When I studied abroad in Italy, there was one splurge I always had money for: gelato. You know why? Because you can get good gelato for a euro or two and that doesn’t break the travel budget. It became custom for one of my roommates and I to cook the cheapest dinners we could before heading out for an evening walk with gelato. One euro. Two euros. Never more than three euros. We believed ourselves to be gelato aficionados, seeking the best of our favorite flavors and venturing all around Florence to find them.
I haven’t changed much. And, when it comes to gelato, that’s not a bad thing.
I set out on this trip to find the best gelato in Cinque Terre, happily scouring all the villages to find it. After months of a slow carb (no carb?) diet, I was more than happy to take one for the team to find the best gelato in Cinque Terre. I’ll count them down for you with the pros and the cons because there wasn’t a bad gelato, but there were some that were better than others. Sadly, this list is incomplete. Every time I tried to find gelato in Monterosso al Mare, they were closed. Blame the off-season. Blame my inability to get there before sunset (which is truly the most beautiful time of day in Monterosso al Mare), but I could not find a gelateria that could accommodate my wily schedule. I’m sure it’s easier in the summer.
Best Gelato in Cinque Terre
- No name gelateria on Via Colombo just past Bar Centrale (Riomaggiore) – 2 euro, small cone, Bacio (chocolate hazelnut) – After finding fantastic focaccia in Riomaggiore, I wanted the gelato to be good, too. Maybe I wanted it to be good because it was 2 euros. Maybe I wanted it to be good because I didn’t trust the other gelato stand. Or, maybe I wanted it to be good because it included plenty of hazelnuts. But, it just wasn’t as good as any of the others. It was a little icy. The cone was of the boxed variety and didn’t taste fresh at all.
- 5 Terre Gelateria (Manarola) – 2.50 euro, small cone, Canella (cinnamon) and Nocciola (hazelnut) – Oh, I was so excited to see canella. Some 13 years ago, I found canella in a tiny alley in Venice and I’ve found it about three times since that night. It’s one of my favorite flavors. I wanted to love it and tell you it was the best gelato in Cinque Terre. And, the canella was good. The flavor was strong and robust. The nocciola had a rich flavor as well, but it was slightly icy. The cone was fresh, but the serving was skimpy. Two thirds of my cone did not have any gelato, and that made for a very sad cone.
- Gelato Corniglia (Corniglia) – 2 euro, small cup, Miele (honey) – After I finished Alberto’s gelato, it seemed only appropriate to try the gelato from across the street. I sent my husband in with the directive to ask for the most popular flavor. He came back with miele (which included bits of walnuts) and neither one of us were entirely sure about it. Like Alberto, it was creamy but not quite as soft. The wafer pirouette wasn’t quite as fresh as Alberto’s, but overall, it was tasty. Alberto’s freshness allowed me to easily dub him the winner of this Sunday morning challenge, but both are great buys.
- Gelato Alberto (Corniglia) – 2 euro, small cup, Nocciola (hazelnut) – Alberto’s gelato was soft and creamy with a subtle flavor that was not overpowering. The wafer was a nice (and delicious!) touch – fresh, flakey, and a strong taste of vanilla. I sat on the steps across the street and enjoyed watching children play.
- Gelateria Vernazza (Vernazza) – 2.50 euro, small cone, Gandiolo (chocolate with nuts) and Nocciola (hazelnut) – I conducted two separate taste tests on two separate days before I was willing to admit that this was the best gelato in Cinque Terre. The rich chocolate flavor of the gandiolo was the perfect complement to the strong flavor of the nocciola. Neither were overly sweet but both included plenty of nut pieces, which provided a nice texture change against the creamy consistency of the gelato. The generous serving size lasted well into the fresh, brittle cone, and I spent the next day trying to figure out how to get back to Vernazza to enjoy another cone. The best thing about Gelateria Vernazza though? It’s open later than all the other gelaterias along the main street, so you’ll be able to get your fix when you decide you need another one.