pinoli (pine nuts). You are going to find this more as an ingredient for complex flavors rather than a flavor on its own but it’s quite common.
- Noci (walnut). This you are going to find it mainly mixed with other ingredients. A great one of “noci e miele” (walnuts and honey) or “yogurt, miele e noci” (yogurt, honey, and walnuts).
- Pecan. Less common than Italian nuts, but sometimes you can find this, too.
Cream-based gelato is such a huge category. While there are those flavors that would really fall only in this category such as fiordilatte, there are others such as nuts and fruit flavors that become creams when made using milk or fresh cream. These are the flavors that are usually only in a creamy version.
- Stracciatella (sweet cream with chocolate chips). This is a very famous gelato flavor in Italy cherished by both children and adults because of its sweet and palatable taste.
- Fiordilatte. This is a very popular Italian gelato flavor made with fresh cream, sugar, and vanilla bean. You are likely to find it as a single flavor.
- Caffè (coffee). I’m sure you have ordered coffee in Italy quite a few times. If you like it, you can give this flavor a try. I love it after lunch but I’m not crazy about “gelato al caffè” because I like my coffee warm.
- Vaniglia (vanilla). This is a very common ice cream but while you can find it also as an artisan gelato flavor, it’s less common. If you find it, it’s usually a single flavor because it’s very delicate so it would be completely covered.
I love the contrast between sweet and savory so every time I see “salato” in the flavor or “sale” among the ingredients, I give it a try. Some that you are likely to find include:
- Cioccolato bianco con sale rosa dell’Himalaya (white chocolate with pink Himalayan salt). This is delicious, even though I’m not a big fan of white chocolate, when I see it, I often order it.
- Caramello salato (salted caramel).
- Arachidi salati (salted peanuts). This is usually a crunchy flavor with crushed peanuts.
Cake-inspired gelato flavors
A whole big category of gelato flavors is inspired by traditional Italian or international cakes and sweets. So you can just refer to the cake to guess what the ingredients will be and what it will taste like. These are usually cream flavors and contain milk and often eggs too. Apart from the Sacher I mentioned earlier, some of the most famous include:
- Tiramisu, one of the most famous Italian desserts made with eggs and coffee
- Zabaione, made with egg yolks, sugar, and sometimes with the addition of fortified wine, is a sweet cream and is often used as a gelato flavor.
- Panettone, a typical Italian Christmas cake with raisins and candied fruits.
- Biscotti della nonna (grandma’s cookies), usually made using cream, sugar, and lemon zest, or sometimes with the addition of crumbled cookies for a crunchy touch.
- Crema della nonna (grandma’s cake) is often made with caramelized pine nuts like a traditional Italian recipe.
- Baci di dama, Italian cookies made with chocolate and hazelnuts.
- Crostata ricotta e visciole, a popular Roman tart made with ricotta and sour cherry.
- After Eight, delicious chocolate and mint sweets.
- Cassata siciliana, a famous Sicilian cake with candied fruit.
- Torrone (nougat) is usually made with honey, sugar, and nuts such as walnuts, almonds, or hazelnuts.
- Foresta Nera, inspired by the famous cake made of chocolate, cream, and cherries.
- Zuppa Inglese. Even though the name translates into “English soup”, this is an Italian dessert made up of layers of pastry cream, chocolate, and sponge cake or the Italian Savoiardi cookies. This flavor is very rich and you will often see it displayed.
- Marron glacé. Quite common in France, marron glacé is believed to have been invented near Cuneo in northern Italy. This can be roughly defined as candied chestnuts and you can find it sometimes as a gelato flavor in Italy under this very name.
- Cheesecake. Always more often you will find cheesecake flavors in Italian gelato shops. Usually with berries, you can also find it with caramel and chocolate.
Flavors with liqueur
It might sound bizarre, but there are many flavors inspired by and containing liqueurs. These are usually liqueur-flavored creams.
- Crema al Whiskey
- Crema al Marsala
- Crema allo Strega or Ricotta with Strega liqueur
- Crema al Passito di Pantelleria
- Cognac. This French liqueur can be used to infuse cream flavors and also combined with spices.
- Tonico e Cordiale liqueur-infused cream
- Cointreau. Used as an ingredient to create different flavors.
- Porto. Another wine not used alone.
- Amaretto liqueur. Amaretto in Italy is both a liqueur and a type of cookie. You can find flavors using both, either amaretto liqueur-infused creams or flavors with amaretti cookies crumbled.
- Malaga. This is Spanish-inspired and made of cream, raisins, and rum.
Bizarre gelato flavors
Not only original but some flavors and combinations are also downright strange and unlikely. Some use cheese, some veggies, and others use the ingredients to make seasonings and condiments. Here are some flavors I didn’t expect to see and that honestly I didn’t try!
Some of the improbable ingredients I’ve seen used include olives, Parmigiano cheese, potatoes, radicchio red salad, and pumpkin. Many weird gelato flavors I saw were at the famous Fatamorgana Roman gelateria, but also places like Otaleg offer unusual combinations.
- Seadas. This is a delicious Sardinian deep-fried pastry and the flavor includes pecorino cheese, not exactly what you expect in a gelato.
- Aglio nero (black garlic). At Fatamorgana, I saw it combined with white chocolate.
- Parmigiano. Seriously. I’ve seen it on its own in a sweet version, so with the addition of sugar and probably cream.
- Gorgonzola. This is a blue cheese from northern Italy. You can find it alone or, like at Fatamorgana, with dates and walnuts. If you like very strong flavors.
- Pecorino. Another cheese. No kidding.
- Sedano (celery). More often combined with other ingredients such as lime.
- Venere rosa. This is a flavor I’ve ordered many times at Fatamorgana in Rome because I actually like it. It’s made with black rice, rosebuds, and lime zest.
- Pino Mugo. I tried this one at the Roman gelateria “Gunther gelato italiano”, it’s made with essential oil of mountain pine and it’s delicious.
Check out the most popular Italian foods by region.
Terms you will see often in a gelateria in Italy
- Variegato. This is the name they use when a flavor appears in different colors but each is well visible. Some of the flavors of this type include “variegato crema, nocciole e cacao“, “variegato all’amarena“, and “variegato al biscotto” with cookies.
- Cremolato. This is a sort of ice pop but not on a stick so it has to be eaten with a spoon. If you’ve been to Rome, you might be familiar with the grattachecca, a similar product, while in Sicily they have granita that reminds you of it. These are all made with ice, fruit, and sugar, but cremolato is usually the creamiest because of the largest fruit amount.
- Croccante (brittle). This is a type of gelato with a crunchy component inside the cream. The crunchiness can be given by crushed nuts or crumbled cookies. You will find at least one or two in every gelato shop. Some of the most common flavors are “croccante all’amarena” with sour cherries or “croccante di arachidi” with crunchy peanuts.
- Senza zucchero (sugar-free). For these flavors, they use different types of sweeteners, sometimes fructose, and sometimes erythritol. Ask the staff and they will be able to tell you.
- Vegano (vegan). These are the flavors without dairy and without eggs. Always more often, the vegan flavors are not only the fruit sorbets but you will be able to find also chocolate and other options that are originally creams.
How to pronounce gelato flavors in Italian – Audio
Cioccolato – Chocolate
Cioccolato fondente – Dark chocolate
Cioccolato all’arancia – Orange-infused chocolate
Cioccolato bianco – White chocolate
Gianduia – Chocolate with hazelnut
Pistacchio – Pistachio
Fragola – Strawberry
Melone – Melon
Pesca – Peach
Anguria – Watermelon
Nocciola – Hazelnut
Fiordilatte – Sweet milk cream
Vaniglia – Vanilla
Frutti di bosco – Mixed berries
Mirtillo – Blueberry
Amarena – Sour cherries
Limone – Lemon
Stracciatella – Sweet cream with chocolate morsels
Mandorla – Almond
Croccante all’amarena – Sour cherries brittle
Caramello salato – Salted caramel
Caffè – Coffee
Liquirizia – Licorice
Malaga – Cream with rum and raisins
Zuppa inglese – Zuppa inglese
Variegato al cacao – Chocolate variegato
How to order gelato in Italian – Tips
Cone or cup?
First thing first. Do you prefer your gelato served in a cone or a cup? Cones are usually made with wafers, sometimes crunchier, sometimes more friable. This is usually what you order on the go.
Cups can be disposable paper ones if you are ordering your gelato on the go, or large glasses if you are grabbing a table and having it indoors.
How many scoops?
Depending on the size of your cone or cup, you can add as many scoops as fit. This depends on each gelato shop.
Usually, a small cup or cone contains one or two scoops max, a medium one can fit up to three flavors, while a large one four or three but in larger proportions.
How much does it cost?
Prices depend on how many scoops and whether you choose a small, medium, or large cone or cup. Usually, you will find good artisan gelato between €2.50 and 5€.
There are also different options that will impact the price. For example, if you opt for a cone coated with chocolate and crushed nuts, the price will be higher.
Once you pick your flavors, you will be asked if you would like to add fresh cream on top. Usually, this is free, but some charge around €0.50. Fresh cream is made out of milk so not for you if you are lactose-intolerant or following a plant-based diet. Some gelaterias also have the lactose-free version or even dairy-free made with soy.
How to choose?
Often, especially around tourist areas, flavors are written in both Italian and English. If you are not sure, you can ask the staff to give you a try at those you are more attracted to.
Look at the color
When ordering gelato in Italy, look at the colors. The brighter, the worse. Pistachio is not luminous green, but a dull light brown instead. Strawberry is a dull pink, not shimmering fuchsia.
As an extra tip, the gelato shops that keep their flavors in covered wells are the most reliable as the temperature remains the same on every layer.
What about ice cream in Italy?
Even though Italians are big fans of artisan gelato and they are becoming more demanding by the day, in Italy, you can find also ice cream. This is mainly sold at the bar in single packaging or in food stores in plastic containers or boxes of 3 to 5 pieces.
These are stored for a long time so they don’t use all the fresh ingredients you will find in artisan gelato, they have a larger amount of fat and sugar, and they contain preservatives, possibly food coloring and additives.
Some of the most popular brands of ice cream in Italy are Algida, Motta, Antica Gelateria del Corso, Sammontana, and Nuii. When it comes to ice creams, you will obviously choose the flavors you like but you will also need to pick the shape, the type, and the size. For example, Algida is famous for its “cornetto” cones and Magnum ice creams on a stick that come in many flavors such as dark chocolate, caramel, white chocolate, almonds, and more.
If you are into coffee ice cream, you will probably like Motta’s Coppa del Nonno little cup. From Motta are also some nice ice cream-filled cookies and several popsicles.
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