It has been over a year since I lived in Rome, and even though I don’t think I could ever live in the Eternal City eternally, there are certain things that I’ve come to miss about it. However, while I could sit here and write about how I long for porchetta Wednesdays at the alimentari near the school and the ability to find a nice arancina filled with mozzarella and spinach for lunch, the number one thing I miss about Rome is, you guessed it, the gelato.
While I am aware that Philly supposedly has the best gelato in the world with Capogiro, I would gladly give Capo up for some of the shops I came across in Rome. I have had a love affair with ice cream for as long as I can remember, and my dad always knows that in the summertime (or really every time) I can eat bastani every day, multiple times a day. The great thing about Rome was that I could actually do this without people judging me, whereas I felt judged by the hipster Capogiro boys and girls when I went in twice in one week.
Gelato quickly became a topic of debate between my friends while we were roaming the city. We each had strong opinions about which location offered up the best choices for this sweet stuff, and whenever we passed by an interesting looking gelato shop, we had to stop in and compare it to the rest of our ever-growing list of go-to places. We even found a place that had dozens of odd flavors like salami and pepper. However, my favorite spot, which has never and will never be replaced, is Frigidarium.
Named after the bathhouses of ancient Rome, this little hole in the wall near Piazza Navona is frequently visited by Romans and a few lucky outsiders who manage to stumble upon it as they try and find their way around the winding cobblestone streets. I adored it because the flavors were so intense. A fruity flavor like Lampone (raspberry), tasted as though someone took a truckload of this fruit and condensed it all into my little cup. This consistently held true for their other flavors as well. For me, this is what gelato needs to be truly satisfying. If the flavors are too diluted, this creamy concoction seems no different than the pints of ice cream I find in the supermarket here in the States.
To literally top it all off, the choice of getting a hard chocolate shell or whipped cream on my treat was always offered to me. This was the only place in Rome that I came across that had this option, and it made my experience at Frigidarium even better. I felt like a kid as I received my gelato for the first time with a shell ready to crack, but the dark chocolate was undeniably a rich, powerful flavor that satisfied both my inner child and outward adult. Of course, of you visit, no matter how great the gelato is, be prepared to order in Italian or deal with some less than friendly Romans, a piece of advice that holds true for the rest of Rome as well. While I’m sure many of you aren’t in Rome right now, when you do decide to visit the Pantheon and browse medieval churches, add Frigidarium to your list of attractions as well.
Other places of note, at least according to my friends, are Giolitti and Grom. Giolitti has been around for decades and very much has a 1950s Shoppe feel to it, but it was the favorite of a couple of my friends. With employees in forest green vests and tons of flavors to choose from, this is one of the most well-known and biggest gelato shops in the city. A great silky flavor to check out here is the Frutti di Bosco (fruit of the forest). The flavors were creamier, and therefore less powerful, than Frigidarium’s, so if that’s what you prefer, this may be the place for you.
The other place I named, Grom, makes me cringe a bit while I write it, but it was a favorite of my friends. Much like Giolitti’s gelato, the flavors here were incredibly rich and creamy. However, the reason I was so hesitant to name Grom is because it’s a chain. You can find this gelato in New York, which, for me, makes it a little bit less special. However, you can also find Eataly in New York, and that’s one of the best things ever, so I decided to suck it up and name Grom as well. If you do enjoy Grom, the great thing is that you can find it in other Italian cities as well, so it’s a nice standard choice when searching for something sweet to cool you down during the hot summer months.
While there are places I love, I do feel the need to warn you about the one gelato place I absolutely loathe in Rome, Old Bridge. While it is right near the Vatican and probably the cheapest gelato we ever came across, I can safely say it was also the most disappointing. It’s not smooth and some of the fruit flavors remind me a bit of water ice. All the flavors in general were pretty watered down, so they didn’t stick with me past one bite. Although there where people in my program that named this place the best, I would suggest avoiding it and looking for somewhere else to get some gelato. There are honestly hundreds of choices around Rome, and I guarantee most of them would be better than Old Bridge.
Although I’ve given you a small list to utilize if you ever visit Rome and I clearly think Frigidarium trumps all the other gelato in the world, I would suggest just getting out there and stopping at new places every day. You never know what your favorite might end up being, and there are some great places where I found phenomenal gelato just because I was nearby. There were dozens of stores that served great gelato, but whose names never stuck in my mind. Some of the excitement of being in Rome is getting to try new things, and while gelato may not be new to you, there are flavors out there that probably are. The only way to see if you like them is by tasting them. I have so many great memories of Rome, and while gelato may seem like such a small thing, it really enhanced the months I spent there and I know I wouldn’t have enjoyed it as much if gelato didn’t exist. Rome is a city for exploring, and the gelato scene is just one of many ways to uncover its culture.
Most of these photos are my own, but some credit is due to the girls that I spent my months in Rome with as well.