Home » Italian Food » How To Order Gelato In Italy – Step-by-Step Guide + Tips
Front entrance of La Gelatiera gelateria. Turquoise doors show chalkboard signs of flavors. Smiling couple eats gelato on a bench in front of door.

How To Order Gelato In Italy – Step-by-Step Guide + Tips

Last updated on December 29th, 2023

Once you’ve figured out which is the best gelateria in the Italian town you’re in, you might wonder how you’ll ever make it to the front of the giant crowd of people to order your gelato.

Which line should you join?

And once you get to the front, how do you order? 

I live in Italy with my husband and four kids, and we eat more than our fair share of gelato!

In this step-by-step guide, I will explain exactly how to order gelato in Italian, providing specific examples and useful vocabulary that will come in handy. Once you understand the basics to ordering gelato, you’ll feel like a pro in no time!

How To Identify Quality Gelato

Metal containers hold gelato at a gelateria in Italy.

Don’t get caught eating bad gelato in Italy, it’s sacrilegious. Gelato should be gelato artigianale or artisan made/hand-crafted. It should be made with only a few ingredients with no preservatives, chemicals or artificial flavorings and colors. 

Keep these points in mind when looking for quality gelato:

  • Look for dull, muted colors (not bright, neon ones)
  • Avoid mounds of gelato
  • Avoid large tubs or containers of gelato
  • Look for aluminum containers, preferably with lids
  • Look for seasonal flavors 
  • A line is generally a good thing
  • Ask a local for their recommendation

Learn More: For a detailed explanation of these tips, read about How To Identify Quality Gelato In Italy.

How Gelato Is Served In Italy

Young boys eating cones and cups of gelato.

Gelato is served in a variety of sizes ranging from small to x-large, which will either come in a cup or a cone.

The smallest size generally lets you choose 1 or 2 flavors. A medium is 3 flavors and a large is 4+ flavors. 

The very best gelato is scooped from the cylinder or rectangle stainless steel container with a kind of slightly hollowed out spatula. These spatulas were developed specifically for scooping out gelato and ‘smearing’ it gently against the edge of the container before plopping it into a neat dollop onto the cone or smearing it mathematically into a cup. 

These spatulas are the best way to warm the gelato up ever so slightly, making it moldable and easier to serve.

Gelato For Babies In Italy

Even small babies enjoy gelato in Italy so many gelaterias offer baby cones or cups with a smaller amount of gelato or a baby sized scoop for about €1.00-€1.50. If you don’t see this option listed, just ask. 

Avete un cono baby con solo un po’ di gelato per il mio bambino?
Do you have a baby cone with just a small amount of gelato for my baby?

Italian Gelato In A Cup Or A Cone

Close up of cup and cone sizes with prices at a gelateria in Italy.

You can either choose a cup or a cone to enjoy your gelato in. Some gelaterias like Vivoli in Florence think that any kind of cone takes away from the flavor of gelato so they don’t offer cones.

Oftentimes, the smallest cone size will be a pretty flimsy, tasteless cone that resembles cardboard (both in taste and in texture). If you get the next size up, the cone will be much better, sometimes artisan made, and fully worth the extra euro.

In some shops such as Venchi, they will ask if you want the cone dipped in chocolate or dipped and rolled in nuts.

If you order a cup, you will be given a small, plastic spoon with which you can eat your gelato. Some gelaterias will also put a small, round wafer cookie (similar to the cone) on top of your cone. 

Sometimes you will be given that same plastic spoon with a cone. If they don’t and you want one, just ask:

Posso avere un cucchiaino, per favore?
May I please have a small spoon?

Check out my guides to the Best Gelaterie in Florence and the Best Gelaterie in Venice!

How Much Does Gelato Cost In Italy

Brown ign with prices for cones and cups of gelato in Italy.

Gelato prices can vary depending on how touristy their location is but generally speaking, gelato follows this price chart: 

Gelato SizePrice
Small€2.00-€3.00
Medium/Regular€2.00-€4.00
Large€4.00-€5.00
X-Large/Maxi€6.00-€8.00

You can also purchase gelato by the kilo which will cost between €25.00-€30.00. Gelaterias will package the gelato flavors of your choice in a styrofoam container that will keep it cold for the trip home. 

How to Order Gelato in Italian

No matter the order of operations when ordering gelato in Italy, you will want to stick to this formula:

Subject + Verb + Cup/Cone + Size 

Infographic showing chart of how to order gelato in Italian. The formula is subject + verb + cup or cone + size + please.

For Example:

Vorrei un cono grande, per favore.
I would like a large cone, please.

Noi vorremmo due coppette piccole e un cono medio, per favore.
We would please like two small cups and a medium cone.

Note: Add flavors at the end of this formula if you are ordering before paying! For example: Vorrei una coppetta media con limone, mango e yogurt, per favore. 

For Example:

Vorrei due coni medie. Il primo cono con cioccolato e nocciola e il secondo con bacio e crema, per favore
I would like two medium cones, please. The first cone with chocolate and hazelnut and the second one with bacio e cream. 

Vorrei una coppetta grande, per piacere con amarena, crema, cioccolato, fiordilatte e lamponi.
I would like a large cup with sour cherry, cream, chocolate, fiordilatte and raspberry.

Vorremmo due coni piccoli, per favore. Io prendo caffè e cioccolato fondente mentre lui prende fragola e frutti di bosco.
We would like two small cones, please. I will have coffee and dark chocolate and he will have strawberry and mixed berry.

Step-By-Step – How To Order Gelato In Italy

Handwritten sign listing gelato flavors with and without milk at a gelateria in Italy.

There are two main ways to order your gelato in Italy: pay first and then choose gelato or choose gelato first and then pay. It all depends on how large the gelateria is, how busy it is and how many people they have working there. 

Good To Know: Some gelaterie have no payment rule but rather, it depends on how busy they are and how many people are working. If it’s slow, they will happily serve you and then you can pay but if things pick up, they will ask that you pay first. 

Step-By-Step – How To Pay First And Then Choose Gelato

Gelato displayed inside metal tins in a gelateria in Italy.

This will happen at larger gelaterias and when you don’t see a cash register next to the glass case with gelato flavors and they have enough staff to run a register separately from the person serving gelato. 

  1. Identify the register, typically not next to the gelato case (but not always). If you see a line, get it in. If you don’t, try to be assertive and jump into the mass of Italians waiting to pay.  
  2. Choose your size and specify whether you want a cup or a cone.

Vorrei un cono piccolo, per favore.
I would like a small cone, please.

  1. Pay. By law, Italian stores need to offer a credit card option but this is not always the case. Exact change is always appreciated and cash is preferred for small sums. 
  2. Hold onto your receipt – it’s your golden ticket. 
  3. Head to the counter with all the gelato flavors. Try to be assertive by making eye contact with the server. It can get crowded.
  4. When the server has taken your receipt, they may ask you again whether you want a cup or a cone. 

Vorrei un cono piccolo con gianduia e caffè, per favore.
I would like a small cone with gianduia and coffee, please.

If you would like to try a flavor, you certainly can but it’s not really good practice to try more than one. 

Posso assaggiare il pistacchio, per favore?
May I please try the pistachio gelato?

  1. If you would like one flavor on the bottom of the cone instead of the other, specify that as well.

Posso avere la gianduia prima e poi il caffè gelato sopra, per piacere?
May I please have the gianduia first and then the coffee gelato on top?

  1. Thank the server and move aside for the next patron to move up.

Grazie.
Thank you.

  1. Enjoy your ice cream sitting or standing but no walking with it, according to Italian gelato practice!

Step-By-Step – How To Order Gelato And Then Pay

Woman working behind counter at Italian gelateria gestures with both hands. You can see the bins of gelato in the display case in foreground.

This is usually the case in very small gelaterias with only one or two people working. 

  1. Head to the gelato case, displaying all the flavors. If people are waiting, this is a good sign and get into line!
  2. Choose your size and specify whether you want a cup or a cone.

Vorrei una coppetta piccola, per favore.
I would like a small cup, please.

  1. Choose your flavor(s). 

Prendo mandorla e ricotta con pera, per favore.
I will have almond and ricotta with pear, please.

  1. If you would like to try a flavor, you certainly can but it’s not really good practice to try more than one.

Posso assaggiare il pistacchio, per favore? 
May I please try the pistachio gelato?

  1. If you would like one flavor on the bottom of the cone instead of the other, specify that as well.

Posso avere il cioccolato gelato prima e poi la crema sopra, per piacere?
May I please have the chocolate gelato first and then the cream on top?

  1. Thank the server and pay. By law, Italian stores need to offer a credit card option but this is not always the case. Exact change is always appreciated and cash is preferred for small sums. 

Grazie.
Thank you.

  1. Enjoy your ice cream sitting or standing but no walking with it, according to Italian gelato practice!

Tips For Eating And Ordering Gelato Like An Italian

View from above of gelato in metal bins at an Italian gelateria.

Now that you have learned to order gelato like an Italian, why not eat it like one too?

Follow these helpful tips:

Be Assertive

The concept of a straight, uniform line in Italy doesn’t exist. You will notice there is just a big pile up of people waiting to be served and no one is concerned about who is next. You need to show a bit of assertiveness when you have your receipt in hand and are trying to get served from the gelato counter. 

Don’t be afraid to make eye contact several times with the server and to quickly hold up your receipt towards him or her right after she hands the customer before you their gelato.

If you aren’t a bit pushy, people will just walk right over you when trying to get gelato in Italy.

Pair Your Flavors Well

Try and choose flavors that go well together such as chocolate and coffee or chocolate and hazelnut. Don’t choose something like lemon, coffee and vanilla. Those flavors won’t complement each other and you won’t enjoy each flavor. 

If you are set on trying two flavors that are completely different but will not do well together, suggest splitting with a friend or family member and order one flavor in one cup and one in another. 

You can always sample one just to try and then order the other paired with a better flavor. 

Don’t Walk While Eating Gelato

Italians eat their ice cream either sitting or standing, just like they do with coffee. They rarely walk with it. 

Order A Modest Size

You will never see an Italian with a supersize gelato. They will often just have a small or medium but it’s less likely they order a large (I personally have seen this happen only once or twice in all my years here). 

Don’t Book It To The Nearest Gelateria Right After Lunch

Gelato for Italians is a small treat to get them to dinner, not always a dessert. It sometimes is but after a large lunch (lunch is the biggest meal in Italy), they don’t often feel like a gelato. 

Order Like a Pro in Italy: Be sure to read How to Order Food in Italian.

Vocabulary For Ordering Gelato In Italy 

Metal bins of gelato at a gelateria in Italy.
ItalianPronunciationEnglish Translation
Vorrei…Vohr-rehI would like…
in un conoeen oon coh-nohin a cone
in una coppaeen oonah cohp-peh-tahin a cup
un gustooon goo-stohone flavor
due/tre/quattro gusti, tre gustidoo-eh/treh/qwaht-troh goo-steetwo/three/four flavors
Posso assaggiare il cioccolato per favore?poh-soh ahs-sahj-jah-reh eel chohk-koh-lah-toh pehr fah-voh-rehMay I please try the chocolate?
assaggiareahs-sahj-jah-rehtry
con pannacohn pahn-nahwith whipped cream
con un biscotto sopracohn oon bee-skoht-toh sohp-rahwith a cookie on top
Dove posso pagare?doh-veh poh-soh pah-gah-rehWhere do I pay?
Pago prima di scegliere i gusti?pah-go pree-mah dee shehl-yeh-reh ee goo-steeDo I pay before choosing my flavors?
Quanto costa?qwahn-toh coh-stahHow much does it cost?
graziegrah-zee-ehthank you
per favoreper-fah-voh-rehplease
Cosa mi consiglia?coh-sah mee cohn-seelyuh?What would you recommend?

Are you celiac or avoiding gluten? Be sure to read Is Italian Gelato Gluten Free?

How To Order Gelato In Italian FAQ

How do you ask for gelato in Italy?

To order gelato in Italy, specify the size and flavor, starting with Vorrei…
For example, Vorrei un cono piccolo con cioccolato e lampone (I would please like a small cone with chocolate and raspberry).

How do you say gelato flavors in Italian?

Gelato flavors is gusti di gelato in Italian.

How do Italians serve gelato?

Gelato is either served in a cup or in a cone in Italy. In Sicily, however, it will also be served in a brioche (a simple Italian pastry). 

Why avoid bright colored gelato in Italy?

It means that the gelato is full of additives and preservatives.

Is gelato richer than ice cream?

Italian gelato is more dense and rich and thus, you need much less to feel satisfied.

About The Author