When the weather gets hot in Bologna (37C – 99F – as I write this), there are only two things you can do: find shelter under porticos, and eat gelato.
In addition to all the delicious pastas, cured meats and cheeses the city is appreciated for, Bologna boasts excellent-quality gelato. Perhaps because the modern gelato machine was invented in Bologna (by Carpigiani, which is also responsible for opening a gelato university where they train aspiring gelato chefs, and a gelato museum), or maybe because we Bolognesi value the good things in life, gelato being one of them.
There are many spots in town where you can get a good gelato; below are my favorites, listed in no particular order. I’m starting with three gelaterie that are outside the historic city center.
The Best Gelato in Bologna
- Cremeria Funivia
In the location where a former funicular whisked people up to the Basilica of San Luca, hence the name ‘funivia’, this artisanal gelateria opened in 2001 and has quickly become a locals’ favorite. Besides classic flavors, try their inventive combinations such as mascarpone and melted chocolate (‘Alice’ flavor, an all-time favorite), pine nuts cream with toasted pine nuts (‘Leonardo’), almond cream with amaretti and caramelized almonds (‘Contessa’); if you want to pay homage to San Luca, have the flavor by the same name, made with white chocolate with crispy puffed rice.
*Incidentally, Cremeria Funivia is where I take people at the end of my Portico di San Luca + Gelato Walking Tour.
Where: Via Porrettana 158/d. Take bus 20 from city center.
Open: Tuesday to Sunday, 12 pm to 11:30 pm (opens at 11 am on Sundays and holidays).
- Il Gelato di Fini
Open since 1966, this is a family-run gelateria favored by many Bolognesi, including myself (and I’m lucky because it’s close to where I live). It requires a 20-minute bus ride from the city center, and the street it’s on is far from charming, but close your eyes and concentrate on the flavors, such as the two versions of pistachio: Pistacchio Grezzo Terre d’Etna, raw and salty, and Pistacchio Puro Bronte, more creamy and sweet; Cremino Fini, a creamy mix of hazelnut and chocolate, and Cioccolato degli Dei (Gods’ Chocolate), among many others.
The fruit flavors are also worth trying, especially when it’s so hot, with the Mirtillo Nero del Cimone a recent addition (black blueberry from Mount Cimone, which is the highest mountain in Emilia-Romagna, in the Apennines south of Bologna – I can take you hiking there!).
Their gelato cakes (torte gelato) are the best by the way.
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Where: Via Massarenti, 219/2. Take bus 14 from city center.
Open: Tuesday to Friday, 9 am to midnight; 8 am-midnight on Saturday; 8 am-11 pm on Sunday.
- Cremeria Scirocco
At the helm of Cremeria Scirocco is Andrea Bandiera, who is considered one of the best gelato chefs in town. He is also an instructor at Carpigiani Gelato University and I got to meet him during a gelato competition where I was called to be a judge (where I had to taste something like 20 flavors – not that I’m complaining).
Cremeria Scirocco describes itself as ‘gelateria artigianale creativa,’ artisanal creative gelato shop, and indeed you go for the creative spins, the latest addition being ‘Fata dei Fiori’: infusion of eight wildflowers on a white chocolate base and lemon with matcha chiffon cake cubes (taking ‘creative’ to a whole new level).
You can find offerings like ‘sorbetto alle nocciole 100%’ (no eggs, no milk), ‘matcha green tea with pistachio flour’, ‘bacio siculo’ (Sicilian kiss – how not to try this), a mix of hazelnut chocolate and pistachio.
There are also flavors made with salty ingredients, such as Parmigiano and dried figs, which is another main draw of Cremeria Scirocco.
Where: Via Barelli 1/c. Take bus 14 from city center (again, not the prettiest area in town, and 20-25 minutes to get there).
Open: every day, noon to 11 pm – Sunday 10:30 am-10 pm.
Now back in the city center:
- Sorbetteria Castiglione
This gelateria was conveniently located near classes during my university years, so I used to go quite often because the brain needs sugar to function. It’s become sort of an institution for gelato in Bologna, with the dark chocolate flavor rising to legendary status (!).
Go for the classics or for their special creations, such as the creme and cremini, and if you have dietary restrictions or are vegan, good news, they’ve developed a whole line of lactose-free, gluten-free, low sugar gelati, called Sanissimo (meaning super healthy).
Where: Via Castiglione 44 d/e. A 10/15-minute walk from Piazza Santo Stefano.
Open: every day, 11:30 am to midnight.
- Cremeria Santo Stefano
A relatively recent addition in the world of Bologna’s gelato parlors, tiny Cremeria Santo Stefano is another locals’ favorite, now considered among the best in town. Run by a mother-father-and- son team, it received the ‘Three Cones’ award for 2019 by Gambero Rosso (along with Cremeria Scirocco and Stefino), considered the top recognition by the leading food magazine.
It works with both Italian and foreign ingredients, carefully researched, such as milk from South Tyrol and pistachio from Turkey. Flavors change depending on the season and products availability.
Tip: skip lunch and have focaccia with gelato, a brioche filled with two/three scoops of gelato – their ‘focacce’ are made in-house.
Where: Via Santo Stefano 70. From Piazza Santo Stefano, walk under the portico in Via Santo Stefano almost to the end (10-minute walk).
Open: Tuesday-Sunday, 11 am-11 pm (11:30 pm in summer).
Other gelato parlors to try in Bologna (all located in the city center):
Ugo – Via San Felice 24. Historic gelato parlor – very old school! Go for ‘crema’ and ‘nocciola’ flavors.
Cremeria Cavour – Piazza Cavour 1/d/e
Galliera 49 – Via Galliera 49/b
Stefino – Via San Vitale 37/A. All-organic gelato.
Cremeria San Francesco – Piazza San Francesco 1/b. Vegan-friendly.
Il Gelatauro – Via San Vitale 98/b
Gianni – Via Montegrappa 11/A. Iconic gelateria of Bologna, my go-to gelato place in my teenage years.
Have you had gelato in Bologna? What is your favorite?