Gelato makes a good day great, and the quest for the perfect gelato is a delightful hobby — or obsession.  I didn’t plan my visit to Rome around gelato, but, come to think of it, that’s not a bad idea.

“Chiuso” (Closed) — it’s been said that this is the most common word in the Italian language

My most recent pursuit of gelato began when I was at the Spanish Steps.  Before lunch.  (And your point is … ?)

I thought of the gelato place called 71 Sotto 0 (translates to 71 degrees below zero) and realized that would be a great destination for the next part of my tour of Rome.  Our friends who live in the Rome found it and swear that it’s hands-down the best in the city.  It’s a gelateria that looks like all the others, but … mamma mia, the gelato is delicious.  For those keeping track of such things, the address is Via Monte Brianzo, 71.

I got to walk all the way down the oh-so-elegant Via Condotti.  Along the way, I took a peek into a little church on the left called Santa Trinita.  It was interesting enough to distract me from my quest, if only briefly.  As Italian churches go, it’s very small.  So small, in fact, that it’s essentially just the dome.  So I entered right into the rotunda area, “did” Santa Trinita very quickly, and was back on the prowl for gelato in no time.  I returned to the street, which changed names and jogged a little, requiring me to bear left at one point (again, for those keep track of such things).  Via Monte Brianzo is essentially the far end of Condotti near where it would run into the river.  71 Sotto 0 is on the left, and I could see the ice cream cone hanging over the door from a block away.

But the  sign on the door read chuiso (closed).  I was out of luck.

San Crispino's

San Crispino’s – named after a saint who probably never existed

Mightily disappointed, but not dissuaded, I soldiered onward toward San Crispino, another favorite gelateria.  Paul reminds me that it’s named after a saint who is no longer thought to have existed.  Nonetheless, eating San Crispino gelato is a religious experience.

It’s a pretty slick operation – there are several locations, New York Times reviews, long lines in the summer, and a great reputation.  The gelato is delicious and distinguished by particularly innovative flavors (e.g., ginger).  The honey flavored gelato made me so curious that I had to ask for a taste (“posso assaggiare” — “may I taste…?”).  I went with the apple and cinnamon and wasn’t disappointed.

If San Crispino had not panned out (and once I regained my composure after a second closed gelateria, that is), I would have had other good options: Giolitti, the gelato institution of Rome or Blue Ice.  Blue Ice is a chain with stores all over Rome; we often find ourselves at the one near Campo de Fiori.

Thank heavens (or the fictional Saint Crispin), San Crispino’s was there for me.  Sated with gelato, it was time to look for lunch. Again, I ask … what’s your point?


  1. MikeL

    Apple-cinnamon, eh? Sounds yummy. I generally go for coconut. It’s a wonder that gelaterias haven’t caught on in the US. We eat more calories per capita than any other nation. Instead of the wonderful variety, we settle for soft serve vanilla, chocolate and – gasp – twist!

  2. Not so fast with San Crispino, or, “Daddy needs a new pair of shoes”…..


    Crispino da Viterbo (1668-1750) When the objects tell …….. Looking around in an antique shop in Rome, an unusual wooden and silver reliquary was located. On the frame there is an armorial bearing with two arms surmounted by a cross (photo 1). Inside there are a pair of arc spectacles and a label, similar to a shell, with the following inscription (photo 2): Vitra Ocularia B.Crispini Cap.Conf. On the reverse (photo 3), the reliquary is sealed with a red string and two sealing waxes with the same armorial bearings of the other side (photo 4). Thanks to these armorial bearings it was possible to know that the reliquary was made for the Franciscan Order of Friars Minor Capuchins. After getting in touch with the Prior of one of capuchin monastery in Rome – Via Veneto, at the Church of “Immacolata Concezione”, it was learned that the inscription can be explained as : Vitra Ocularia B(eati) Crispini Cap(puccinorum) Conf(essoris) Glass Spectacles of the Blessed Crispin Capuchin and Confessor of the Faith. At the monastery we found also his hagiography: The owner of spectacles, named Pietro FIORETTI, was born on November 13th 1668 in Viterbo (north of Rome). In his early youth, he worked as a shoemaker in his town. In 1693 he took the capuchin habit in the novitiate of Palanzana (near Viterbo) and chose the name of Crispin, the name of the patron saint of shoemakers (St. Crispin, persecuted and martyred during the reign of Diocleziano – the same of Shakespeare’ Enry V – act four, scene three).

    He passed most part of his life in the capuchin monastery of Orvieto, where he begged from the people the necessary for him and his brothers, offering in change prayers and visits to sick persons. Despite being very humble, he was the spiritual advisor of important prelates of his times, including the Pope Clemente XI. In 1748 he was sent to the monastery of the church of “Immacolata Concezione” in Rome, where he died on May 19th 1750. On September 1806 he was proclaimed “Blessed Soul” by Pope Pio VII. On June 1982 he was proclaimed “Saint” by Pope Giovanni Paolo II.

  3. My favorite San Crispino saying:

    Someone asked him why he never covered his head against the rain or the sun. He answered impishly, “Don’t you know that donkeys don’t wear hats, and that I am the donkey of the Capuchins?”

  4. Paul

    Oh, so “San Crispino’s” is named after a saint who’s named after a saint who never existed?!? I guess the question I’d pose to Mr. Gilliss is: is a saint really a saint if he was named after a saint who wasn’t really a saint, because he wasn’t really a person? Isn’t that like buying a car from someone who doesn’t own it? I have to think we haven’t heard the last of this controversy — that, quietly and without a lot of hoopla, this gelateria will one day drop “San” from its name. You heard it here first.

  5. Janet Smith

    Ah, a woman after my own heart! Finding the best gelato in Italy. We women know where are priorities are. You go Karen! Enjoy!

  6. Mmm. I like Ace flavoured gelato – it is a fruity combination including carrot I think. So it’s even healthy!

  7. ryan mooney-bullock

    We too often felt the curse of gelato shops being closed for the season. I think we managed to squeeze in our fair share despite the obstacles of low temperatures.

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