Wander Rome's Wonders
An Ice Cream Glossary
August 26, 1997
Web posted at: 10:57 a.m. EDT (1457 GMT)
Story and photos by Jenna Milly
(CNN) -- Walking the streets of Rome in the sweltering summer months can leave any tourist starving for a refreshing Italian delicacy. Look no further for what some connoisseurs contend is Italy's greatest achievement, a wonderfully sweet and deliciously cold indulgence -- authentic gourmet ice cream. Ask for it as the natives would -- "gelato" -- and melt away your walking blues.
Ice cream shops in Rome are like packs of lost tourists -- easily found on every street corner (and Rome has lots of corners). From the Colosseum to the Vatican, there are countless shops offering an oasis of icy sweets. Luring weary travelers in from the heat, each one serves a variety of fresh "gelato" by the scoop.
Although there is no documentation of the first ice cream makers, many accounts credit Italians with perfecting the process. Returning to Europe from an expedition to China in 1295, the Italian trader Marco Polo may have brought back recipes for water ices (the Chinese had been using evaporation to preserve winter ice since the eighth century B.C.). By the early 17th century, the Italians were using ice to prepare creamy sweets.
A tasty tour
In addition to the traditional "cioccolato" (chocolate), "vaniglia" (vanilla) and "fragola" (strawberry), look for specialty concoctions of each shop.
Try La Cantinola on Via Calabria; the shop serves a unique type of "tartufo" (a soft, light ice cream). La Cantinola-style is an ice cream truffle with chocolate coating. For a smooth twist, indulge in "gelato affogato" which translates as "smothered ice cream" but is better defined as ice cream with whiskey. The restaurant is a short cab ride directly north of Stazione Centrale Roma Termini, the main train station.
Sidewalk cafes offer individually concocted "frullati" (cold fruity shakes), in a wide variety of flavors. Or sample a traditional Italian ice -- it's called "granite." Neighborhood restaurants and market carts are excellent grounds for experimenting with all kinds of frosty specialties.
Sometimes just a plain old scoop fulfills the craving. Between the family-owned shops and the outdoor markets, a scavenger can find every flavor from chunky "nocciole" (hazelnut) to luscious "lampone" (raspberry). Signs that say "produzione propria" ensure that they are genuine homemade treats. Don't forget to say "con panna" to make sure your scoop comes slathered with whipped cream.
One of the most touted ice cream shops in Rome is Palazzo del Freddo Giovanni Fassi west of the main train station on Via Principe Eugenio. The shop has an impressive cooler, stretched long and stocked full. Vintage parlor chairs and iron-leg tables add to the ambience.
Serving many customers in its large front seating room, this airy ice cream hub is adorned with honorary plaques and newspaper clippings. The decor includes period ice cream makers, some dating back to 1932. The dreamy scoops are exceptionally cool and creamy, luring tourists and locals in droves.
"I don't even like ice cream, but I will never forget this taste. I guess I can never have it again," my traveling companion lamented. After a moment, she brightened: "Unless I come back to Rome," she said, finishing her cone with a gesture of intent.
Touring Rome can leave anyone hungry for that authentic Italian taste. Amid the awe-inspiring architecture and the cultural ambience of Rome, take time to stop off for a scoop and soak up the atmosphere. But try not to become too attached to the taste -- you may not find it as good anywhere else.
Wander Rome's Wonders | Ice Cream Links | Ice Cream Glossary
Jenna Milly is an associate producer in the CNN Interactive newsroom.