Confession: I wasn’t looking forward to our trip to San Gimignano. Although I’d heard that this medieval hilltop town was beautiful, I also knew it was tiny and bound to be overrun by busloads of tourists, being a wildly popular destination for day trips from Florence.
This problem was neatly solved by making our first visit to San Gimignano at night. After driving up from Florence, getting lost and checking into our B&B, we arrived in time for a late dinner at 9pm. All the day trippers had gone home, and the town was empty, silent and haunting.
We had San Gimignano practically all to ourselves. I loved it.
When we returned the next day, the place was mobbed with day trippers.
I was not loving it, but we stuck it out. Soon, my patience was rewarded. I discovered the one thing that makes San Gimignano in the daytime worthwhile: the fact that the Gelateria di Piazza is open for business.
You can’t miss this place. A sign over the door proudly advertises its status as “World Gelato Champion”, or winners of the Gelato World Championship in 2006/07 and 2008/09. Pictures and handwritten notes from celebrities who have savored its flavors wallpaper its walls: from Tony Blair to Franco Zeffirelli, Dame Judi Dench to Jamie Oliver.
Perusing the flavors on display, it’s easy to see why master gelato maker Sergio Dondoli‘s gelateria has achieved worldwide fame.
His award-winning creations include Crema di Santa Fina (cream with saffron and pine nuts), Champelmo (pink grapefruit and sparkling wine), Dolceamaro (cream with aromatic herbs) and Vernaccia sorbet.
Other fantastic combinations: blackberries and lavender, Gorgonzola cheese and walnuts, Curva Fiesole (ricotta and bilberries) and Sangue di Bue (spicy chocolate and sour cherries).
I chose Rosemary Baby (raspberry and rosemary) while Marlon opted for Cannella (cinnamon). Cones in hand, we fled from the hordes to the outer walls of the town.
There we sat in happy silence, enjoying Sergio’s award-winning gelato along with this spectacular view of Tuscany in the sunshine.
Gelateria di Piazza
Piazza della Cisterna
53037 San Gimignano (Siena)
Although we’ll never be World Gelato Champions, looking at these pictures is giving me lots of ideas for our next batch of homemade ice cream. Which Gelateria di Piazza-inspired flavor should we try next?