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There is one big reason why many people visit Rome. It’s not the history, the art or the architecture – it’s the food. Aside from the mouth-watering pasta and the incredible pizza, gelato takes centre stage as one of the quintessential Rome taste sensations. And if you want to get the most out of your culinary experience in Italy then knowing how to eat Italian gelato like a local in Rome is essential.

Ice cream vs. gelato

There is a subtle difference between ice cream and gelato that you’ll know if you’ve ever tried it. Gelato tends to be churned more slowly than ice cream and this can give it a thicker texture and a creamier taste, despite the fact that it contains more milk than cream. Ice cream is served at much colder temperatures than gelato – in fact, if you served ice cream at gelato temperatures it would melt straight away.

The gelato love affair

Italians love gelato and it has a long and intense history with the country. Florentine Catherine de Medici is largely credited with introducing it to Europe, as well as Sicilian, Francesco Procopio dei Coltelli who opened a café selling gelato in Paris in the late 1600s. Italy has almost 40,000 gelataria in total and there is even a museum in Bologna that is dedicated to this delicacy.

Choosing your flavours

Eating gelato in Rome can be an overwhelming experience at first – there are so many flavours to choose from and all of them look just as tempting. If you want to enjoy gelato like a local then you need to know which of those flavours you like, as well as which ones are going to combine well. Gelato flavours can basically be divided into four categories: chocolate, nuts, fruit and cream. Cioccolato latte – milk chocolate – is often a good place to start if you’re new to gelato as well as a nut flavour like the bright green pistachio. Fragola (strawberry), Pesca (peach) and Fico (fig) are also very popular. The cream flavours often combine the tastes of classic Italian desserts with the gelato experience – Zabaione, for example, is a custard-like cream that you might recognise from a tiramisu.

Coppa or cono?

There’s a certain etiquette to enjoying gelato like a local in Rome. The first question you’ll be asked in a gelateria is “coppa or cono” – cone or cup. Orders are placed on the basis of cone or cup and then the number of scoops. Then you pay and get a receipt for what you’ve ordered. It’s only after that when it’s time to start choosing the flavours. Most gelateria will give you a sample to try before you buy so you can find the perfect combination to suit your mood. Don’t be shy to ask for unusual pairings when it comes to gelato – you might find a taste sensation that works like no other!

Now you’re prepared to enjoy gelato in Rome like an Italian. All you need to do is wander the city and you’ll find yourself within reach of a coppa or cono within minutes.