True Gelato Love Stories: 4,000 Miles for Gelato

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Will travel for artisan gelato: Yet another documented case of falling head over heels in gelato love with one of Italy’s national treasures

Long after the vaca is over, many a Travel Belle will remember her moments spent with gelato

I once drove four hours to attend a maple syrup festival during the middle of a wintery storm. (There was an all-you-can-eat pancake buffet, after all). I’ve walked to the gas station in the middle of the night for candy because I didn’t have any at my house. (Gingersnaps weren’t satisfying any cravings that evening). But in addition to knowing that I have an addiction to sugar (a healthy one, I do declare, even though most doctors might disagree), I have also reached the realization that I will travel for food, no matter how far or how short.

I used to think there was a problem with traveling only to see or get specialty food. Most people plan trips to see the sights and meet the people. That’s not entirely the case when you consider how much food in the world there is to be sampled. I may not remember all of the museums, but I guarantee I will remember the night I ate half of an Italian restaurant’s veggie pizza because it was absolutely delicious.

Post trip, I may have even fantasized over a meal I had, or dreamed about it while I slumbered. Traveling for food is a hobby and thinking about food, even during my REM cycle, is an even bigger hobby of mine. I routinely dream of dancing cinnamon rolls and floating plates of pasta noodles.

Sugar Grom Dreams

But I had been dreaming about ice cream for three months before my most recent food travel experience. It was only appropriate then that last week I visited Florence, Italy, where I learned how food is really cooked and enjoyed some of the greatest meals of my life. Yes, this time it was either go big or go home, as the expression goes. More or less, I traveled more than 4,000 miles to get a cone of gelato.

Time to try new things

The first day I was wary about trying anything. Somehow, unlike any other time in my life, I felt limited by the fact that heavy amounts of pasta and bread were carb-bombs. So, I had to ease into my eating vacation. I started at the butcher shop, using my spotty Italian language skills to convey the fact that I hoped to get some prosciutto, as well as soft cheese and a small hunk of crusty bread. It went better than I expected and I ended up eating my piecemeal lunch on a patio overlooking a chapel. Satisfied with my semi-healthy choice, I thought about my dessert options.

Groms in Florence

I don’t withhold food at home, but I do try to maintain a healthy diet. I figured I was on vacation, though, and I broke down and got gelato from Grom, which was near the Duomo. In my opinion the gelato at Grom is by far the best in the city (I sampled the gelato at countless places and nowhere was quite as good). The ice cream is made with organic ingredients and they even have sorbet, too, for those with dairy allergies. I highly recommend the Pera (pear) sorbet for those who might find themselves anywhere around Florence or another Grom location anytime soon.

Gelato love at first taste

After my first gelato, I never looked back. I had to try an array of flavors–pistachio, mint, hazelnut, yogurt flavored, pineapple and coconut. I also had to get the dessert at least once a day (usually twice), because there’s nothing like walking down the hot streets in the middle of the afternoon, holding a cool cup of gelato in your hand. The feeling of anticipation and delicious goodness hits the senses right when you stand in the doorway and smell the scent of freshly made waffle cones coming out of the oven.

Choosing between chocolate and yogurt

On my last night in the city, after a beautiful dinner, I also had my last Italian gelato (for now). I tried the yogurt flavor, which was made with real Italian yogurt. From that last lick of the cone, I told myself that traveling for food was nothing to be ashamed of and if I wanted to go even further from home to try something else, I was free to do it, because it wasn’t going to be an everyday experience.

Oh. My. Groms.

Now back home in the United States, I miss “Gelato Hour.” I miss being able to walk into a shop, survey the flavors, ask for samples and leave with a waffle cone piled high with three different flavors. Although I can always get gelato from my neighborhood grocery, I’m sad to say, it’s just not the same. As far as I’m aware, the local stores don’t stock all of the “weird and unusual,” flavors. Where else would you find black licorice gelato, if not in Italy? I might just make it my next cooking goal to make it myself. We’ll see how this gelato love story unfolds …

*Photos by Thy, Kelly McClendon, and Missmeng

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About the author

Kelly McLendon is a freelance journalist and editor based out of Austin, Texas. She is also a yoga instructor and Pilates instructor. She has written for several daily newspapers and magazines, including The Toledo Blade and Pilates Style Magazine. With an interest in writing about healthy food and travel, her work can also be found at her yoga website, Kelly McLendon Yoga.

8 thoughts on “True Gelato Love Stories: 4,000 Miles for Gelato”

  1. Ohh, gelato. Ice cream. In a cone or not. Chocolate. Vanilla. Raspberry. All good reasons to travel. 🙂 I always indulge whenever I see an ice cream/gelato. It allows me to not only have a sugar rush but also sit down and enjoy my surroundings.

  2. Nobody can invent new flavors and combinations like the Italians. But, are you really trying to make some yourself? (this question from a person who can’t boil an egg, so please forgive me)

  3. Oh, Kelly, you would have been in heaven. I was in Florence at the end of May, and by chance, the Gelato Festival began the day we arrived. Talk about interesting flavors! My favorite experimental flavor…..Orientale: vanilla with toasted sesame seeds and swirls of ginger caramel. Favorite old stand-by: Cigliegia sorbet: dark cherry with whole cherries.

  4. Inka,
    I have not attempted to make any gelato myself, yet. I plan to in the next few weeks though, so I will be sure to post back and let you know how it goes.
    In the meantime, I have been trying to find Italian proscuitto in the U.S. that is as good as what I had in Florence. Guess what? It’s never going to taste the same here as it does there. I will have to book another trip 🙂
    It gives me a good excuse.

  5. Glad to meet another person that travels for food! I completely understand the “gelato hour(s).” When in Italy, I have gelato hours- mostly 2 of them, but sometimes 3. If it’s really hot, 11am will be the beginning of my 3-gelato day. Thanks for making me miss gelato hour, too.

  6. Kelly – are you my twin?????!
    Travelling for food is the best – I can hardly wait to look around the rest of your blog. When I was in Rome last year I also had “vitamin G” about twice a day San Crispino was my favourite there. I had Grom in Venice and it was amazing (did you know there is a Grom in NYC now?)
    PS gelato is easy to make … I have a raspberry and deep chocolate recipe I can share with you.

  7. *Sigh* – thanks for this most inspirational article, Kelly! I’m in the middle of gelato withdrawal, but as requested, did eat some just for you 🙂

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