Gelateria Vivoli ★★★

TK restaurant in Florence, Italy. (Photo courtesy of )
Vivoli, the greatest ice cream in Florence.

The best ice cream in the world

It's simple logic. The best ice cream on earth is the gelato of Italy. The best gelato in Italy is in Florence. The best gelato in Florence is at Vivoli.

In other words, Vivoli makes the best ice cream on the planet.

The city's most renowned temple of this cool, creamy snack has been serving up (arguably) the best gelato in Florence since 1930.

Like the best chefs, Piero Vivoli is up at dawn to haunt the local market stalls, visiting his favorite three or four trusted greengrocers and spice stalls for the ingredients he will take back and turn into flavors for his gelato.

He can prove how famous his family enterprise is with a yellowing postcard taped to the wall. It was addressed simply "Vivoli, Europa"—and the European postal systems knew exactly where to send it.

Vivoli is closed Mondays, but otherwise stays open until 11pm in winter, midnight or later in summer, and is always crowded—even though it is a bit hard to find, hidden in the twist of alleys west of Santa Croce, just north of Via Ghibellina.

(Actually, notice how this street curves? That's because it follows the arc of the outer wall of the ancient Roman amphitheater buried in the buildings' basements. Oh, and that tiny stone arch at knee level in the exterior wall to the right of the store? That was a "wine window" from back when families would sell their homemade hooch to the passing public. The plaque up above identifies this palazzo as housing the first humble studio of Giovanni Dupré, who would go on to become one of Italy's premier Neoclassical sculptors. Yes, in Florence even the ice cream comes with historical sightseeing facts.)

Tips & links

Details

Via Isole delle Stinche 7r
tel. +39-055-292-334
Vivoli.it
Tues-Sun 7am-8pm

Bus: 23, C1, C2
Hop-on/hop-off: Teatro Verdi (A)

Gelateria etiquette

At Florentine gelaterie, just like at bars and cafes, don't just saunter up to the bar and order two scoops of cioccolato or an espresso. Go first to the cashier, order what you want, pay for it, and take the receipt to the counter where you can order your cappuccino or your coppa (cup) or cono (cone) of gelato, putting the receipt down with a small coin as a tip.

Prices are pretty standardized

You pay by the size of the coppa (cup) or cono (cone), not by the scoop. That means you can—indeed, are encouraged to—squeeze two or even three flavors into even the smallest cup. Italians taught me that even unusual pairs go great together; a personal favorite: cioccolato e limone (chocolate gelato and lemon sorbetto). No, really; try it. Also most Italians order by the cup; the cone is a fun—if messy—American addition to the options, but not too popular.

Nearby...
General dining tips
  • "Pane e coperto" is not a scam: Nearly all Italian restaurants have an unavoidable pane e coperto ("bread and cover" charge) of anything from €1 to €15—though most often €2 to €5—per person that is automatically added onto your bill. This is perfectly normal and perfectly legal (though a few trendy restaurants make a big deal about not charging it).
  • Find out if service (tip) is included: Don't double-tip by accident. If the menu has a line—usually near the bottom of the front or back—that says "servizio" with either a percentage, an amount, or the word "incluso" after it, that means the tip is automatically included in the price. (If it says "servizio non incluso," tip is, obviously, not included.)

    Even if the menu doesn't say it, ask É incluso il servizio? (ay een-CLOU-so eel sair-VEET-zee-yo)—"Is service included?" If not, tip accordingly (10%–15% is standard).

    Don't be stingy about tipping, though. If il servizio is, indeed, already included but the service was particularly good, it's customary to round up the bill or leave €1 per person extra—just to show you noticed and that you appreciated the effort.
  • Tourist menus: The concept of a bargain prix-fixe menu is not popular in Italy. Some restaurants do offer a menu turistico ("tourist menu"), which can cost from €8 to €20 and usually entails a choice from among two or three basic first courses (read: different pasta shapes, all in plain tomato sauce), a second course of roast chicken or a veal cutlet, and some water or wine and bread. With very few exceptions, tourist menus tend to live up to their name, appearing only at the sort of tourist-pandering restaurants that the locals wisely steer clear of.

    However, a menu à prezzo fisso ("fixed-price menu") is often a pretty good deal, usually offering a bit more choice than a tourist menu.

    Then—especially at nicer (and pricier) restaurants—there is the menu degustazione ("tasting menu"), usually far more expensive (anywhere from €25 to €110) that is a showcase of the chef's best, or of regional specialties, and can make for an excellent way to sample the kitchen's top dishes.
  • Book ahead: For restaurants that I am truly eager to try, I go ahead and book a table—at least at dinner. I find that a corollary of Murphy's Law seems to apply. If you prudently book ahead, you are likely to show up to a half-empty restaurant and feel a bit like a fool for having worried about finding a table. If, on the other hand, you just show up at the door expecting to find a free table, the place will inevitably be packed and its bookings full for the evening.
Culinary tours of Florence
Italian dining phrases
English (Inglese) Italian (Italiano) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
Good day Buon giorno bwohn JOUR-noh
Good evening Buona sera BWOH-nah SAIR-rah
Good night Buona notte BWOH-nah NOTE-tay
Goodbye Arrivederci ah-ree-vah-DAIR-chee
Excuse me (to get attention) Scusi SKOO-zee
thank you grazie GRAT-tzee-yay
please per favore pair fa-VOHR-ray
yes si see
no no no
Do you speak English? Parla Inglese? PAR-la een-GLAY-zay
I don't understand Non capisco non ka-PEESK-koh
I'm sorry Mi dispiace mee dees-pee-YAT-chay
     
Where is? Dov'é doh-VAY
...a restaurant un ristorante oon rees toh-RAHN-tay
...a casual restaurant una trattoria
un'osteria
oo-nah trah-toar-RHEE-yah
oon ohst-air-EE-yah
I would like to reserve... Vorrei prenotare... voar-RAY pray-note-ARE-eh
a table for two una tavola per due oo-nah TAH-voal-lah pair DOO-way
...for 7pm per le sette pair lay SET-tay
...for 7:30pm per le sette e mezzo pair lay SET-tay eh MET-tzoh
...for 8pm per le otto pair lay OH-toh
     
I would like Vorrei... voar-RAY
...some (of) un pó (di) oon POH (dee)
...this questo KWAY-sto
...that quello KWEL-loh
chicken pollo POL-loh
steak bistecca bee-STEAK-ah
veal vitello vee-TEL-oh
fish pesce PEH-shay
meat carne KAR-neh
I am vegetarian sono vegetariano SO-no veg-eh-tair-ee-YAH-no
side dish [veggies always come seperately] cotorno kon-TOR-no
dessert dolce DOAL-chay
and e ay
...a glass of un bicchiere di oon bee-key-YAIR-eh dee
...a bottle of una bottiglia di oo-na boh-TEEL-ya dee
...a half-liter of mezzo litro di MET-tzoh LEE-tro dee
...fizzy water acqua gassata AH-kwah gah-SAHT-tah
...still water acqua non gassata AH-kwah noan gah-SAHT-tah
...red wine vino rosso VEE-noh ROH-so
...white wine vino bianco VEE-noh bee-YAHN-koh
...beer birra BEER-a
Check, please Il conto, per favore eel COAN-toh pair fah-VOAR-eh
Is service included? É incluso il servizio? ay een-CLOU-so eel sair-VEET-zee-yo

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Gelateria Vivoli

★★★Via Isole delle Stinche 7r
tel. +39-055-292-334
www.vivoli.it

Tues-Sun 7am-8pm

Bus: 23, C1, C2
Hop-on/hop-off: Teatro Verdi (A)

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