One of the most special things I love about travel are those moments in time that seem to just happen - no planning, nothing deliberate. Sometimes it’s a sunset or the tolling of church bells in the early evening, or the quiet that haunts side streets and small cafes after the crowds have gone. When you spend several weeks wandering around a place, there can be so many of those small moments that any single one starts to become elusive.
I’ve been thinking about what made for special moments in Italy. Sure, there is history - lots of it. There's beautiful architecture, museums, and the inescapable Tuscan scenery. But while I was thinking about all of that, the one thing that kept coming to mind was food, but not just any food. I was longing for gelato...in Bologna.
Yes, I admit it, I have a sweet tooth. And although gelato can be found all over Italy, some of the best I've ever had can be found in the small gelaterias in Bologna. It’s not the number of flavors or concoctions offered, nor the amount that’s scooped up in a serving. It’s the beautiful balance of creaminess, sweetness, and taste. There’s no shortage of gelaterias in Bologna, and some aren't nearly as inviting as others - I'm not a fan of the ones with colors so artificial they look like heaps of melted crayons.
But I was on a mission to find the Holy Grail of gelaterias. My pilgrimage led me to many excellent shops, and then I found it. The one that had it all. The one that had me saying, okay now I’ll try that flavor next. And maybe another...and just one more.
Centrally located and easy to find, this gelateria has a classic parlor look - bright and alive - and like most I saw, it was small inside, and very quaint. But it’s the gelato, the subtle and intense flavors - strawberry, hazelnut, pistachio, chestnut, Belgian biscotti, and unique chocolates to name a few. Yum!! You can mix and match flavors to your heart's content. They’re all smooth, creamy, and absolutely delicious. If you’re having dinner at a local eatery, skip dessert and head here.
Maybe it was enjoying a few scoops while sitting under the endless portico in the warm afternoon sun that had me remembering summer afternoons as a kid with a dripping popsicle. Or maybe it was the easy going pace of Bologna, a rhythm I easily fell into. Whatever it was, this is the best gelato I’ve ever eaten, and alone is worth a trip to Bologna just to indulge yourself.
We discovered the Cremeria Santo Stefano as guests on the Taste Bologna Classic Food Tour, a great way to discover the very best and most famous of Bologna's classic foods. All opinions are our own based on our first-hand experience - we wouldn't have it any other way.