Gelato: An Italian Pastime

One thing I heard most about Italy before coming to Rome was the fact that Italians were very fond of gelato (which is Italian for ice cream). Eating gelato on a regular basis was not a phase, it was a lifestyle. One that I told myself I would not fall into but failed miserably. The good thing is that I’m not the only one. Even fellow API Blogger, Dana Triesch, said, “I need to stop spending so much of my coins on gelato. It’s not cool.”

Gelato shops in Italy are as frequent and common as are Starbucks in America. In Rome I usually cannot walk down a street without seeing at least one gelato shop or stand, crowded with customers both old and young trying to buy a cup or cone of creamy goodness. Everywhere I go there is a sign or oversized picture of gelato in a cone, luring me into its shop to once again buy another two euro cup.

As mentioned, I told myself I was not going to fall into Italian gelato culture. Buying gelato every day (or every other day) seemed absurd and costly. It is definitely not something I would do in the US, where I barely even visited Baskin Robbins–especially after they got rid of the Dollar Scoop Tuesdays. However, after a week of being here I have adapted to the gelato culture without even realizing it. Everyone around me participates in it, Americans and Italians alike. Walking around the neighborhood simply is not satisfying without a cup of gelato in my hand. Socializing at the piazzas seem lacking and mundane without a cone to complement it.

There are many flavours, some are familiar like vanilla, chocolate, and coconut. Others are not (but still absolutely delicious), like pistachio, tiramisu, and biscotti. There are many, many, more that I cannot even begin to list. Some shops have more flavors than others, but my two personal favorites are stracciatella (chocolate chips) and milk. Also, I found it interesting that unlike in America, where usually one cup of ice cream is worth one scoop, in Italy a cup comes with two flavours by default.

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Along with having many flavors, there are also different types of cones. The vast variety of both these things struck me as fascinating in that it shows how much fondness and investment goes into the establishment. There are, by default, three cup sizes to choose from (though in one rare case I saw one cup size bigger than the normal large). People usually get a regular waffle cone as well, but there are also options of getting a cone that is covered in chocolate or sprinkles or both. You can also have gelato with Nutella-filled crepe–which is another thing I’ve seen being sold in gelato shops. Though I have rarely seen anyone walking around or sitting down to eat one. I myself have had crepe in Italy twice (one in Rome and one in Sorrento), and it was absolutely delicious. Along with crepes, slushies are another typical option I have seen in gelato shops.

Though I can attest to the fact that buying gelato on a regular basis is drastically affecting my coin purse (which also is another funny thing I took note of: in America, people usually want to get rid of their change, but it is not like that in Italy), trying new flavors every day and indulging in my favorites is a very rewarding and fun experience–especially after a long day of back to back classes. I already know that one of the things I’ll miss about Italy will be the gelato and the ability to simply walk around with a cup and not be judged for my consumption. One cannot have an Italian experience without eating gelato first, so be sure to add this to your bucket list if you ever want to visit Italia.

Vanda Moore is a student at the University of Kentucky and an official API Student Blogger. Vanda is studying abroad with API in Rome, Italy.

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