Italian Gelato: cool off in style this summer

It doesn’t need to be summer for the Italians to eat ice cream – indeed, for many it is a daily ritual year-round – but sales of this most iconic of Italian treats, the gelato, go through the roof when the heat rises. Wherever you are in Italy, there will be a queue at your local gelateria, or ice cream shop, and quite rightly so.

Gelato in Italy isn’t ice cream as we know it. In many countries ice cream is made with cream; in Italy, the secret is to make it with milk. It is this that makes their gelato so smooth and creamy, so irresistibly full of flavour. Chocolate gelato is rich and silky; fruity gelato bursts with flavour. If you have anything of a love affair with Italian food, as I do, get yourself to an ice cream shop (gelateria) and indulge in this unmissable and delightful experience.

How to order your gelato in Italy

So it is that ordering gelato from your gelateria is something of an art. You need to know what the different flavours are, do you want a cone or a cup, how many scoops…yes, you can get a long way by pointing, but it pays to learn a few words when it comes to ordering gelato Italian-style. It’s also handy to know that, as in many Italian establishments, you often need to pay and get a receipt before you actually order your gelato; you then show your receipt to the gelato server and say which flavours you want.

Sound like you know what you’re talking about and that first taste of cool gelato on the tongue will be even more satisfying…nothing more to say than buon appetito!

Ice cream vocabulary – the basics:

Una coppa cup
Un cono cone
Un gusti flavour / scoop
Un cono con due gusti, per favore a cone with two scoops, please
Un attimo, per favore one moment, please
Non sono pronto/a I’m not ready
Prego / dime yes please / tell me (from the gelato server)

Popular gelato flavours:

Cioccolato al latte milk chocolate
Cioccolato fondente dark chocolate
Bacio chocolate hazelnut (after the famous Bacio chocolates from Perugia)
Gianduja milk chocolate & hazelnut (like Nutella)
Cioccolato all’arancia dark chocolate and orange
Pistacchio pistachio (NB. ‘chio’ is pronounced with a hard ‘k’)
Mandorla almond
Nocciola hazelnut
Fior di latte literally ‘flower of milk’; tastes like sweet cream
Stracciatella chocolate chip (with fior di latte base)
Cocco coconut
Caffè coffee
Malaga rum & raisin
Zuppa inglese literally ‘English soup’; like trifle, with a custardy base, bits of cookie & sweet wine or Marsala

Popular sorbetto flavours (delicious and very real fruit flavours that usually don’t contain milk):

Cioccolato al latte milk chocolate
Limone lemon
Melone melon
Fragola strawberry
Lampone raspberry
Pera pear
Pesca peach
Frutti di bosco fruits of the forest
Mela apple
Albicocca apricot

Get a head start by brushing up on your Italian before you go! Cactus runs 10-week evening Italian courses in the UK.

Or book a language course in Italy and immerse yourself in the language and culture – just think, gelato every day! Cactus runs Italian courses in over 20 locations across Italy, from the classical hubs of Rome and Florence to the coastal delights of Taormina and Sorrento.

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