Spring in Rome is in full swing: the sun is shining, the flowers are in bloom, and it is finally warm enough to start enjoying the delicious cold treats that Italy has to offer!
We all know that Italy is famous for its cuisine, but that doesn’t just mean pizza and pasta. There is such a wide variety of foods, including sweets, desserts, and even frozen specialties. Some of these treats actually date all the way back to the Roman Empire–around 30 BC. Roman citizens would bring ice and snow down from the mountains and top them with honey and fruit juices.
You can spend time studying the history of gelato and other frozen treats, but… the best way to learn more about these specialties is to try them out yourself!
Here are 5 refreshing frozen treats you have to try this spring:
This might seem like a no-brainer; we all know that Italy is famous for gelato. But just because you’ve tried a couple flavors doesn’t mean you can’t keep trying more! Gelato is more than just ice cream. It can be made with milk, cream, and sometimes eggs, and most of the time it is churned slowly by hand, making it much denser than regular ice cream. It comes in a wide variety of flavors, and more and more shops have started offering specialty gelato including gluten-free, dairy-free, and even novelty flavors (think gorgonzola or black sesame).
To find out more, check out our guide to Trastevere gelato shops. If you just want a traditional Roman scoop (or two), be sure to head over to the famous Giolitti Gelateria!
You might find semifreddo in the display refrigerators at the gelateria, or on the dessert menu of a restaurant. You may just assume it’s another type of gelato. However, if you try it you will notice that it is much fluffier, lighter, and more mousse-like.
Sorbetto (sorbet) is a fruity frozen dessert that you can also find at your local gelateria. Unlike gelato, however, sorbetto never contains milk or cream. It is made from simple syrup, water, and fruit puree and/or fruit juice. If you’re craving something refreshing on a warmer day, but don’t want something as heavy as gelato, you should definitely go for a fruity sorbetto. If you like sour flavors, try a classic lemon.
4. Granita or grattachecca
Granita is a slushee-type of frozen treat made of water, sugar, and juice, frozen and then shaved or grated. The texture of the ice can vary from chunky to smooth. A related treat, available only in Rome, is the grattachecca. The process is a bit different: ice is shaved and then juice is added. On a sunny day in Rome, you can often find street vendors selling grattachecche along with fresh fruit and other treats.
We all know how important coffee is in Italy, so it would make sense that the Italians would come up with the perfect mix between coffee and a frozen treat. The shakerato is made with fresh espresso, sugar syrup, and ice. It is a great solution to wanting a refreshing cold drink on a hot day with a kick of caffeine. A shakerato will most likely remind you of an American “iced coffee.”