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Why Eat Gelato?

by Penny Sadler

I can think of many reasons to eat gelato, starting with the obvious; it tastes great! It is one of the most basic joys of traveling in Italy. People travel thousands of miles to eat gelato, after all.

In case you don’t know what gelato is, (is that possible?) let me enlighten you. Gelato means frozen, in Italian. So gelato is basically any frozen dessert. But for most people, gelato is Italian ice cream.

Not all ice cream is created equal, however, and there are some key differences between gelato and American-style ice cream. So what makes gelato different?
Why Eat Gelato @PennySadler 2014

Gelato is only 2 -10 percent fat, whereas ice cream can be as much as 18 – 30 percent fat. It’s low in fat, high in calcium, protein, and B vitamins! This means that gelato is actually good for you!

Another important difference between the two, gelato is blended differently, so contains less air than ice cream, thereby making the flavor much more intense. You will feel satisfied with eating a little, instead of a lot. I’m speculating on this, but try to work with me. Less air also means it doesn’t have to be served brain numbing cold, like ice cream, which accounts for the creamier texture and, I believe, for the more dense flavors.

Why Eat Gelato l Adventuresofacarryon.com

I have yet to find gelato in the U.S. that compares with gelato in Italy, so when I am there, I allow myself to dive into this creamier, softer, more richly flavored frozen dessert, with abandon. I’ve eaten gelato for lunch, dinner, and in between meals.

My crush on gelato began in Sorrento. This region of Italy is known for producing huge lemons with a very fragrant skin, which of course are used to make lemon sorbetto. Sorbetto is made without dairy, so it’s lighter and contains even less fat than gelato. I’ll never forget my first lemon sorbetto and still seek to duplicate the experience.

In Rome, I had lemon sorbetto served inside one of those huge lemons from Sorrento. They scoop out the inside and fill it with delicious lemony goodness, then freeze it. Heavenly. I’ve had this version in a few other places in Italy, as well. When I see it on the menu I always order it. I’m a bit obsessive that way. Once I find something I like, I just keep going back for more.

Why Eat Gelato? l adventuresofacarryon.com

After a few trips to Italy, I became more adventurous and began to try other traditional flavors: chocolate, vanilla, pistachio, strawberry, and coconut. There are endless flavor options for gelato – these are only a few. If you want to try some more exotic flavors check out what fabulous food writer David Lebovitz recommends.

Why Eat Gelato l Adventuresofacarryon.com

At Vanilla Gelateria in Milan, I tried coconut and watermelon. I really had no idea where to go, to find the best gelato. I just decided the constant line outside the door was a good sign. I wasn’t disappointed. Vanilla has been in business since the 1950’s. Using only seasonal ingredients from around Italy, each spoonful was like biting into a piece of fresh fruit. I also liked this place because they had some pretty tables outside to sit and rest your weary feet. Many gelaterias are strictly walk away.

During my last trip to Rome, I discovered Fatamorgana gelateria. Fatamorgana was like falling in love all over again. I went crazy and tried all sorts of new and avant-garde flavors: ricotta with citrus, vanilla rice, madagascar chocolate, blueberry chocolate, even balsamic and basil. The flavors were all pure and fresh, but my favorite was the almond orange. It had small bits of ground nuts in it, and managed to be rich and refreshing all at the same time.

Why Eat Gelato? @PennySadler 2014

Pistachio ice cream, has always been a favorite of mine. Since eating pistachio gelato, I don’t even order ice cream anymore. Pistachio gelato is like popping a handful of freshly shelled nuts into your mouth all at once; with each bite you get a burst of fresh, creamy, nutty flavor. Pistachio ice cream is sort of a pale minty green color, and often doesn’t even have any nuts in it. Pistachio gelato is a green-brown color, with plenty of finely crushed nuts in it: makes me wonder what I was eating before – was it food?

Gelato is made with all natural, seasonal ingredients most of the time. If you’re not certain you’re getting the real deal, look for signs that say gelato naturale or gelato artigianale.

Why Eat Gelato

Eating good food, and good gelato, is simply part of Italian culture – just as taking an evening stroll with family, friends, and neighbors (passeggiata), is. It’s a social event, and one not to be missed. As far as I know, it’s not duplicated anywhere else in the world. I don’t know if ALL Italians eat gelato, but when I’ve been out for la passeggiata, it sure seems as if everyone I see is eating gelato. When in Rome…

How far will you travel for gelato?

why eat gelato every day? @PennySadler 2014

For more great places to eat gelato in Italy read Hungry? Top Gelato Spots in Lombardia

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28 comments

Milena Yordanova August 17, 2015 at 9:38 am

I love gelato! I can’t wait to visit Italy again. I have never tried lemon sorbetto, but it looks great. 🙂

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Penny Sadler August 17, 2015 at 12:11 pm

Thanks Milena. Lemon is my fave. If you like lemons, you’re in business. Let me know if you do try it.

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Sandy Seeks March 18, 2015 at 8:37 am

wow, what a post and I cannot wait for summer to come now and our trip to Italy. What I love about it is the creaminess, it is so much richer than ice cream and when done right with the natural local ingredients in Italy, you will never go back to Ben and Jerry again. Thanks for this!

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Penny Sadler March 18, 2015 at 12:31 pm

Hi Sandy
Thanks so much. I can’t wait either! Where are you going?

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Ishita April 18, 2014 at 12:39 am

I Love Gelato. To be honest I never enjoyed it as much as I did when I visited Italy. Gelato in Florence was heaven! Thats where I had my “crush” on it 😉

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Selina April 10, 2014 at 2:43 am

Oh boy, now I’m watering at the mouth and there’s no ice cream – let alone gelato – in the house! Sadly my tummy was heartbroken in Pisa a few years ago, as gelato shops were a dime a dozen, but I was met with strange looks each time I asked if it was ‘vegetariano’ 🙁 I lived off the most delicious pizza whilst there but my heart sank every time I saw a gelato sign… Your post has made me want to return to Italy for some creamy goodness. Surely by now vegetarians are better catered for 🙂 I’ve added you on Twitter and look forward to reading more of your blog!

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Penny Sadler May 12, 2014 at 10:52 pm

I think Vanilla Gelateria in Milan is vegetarian? Check this article http://www.adventuresofacarryon.com/2013/07/08/hungry-top-gelato-spots-in-lombardia/

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Agness March 8, 2014 at 11:22 pm

To be honest, I am not a big fan of ice-cream (I know, everyone’s shocked), but I fell in love with gelato at first sights when I made it to Spain and Italy.Knowing that is contains only 10% of fat will make me wanna eat more next time 😀 !

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Penny Sadler March 28, 2014 at 5:26 pm

That’s the spirit!

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Terry at Overnight New York March 8, 2014 at 6:41 pm

I love the guilt-reducing explainer about why gelato is worth eating — not that additional reasons are needed.

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Penny Sadler March 8, 2014 at 7:32 pm

No not really. 🙂 Still for those that need a nudge…

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Mary @Green Global Travel March 8, 2014 at 3:08 pm

I love Gelato! Now that I know gelato is actually good for you, I can enjoy it without the guilt!

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Lora @savoringitaly March 6, 2014 at 9:17 pm

Love this article, Penny. I saw it on twitter when you published and couldn’t wait to take a closer look…at those cups of GELATO! Makes me want to go now to Italy and eat gelato. My favorite flavor…depends on the day:)

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Penny Sadler March 8, 2014 at 5:29 am

Thanks! I know, I can’t wait to go back!

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Leslie Buffo March 4, 2014 at 5:16 pm

Me and my son visited Rome a year ago, and my son ordered this super duper gelato cone..and when we went up to pay it was 20 euros…yikes. I told him he better enjoy it because that was the last one he was going to have. Lol

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Penny Sadler March 8, 2014 at 5:29 am

I’m sorry to hear that as great gelato can be had for only a couple of euros. I hope it was good at least!

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Lillie - @WorldLillie March 4, 2014 at 2:46 pm

DROOL… Now I want gelato!

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Larissa March 4, 2014 at 1:44 pm

Truly one of the world’s great foods. In addition to Italy, we found that Buenos Aires had excellent gelato. In particular, they had several versions of that Argentinian classic, Dulce de Leche: with chocolate chips, with nuts, swirled with vanilla. . . you get the idea. I made it a mission to try every one!

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Penny Sadler March 4, 2014 at 1:56 pm

OMG that sounds divine! I’m going to have to check with the local Argentinian restaurant and see if they have any! Yum!

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Anna - The Blonde Banana March 4, 2014 at 12:32 am

OMG I love love love gelato. I actually have found some amazing gelato in NYC but sadly I didn’t note the name of the place.

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Giorgia March 3, 2014 at 2:21 pm

This is a wonderful post on our ice cream, thank you very much for your compliments! There is also great gelato to be found in our region – Tuscany! We’ll definitely share your article! All the best!

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Penny Sadler March 3, 2014 at 2:23 pm

Thank you for the compliment. It’s good to know I got it right by a local. 🙂 I look forward to visiting Tuscany and trying the gelato there!

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Flashpacker Family March 3, 2014 at 2:13 pm

My rule, when in Italy, is two scoops twice a day!

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Penny Sadler March 3, 2014 at 2:17 pm

Definitely! A minimum!

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Cat of Sunshine and Siestas March 3, 2014 at 3:18 am

Yeah, this question doesn’t need to be asked! Ice cream was my favorite food growing up, so I’m a lover of it all (my mother actually used to call it ‘cold’ and then went to study in Rome – things really do come full circle!). I’ve had some decent gelato in Chicago, too, in the Roscoe Village neighborhood. My first-generation Italian friend loves it, so it can’t be that bad!

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Penny Sadler March 3, 2014 at 2:18 pm

I bet there would be good gelato in the Italian neighborhood.

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Dennis Kopp March 1, 2014 at 1:02 pm

Hi Penny, I have actually had gelato in NYC, so it is possible to find it in the US, but how it compares to the one in Italy is probably another question. It’s definitely true that enjoying gelato seems to be a culturally flavored social event and I really enjoy hearing your conclusion that gelato is actually even good for you… 🙂

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Penny Sadler March 1, 2014 at 1:05 pm

Hi Dennis. Like the way you stated that, “culturally flavored social event!” Wish I’d said it. 🙂 Thanks for following and please write that article about where to get great gelato in NYC!

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