Vivoli in Florence: Can Famous Gelato Live Up to the Hype?

by Jessica on March 27, 2008

by | March 27th, 2008  

vivoli1When I was planning my last trip to Florence, I checked my friend Sara’s Tour del Gelato for a list of the gelaterie I should make sure to sample when I was there. Florence is recognized by many as a gelato capital of Italy, where it’s harder to have bad gelato than it is to have good gelato – so imagine my surprise when I found that there was only one entry on the Tour del Gelato in Florence! Folks, I knew right then what my mission had to be – eat as much gelato in Florence as I could. It’s a tough job, but I knew I had to do it. For the children.

As I said, Florence is known for its gelato. So in this City del Gelato, is there one shop that is considered by locals and tourists alike to be the pinnacle of the art form? In fact, there is – it’s Vivoli. In my previous visits to Florence I hadn’t yet sampled Vivoli’s gelato, so I made a beeline there on this last visit. With all the build-up to how amazing the gelato at Vivoli is, and how famous the shop is (Frommer’s says, “Exactly how renowned is this bright gelateria? Taped to the wall is a postcard bearing only “Vivoli, Europa” for the address, yet it was successfully delivered to this world capital of ice cream.”), I was surprised at how understated the exterior of the shop actually is. I visited on a Saturday afternoon in mid-March, and I still thought there’d be a line outside the door and around the block. But no, there was only a small neon sign above the door and a trio of locals out front scooping some of the Vivoli gelato into their mouths.

vivoli2Inside, the space is cramped; you pay the cashier who is perched in front of the doors and take your receipt to the left where you’ll choose your gelato flavors. There are no cones at Vivoli, only cups – and all of the sizes are more expensive than most other shops I tried in Florence (and outside Florence, for that matter). I suppose with the reputation Vivoli has they figure they can get away with that – and I guess they do, because I didn’t walk out!

Vivoli prides itself on (among other things) selling only the flavors of gelato that they have made that day, so everything is made fresh and the flavors can change frequently. While I normally get cream or chocolate based flavors, I saw a flavor in the Vivoli case I couldn’t resist – pera con caramello, or pear with caramel. It was basically pear sorbetto with pieces of caramelized sugar in it, and since I’m a sucker for both pear and caramel it was a done deal as soon as I saw it. The problem then was, what to order with it?

As an aside, I have a bad habit of choosing one gelato flavor that I simply must have, and that flavor is extremely difficult to marry well with another flavor. I have a hard time finding a good pairing for chocolate orange, for instance, or licorice. But that’s for another post. Getting back to my dilemma at Vivoli…

Generally, when I’m faced with my one must-have flavor and stuck with what to get with it, I ask the person behind the counter to suggest something. Usually I get good advice. At Vivoli, I got a blank stare. The gal who was scooping my gelato wasn’t interested in being my gelato sommelier, she just wanted to put some gelato in a cup for me and be done with it. So, in a split-second decision I chose mela verde (green apple) sorbetto to go with my pear/caramel sorbetto.

vivoli3Both flavors were, I’m happy to say, splendiferous (that’s a technical gelato term). The green apple tasted like a crisp green apple, and even had pieces of apple throughout it. The caramel pear had the texture of a pear, and the subtle flavor of the caramelized sugar chips was lovely with it. Vivoli isn’t exactly generous with the portions (this on top of higher prices, remember), so you don’t get to savor your gelato for too long before you hit the bottom of the cup. But what you get is really good, and made with excellent ingredients.

If you’re a gelato connoisseur, then a stop at Vivoli is a must – if for no other reason then to tell your other gelato connoisseur friends that you’ve been there, done that. If you’re pinching pennies, Vivoli might be €1 more than you’re willing to spend on gelato – especially with the smaller-than-usual portions. And the good news is that’s okay. There’s plenty of other great gelato in Florence, too.

Gelateria: Vivoli
Location: Via Isola delle Stinche 7 50122 Florence; it’s roughly a block northwest of the Piazza Santa Croce
Open: Tuesday-Sunday, 09:00-01:00 (closed in August and January-early February)
More Information: http://www.vivoli.it/, tel – +39 055 292 334
Good to Know: The portions are a little smaller, and prices are a little higher – so if you can splurge, get one size bigger than you usually get. Also, there are no cones available at Vivoli – only cups.
Go or No? The gelato is great, and made with high-quality fresh ingredients – and it’s still not my favorite gelateria in Florence. It’s a good gelato experience, but not necessary if you’re not in the neighborhood or determined to try the famous Vivoli.

Be sure to study these Italian gelato flavors, read my guide to good gelato in Italy, learn how to order gelato, and remember to check out the other stops along the Tour del Gelato – you can easily eat your way through Italy on gelato alone, so why not give it a try?


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{ 12 comments }

Joan Schmelzle March 28, 2008 at 10:07 am
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Next time in Florence try Grom Geelateria on the corner of Via delle Oche and Via Campanile. This is excellent and also has a new branch in Perugia. Have not tried Vivoli, though I have read of it so can’t compare the two.

Also try Vestri Borgo degli Albizi. I am not a lover of chocolate as some are, but this place is devoted to choclate–candies, hot chocolate and several kinds of chocolate gelato. I went here on a food crawl tour and after we sampled several kinds of candy we had a choice of hot chocolate or gelato. Whatever variety of their chocolate gelato I tried was marvelous.

Joan

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Jessica March 28, 2008 at 10:17 am
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Hi, Joan:

If you look at the Tour del Gelato page, the Florence GROM was the one that had already been covered (so I didn’t visit). I have, however, eaten at GROM in Milano and Torino – it’s an excellent chain, and they’ve even opened up one shop outside Italy – in New York!

I’ll have to add Vestri Borgo degli Albizi to my list for next time! Thanks for the tip!

Ciao,
Jessica

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Glenn-Florence Italy March 8, 2009 at 8:30 pm
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Vivoli is the best in Florence if not the world! You cannot leave Florence without tasting their gelato, period.

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Jessica March 9, 2009 at 11:04 am
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Thanks for your comment, Glenn! I do think it’s worth a stop at Vivoli, but I don’t think it’s the best in the world. :) We’ll have to agree to disagree on that point, I think!

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Fitzy May 17, 2009 at 10:43 pm
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OMG Vivoli was to die for. I only tried the chocolate/milk type varieties but damn if I could fly that stuff back to Australia I would! EVERYONE should go there, at least once, if not twice-a day!

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Ashley July 8, 2009 at 1:45 pm
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the rice gelato was AMAZING! i can’t find it any where else~

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Lauren November 28, 2010 at 10:17 am
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I agree, the rice gelato is one of the most amazing things I have ever eaten. I paired it up with several different flavors, and it was incredible every time!

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Jessica July 8, 2009 at 6:49 pm
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I had rice gelato (riso, kind of like rice pudding) in Manarola in the Cinque Terre many years ago…

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jill October 30, 2010 at 6:39 am
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Amazing Gelato..and I’m pretty picky :) Would totally go back and would recommend to everyone and absolutely get the larger size cup!!

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Emile October 6, 2011 at 11:48 am
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I spent three weeks in Italy and ate entirely too much gelato, and I thought Vivoli’s was actually not as good as the average street vendor, especially those in Venice. I think overall Vivoli makes great fruit flavors, but the more savory or cream-based gelatos fall flat.

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snarkk January 11, 2012 at 6:27 pm
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I had gelato at Vivoli’s in 1979 on my first trip to Europe. Still had the T-shirt until just a few years ago. I remember vividly that I had strawberry and chocolate flavors. The absolute best gelato I’ve ever had. The strawberry tasted like the most flavorful strawberry imaginable exploded in my mouth. Out of this world — I still remember after 30+ years…

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Josef May 20, 2012 at 7:51 pm
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Enjoyed the pictures,, The City the landscaping even the weather. Thanks for making the world more accessible and more beaitiful.

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