For the Love of Gelato!!!

Gelato in Florence

Gelato in Florence

Gelato in Roma

Gelato in Roma

Throughout the Mediterranean our kids flipped out over gelato!! Everywhere we went, they wanted more and more. In Florence, Italy our daughter ate gelato three times in one day which is not cheap.

Gelato is the Italian word for ice cream, but is it really the same thing as ice cream??? Gelato refers to varieties of ice cream made in a traditional Italian style. Gelato is made with milk, cream, various sugars, and flavoring such as fresh fruit and nut purees. Often times you will see it served in a glass as a parfait or in a dish with whole fruits. In the picture above the gelato is displayed in parfaits. Whether in a cup, on a cone or in a dish~ It’s all amazing!!!

First you must know the gelato lingo!!! Gelati is plural for gelato and Gelateria is where geltao is sold.

Money saving tips: We ate gelato all along the Mediterranean. Be sure to look around and price out the gelato as some gelaterias are located on the same block for twice as much and the one next door. At Piazza Navona in Rome for example, gelato is priced very high within the piazza but if you step a block outside of the piazza you can find it much cheaper and just as good! It’s the same for paella in Spain or wood burning oven pizzas in Rome. When visiting Barcelona, the Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria (The Market) has amazing gelato for much cheaper than purchasing on La Rambla. If you would like to read more about The Market, click on the link Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria on the right hand side under “topics”.

What makes gelato different from ice cream? Gelato is a type of soft ice cream which contains a relatively small amount of air. Gelato in Italy must have at least 3.5% butterfat. The sugar content in homemade gelato, as in ice cream, is balanced with the water content to act as an anti-freeze to prevent it from freezing solid. Several types of sugar are used including sucrose, dextrose, and inverted sugar to control sweetness. Typically, gelato—like any other ice cream—needs a stabilizing base. Egg yolks are used in yellow custard-based gelato flavors, including zabaione (an Italian dessert, or sometimes a beverage, made with egg yolks, sugar, and a sweet wine) and creme caramel, and non-fat milk solids are also added to gelato to stabilize the base. Starches and gums, especially corn starch, are often used to thicken and stabilize the mix.

Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria, Barcelona

Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria, Barcelona

Facts about Gelato~ In the United States there isn’t a standard of definition for gelato set forth by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, as there is for ice cream. Ice cream in the U.S. is defined by the Federal Code both by its ingredients, which includes milk fat of 10% or more, gelato in the U.S. covers a wide range of products including frozen desserts eaten like ice cream; products that are identical to ice cream with the exception of their butterfat contents; and premium ice cream containing butterfat far exceeding the minimums set forth in Italy. Recipes will vary as will the person making it, but most dairy gelato contains 16–24% sugar. Whereas, ice cream in the United States contains 12 to 16% sugar.

Where does gelato come from? The history of gelato dates back to frozen desserts in Sicily, ancient Rome and Egypt which were made from snow and ice brought down from mountaintops and preserved below ground. Then, frozen desserts appeared during banquets at the Medici court in Florence. Bernardo Buontalenti, the Florentine cook, is said to have invented modern ice cream in 1565. He presented his recipe and his innovative refrigerating techniques to Catherine de’ Medici, who in turn brought the novelty to France as Queen consort. In 1686 the Sicilian fisherman Francesco Procopio dei Coltelli perfected the first ice cream machine. Gelato increased in popularity in the 1920s–1930s in the northern Italian city of Varese, where the first gelato cart was developed!!

Interesting Gelato Stat: Italy is the only country where the market share of handmade gelato versus industrial one is over 55%. More than 5,000 modern Italian ice cream parlors employ over 15,000 people today, mostly Italians.

Gelato in Florence

Gelato in Florence

Want to make your own gelato???

Piazza Navona, Roma

Piazza Navona, Roma

Making gelato is similar to making ice cream. There are several steps involved. The mixture for gelato is typically prepared using a hot process first, dissolving sugars. White base is heated to 185 °F completing a pasteurization program. The hot process to make chocolate gelato is basically the same for ice cream and is traditionally flavored with cocoa powder and cocoa butter.

Gelato and some premium ice creams are so dense that they require a slightly higher serving temperature. This is the perfect point in which your scoop is firm but not hard and not so soft that it melts immediately. Gelato recipes usually include more egg yolks, more milk and less cream than ice cream. It actually has less fat than regular ice cream. Gelato’s low overrun (less air) makes for an extremely dense, rich and creamy treat that we all love.

Sorbets are all about the fruit, fruit, fruit. With the absence of milk, cream or eggs, they depend only on sugar, lemon juice and fresh fruit for flavor. Elegantly simple and refreshingly tart, sorbets were the rage during Victorian years, when they were served as palate cleansers between rich, heavy courses. A sorbetto, the more intense Italian version, generally has more fruit and less water, resulting in a softer, less icy texture. Sorbet is all about the FRESH fruit.

Giada’s Chocolate-Hazelnut Gelato

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup sugar, plus 1/4 cup
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup chocolate-hazelnut spread (recommended: Nutella)
  • 1/2 cup toasted hazelnuts, crushed, for garnish

In a saucepan combine the milk, cream, and 1/2 cup sugar over medium heat. Cook until the sugar dissolves, about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl whip the egg yolks with the remaining sugar using an electric mixer until the eggs have become thick and pale yellow, about 4 minutes. Pour 1/2 cup of the warm milk and cream mixture into the egg mixture and stir. Add this mixture back into the saucepan. Cook over very low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture becomes thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon, about 7 to 10 minutes.

Place a strainer over a medium bowl and pour the warm custard mixture through the strainer. Stir in the vanilla and hazelnut spread until it dissolves. Chill mixture completely before pouring into an ice cream maker and follow manufacturer’s instructions to freeze. To serve, scoop gelato into serving bowls and top with hazelnuts.

What type of gelato maker should you buy? Gelato makers can run anywhere from $22.00 – $1200 depending on the brand, size and features. De Longhi GM6000 Gelator Maker with Self-Refrigerating Compressor will cost you about $300! Cuisinart ICE-100 compressor is both an ice cream maker and gelato maker which runs about $251. If you own a KitchenAid mixer, there is an attachment for ice cream which is $85.00. Be sure to research before purchase, check out ratings and read reviews as some of the ice cream makers are for both ice and gelato while others are for frozen yogurt and sorbets. Gelato is made to perfection at a slightly lower temperature than ice cream in Italian Gelaterias; however, it can still be made at home using an ice cream maker.

According to World of Ice Cream, here is the equation for gelato:

Gelato= less fat + no air added = richer taste

Gelato in Barcelona

Gelato in Barcelona

 5wheelsto5star is featured monthly in Destinations Travel Magazine


Vatican, Rome


3 generations at the Vatican

We decided to explore Vatican City as three generations of girls!!! It was an extremely hot day and thankfully we purchased our tickets in

St. Peter's Square

St. Peter’s Square

advance so we were able to bypass waiting in the long, hot ticket lines. The Vatican is a very high tourist area, as you can imagine and therefore, swarms of people gather around the outside and inside. The ticket lines looked like hundreds of people standing in the blazing sun. There are several parts to tour within Vatican City, so be sure to research what you want to do and see. There are tours which include several buildings or just one. I did not have the kids with me that day and to be honest, I think it would be too boring for them. The tours are long, crowded and require a lot of standing and walking. Please note, shoulders must be covered upon entering the Basilica. I brought a scarf because it was easy to carry around, provided coverage and was much cooler than a sweater.

Apostolic Palace

Apostolic Palace

The Papal Apartments have been the official residence of the Pope in his religious capacity since the 17th century. The Papal Apartments in Italian are called appartamento nobile and appartamento pontificio.

The apartments have ten large rooms including a lobby, a studio office for the secretary, the pope’s private study, the pope’s bedroom in the corner of the building, a medical suite, a dining room, a small living room, and the kitchen. In addition, the apartments have a roof garden and staff quarters for the nuns who run the household. The pope greets and blesses visitors to Saint Peter’s Square on Sundays from the window of his small study. The top four windows to the right are where the Pope resides. The pope lives there for all months except July to September, when Papal Palace of Castel Gandolfo is the official summer residence.Three of the last five popes, John XXIII, John Paul I, and John Paul II, died in the Papal Apartments.

The Vatican is located in Vatican City also known as Vatican City State, in Italian is officially Stato della Città del Vaticano. The Vadicanis a landlocked sovereign city-state whose territory consists of a walled enclave within the city of Rome.  The population in Vatican City is 836 in 109 acres and was founded on February 11, 1929.

St. Peter's Basilica

St. Peter’s Basilica

St. Peter’s Basilica is a Late Renaissance church located within Vatican City. It was designed by Donato Bramante, Michelangelo, Carlo Maderno and Gian Lorenzo Bernini. St. Peter’s is the most well known work of Renaissance architecture and remains one of the largest churches in the world. While it is neither the mother church of the Roman Catholic Church nor the cathedral of the Bishop of Rome. St. It is regarded as one of the holiest Catholic sites and has been referred to as “holding a unique position in the Christian world” and as “the greatest of all churches of Christendom”.’s_Basilica

The basilica is the burial site of its namesake Saint Peter who was one of the twelve apostles of Jesus and the first Bishop of Rome. Tradition and some historical evidence hold that Saint Peter’s tomb is directly below the altar of the basilica. For this reason, many Popes have been interred at St. Peter’s since the Early Christian period. There has been a church on this site since the time of Constantine. Construction of the present basilica began on April 18, 1506 and was completed on November 18, 1626.

The Pope holds a number of services throughout the year, which audiences of 15,000 to over 80,000 people gather , either within the Vatican Basilica, or in St. Peter’s Square. The picture of the Square shows all of the seating present when the Pope speaks.

St. Peter's Basilica

Altar with Bernini’s baldacchino

Altar with Bernini’s Baldacchino: Bernini’s first work at St. Peter’s was designing the baldacchino.  The baldacchino is a pavilion-like structure 98 ft tall and said to be the largest piece of bronze in the world. The baldacchino is located underneath the dome and above the altar. Bernini’s idea for the baldacchino was for something other than the typical white marble and colored stone. Bernini designed four enormouscolumns of bronze, twisted and decorated with olive leaves and beesto represent Pope Urban.

The dome of St. Peter’s 448.1 ft high from the floor of the basilica to the top of the cross. This is the tallest dome in the world. When designing the dome, the architects of St. Peter’s looked to the domes of the Pantheon and Florence duomo. St. Peter’s is  the greatest dome of Christendom.


Tomb of Pope Alexander VII

Next I took a picture of the Tomb of Pope Alexander VII. The color of the marble in person is indescribable. It is so vibrant with gold, orange and amber tones. At the age of 80, the Italian artist Gianlorenzo Bernini designed the sculpture Tomb of Pope Alexander VII. It is located in the south section of St Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican City. The piece was commissioned by Pope Alexander himself. Construction of the monument didn’t start until 1671 and then was finally completed eleven years after the Pope’s death in 1678.

Just as you leave the Chapel, you will pass the Monument to Gregory XIII on the rightIt was built by Camillo Rusconi in 1723 out of white marble. The moument was influenced by Algardi in its structural linearity and the expressive peacefulness. The monument is known as the Figure of Knowledge and represents the pope giving his blessing.

Monument to Gregory XIII

Monument to Gregory XIII

Let’s talk food!!! After a long tour of the Vatican, everyone is hungry. As we departed the Square, there was a cafeteria-style restuarant to the left with some of the best Italian food we experiencedDSC07833 in Rome!!! We were starving and just started walking and saw tons of people gathering outside in line, sitting in the outdoor seating and it was so noisy. You could hear espresso machines going and dishes clanking around. I think we grabbed one of everything and all shared.

IMG00079-20100913-1526$$ saving tips: Vatican City is located right off of a stop on the double decker bus in Rome. If you choose to take a cab, it will be more expensive and there are long cab lines. The buses have designated stops right outside of the Vatican Square which is easy access to and from shopping and restaurants. The double decker bus picked us up right in front of our hotel, Westin Excelsior Rome. Be sure to bring your camera to the Vatican, as they do allow pictures inside. I was quite surprised because many museums won’t allow flash photography. We saved money by eating outside of the Vatican, ordering food family style and sharing it all. Plus it’s a great way to try everything!! Look up information on the double decker bus stops at

5wheelsto5star was featured in the March 2014 issue of Destinations Travel Magazine

Trevi Fountain, Roma


You must see The Trevi Fountain, Fontana di Trevi, in person!! Pitcures of the fountain do not capture size nor the details in the marble and travertine. The fountain is 85.28 feet high and 160.72 feet wide, spilling over 2 million cubic feet of water each day.  The fountain is a display of ancient roman acqueduct termination and constructed of carrara marble and travertine.

In the center of the fountain you will see a statue of Ocean which was carved by Pietro Bracci standing under the trymphal arch. When viewing the fountain, you will see a statue of Abundance to the left and on the right side, a statue of Health.

Drink stand by fountain

Drink stand by fountain

The Trevi Fountain was within walking distance of our hotel. The walk there was nice on a sunny day in September. The legend of the Trevi Fountain is that you are to throw 3 coins into the fountain over your shoulder and

Fontana di Trevi

Fontana di Trevi

then you will be ensured a return to Rome! Must be true as I threw the coin in the fountain in September 2011 and I ended up back in Rome less than a year later in June 2012. There is a famous song called ‘Three Coins in the Fountain’.

For more information on the meaning of the inscriptions on the fountain and history, please visit

Fontana di Trevi

Fontana di Trevi

$$ saving tips: It is free of charge to view the fountain. There are an abundance of cute boutiques and restaurants tucked in alleyways all around the fountain. Most of the bistros advertise their original pizza by having waiters stand out on the street waving you in. As we stopped off in wood shop to purchase a Pinocchio ornament, the manager said to be very careful of where we ate as many of the restaurants serve pizza made from frozen dough and charge a lot of money due to the location near the fountain. He gave us the tip to look in the restaurant for a wood burning oven and ask to see it if they say they have one. His advice was great! That way we knew where to order authentic Italian pizza made in a wood burning oven.

5wheelsto5star was featured in the March 2014 issue of Destinations Travel Magazine

Piazza Navona, Roma, Italy

Piazza navona square

While in Rome, you must stop off at the Piazza Navona Square which includes the famous Fountain of Four Rivers, music, gelatto, shopping and restaurants. The double decker bus conveniently stops off at the Piazza. Navona Square is exactly how Italy is portrayed in romantic movies with Italian music playing all around.

IMG00046-20100912-1258We rode the bus there and spent the entire day roaming around the square. The Piazza is a great place to take photos of the ancient buildings and statues and wander around for the day. We ate our way through the square with lunch, gelato and then cannoli.

The square is great for everyone, as we have taken our kids as well as my grandmother. There are many sidewalk cafes and bistros with shaded areas to sit as you walk along the square.

DSC07812Navona Square, the most beautiful baroque square in Rome, sits on the ancient ring of the Stadium of Domitian – also known as Circus Agonalis – built in 85 AD to host Greek athletic events, agones, with the typical rectangular shape of the arena with its curved northern side.

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Surrounded by two imposing travertine arcades, decorated with Ionian and Corinthian capitals, it could host up to 30,000 people, who accessed through the two main entrances located in the middle of its longer sides. The square came back to life in the second half of the 15th century, when it started to host the market. In 1485, it was paved to favour the several festivals and processions that were starting to take place there more and more often.

IMG00041-20100912-1142In the 16th century, the square was enriched with the fountains donated by Pope Gregory XIII Boncompagni; then, Pope Innocent X ordered the construction of the majestic Pamphili Palace on the land owned by his family. The Palace was built by Girolamo Rainaldi and embellished by marvellous frescos, a Gallery by Borromini and several art works.

Kaylee and Robbie at the Fountain of Four Rivers, Roma

The Fountain of Four Rivers, Roma

The Fountain of the Four Rivers (Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi), unveiled in 1651, is definitely one of the most beautiful and famous monuments in baroque Rome and represents the four major rivers known at the time. The Ganges, Nile, Danube and Plate: four white marble, 5-metre high statues located on travertine juts. The Nile, by G.A.Fancelli, has its head draped because its source was unknown at the time. However, the population thought that it expressed Bernini’s contempt for the nearby church of Sant’Agnese in Agone, designed by his rival Borromini, as the Rio de la Plata’s arm raised to protect its head, by Francesco Baratta, ironically expressed the artist’s fear that the church may collapse.
However, these rumours are totally groundless because Bernini finished the fountain before Borromini started the church. Finally, the Ganges is by Claude Poussin, while the Danube is by Antonio Raggi.

caprese salad$$ saving tips: There are great restaurants located right outside of the Piazza which are far less expensive than eating inside the square. We were craving authentic, Italian pizza so our tour guide recommended a restaurant called Ristorante Pizzeria Zio Ciro, where all of the pizzas are cooked in their wood burning oven. They make homemade sausages to put on top of the pizza and they have pastas, salads, seafood and more. Everything we ordered was fresh and fabulous along with a cold beer! Take the double decker bus to the Piazza!! It is a fun and inexpensive way to see Rome and take pictures.

Zi Ciro pizza romaKaylee's pasta romaIMG00044-20100912-1231

We stumbled upon really cute boutiques walking down the side streets. Many of the shops had great sale racks tucked in the back.

5wheelsto5star was featured in the March 2014 issue of Destinations Travel Magazine


Roma, Italy

National Monument to Victor Emmanuel II

National Monument to Victor Emmanuel II

On our walking tour through Rome, we were in awe of the Victor Emmanuel II Monument and just had to take a family picture in front of the large gates.

The Altare della Patria (Altar of the Fatherland) also known as the Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II (National Monument to Victor Emmanuel II) or “Il Vittoriano” is a monument built in honour of Victor Emmanuel, the first king of a unified Italy, located in Rome, Italy

Europe 612The Coliseum was one of the main reasons that we chose to visit Roma, Italy. The history of the Coliseum is fascinating of course, but we weren’t sure if the kids would find touring the Amphitheatre as exciting as we would. Prior to touring the Coliseum we took the kids to 3D Rewind Rome tour which shows what life was like for the gladiators Hollywood style.

Espresso picIt takes you back to the time of 310 AD as you put on your 3D glasses and see what life was like as a gladiator through animation! The movie includes fighting scenes between the gladiators and shows the enormous crowds of people who would show up to the event. The museum is located around the corner from the Coliseum and you can purchase tickets the same day.

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After viewing the 3D movie, you enter into a glass elevator which lowers down to show what type of environment the lions were kept in and where the gladiators were fed rations. After the tour, the kids can try on costumes, view ancient artifacts and there is even an espresso bar for adults! We were very excited to view the Coliseum after taking the 3D Rewind tour as the stories of the gladiators were fresh in our mind.

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We took a walking tour around the outside of the Coliseum. It was very interesting and not too long for the kids. However, it was about 90 degrees standing in the sun and I would highly recommend taking the tour in the morning in the summertime. There are tours which are more extinsive and take you through the inside of the Coliseum.


The Roman Coliseum or Coliseum, originally known as the Flavian Amphitheatre, was commissioned in AD 72 by Emperor Vespasian.  It was completed by his son, Titus, in 80, with later improvements by Domitian.
The Coliseum is located just east of the Roman Forum and was built to a practical design,  with its 80 arched entrances allowing easy access to 55,000 spectators, who were seated according to rank. The Coliseum is huge, an ellipse 188m long and 156 wide. Originally 240 masts were attached to stone corbels on the 4th level.

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As we made our way to the Roman Forum, which I had seen many times in pictures, you just can’t imagine how large the structures really are and how close they are. There is a fence around the Forum buildings but you are still very close and can take great photos. To see the anchient buildings with a town and people now built all around it seem surreal. You can envision how the Forum came to life at one time, as the city’s most important public building.

The Roman Forum (Forum Romanum) was the central area of the city around which ancient Rome developed. Here was where commerce, business, prostitution, cult and the administration of justice took place. Space where religious activities were conducted and the communal hearth of the city.

Roman forum picForum picThe Roman Forum was designed by the architect Vitruvius with proportions 3:2 (length to width). The Arch of Septimius Severus, built in AD203 and the Roman Forum Rostra or platforms for public speeches. The reliefs on the triple arch represented many of Rome’s victories over oriental tribes and the Rostra was decorated with prows of warships captured during battles. The Roman Forum became the spectacular showcase of the Roman Empire filled with beautiful statues and architecture.

Europe 631The main sight of the Forum include the Arch of Titus (Arco di Tito), the Temple of Saturn, Temple of Vesta, and the church of San Luca e Martina. These are all linked by the Sacra Via, the main road through the Forum.

Spanish Steps

Spanish Steps

The Spanish Steps were in walking distance to our hotel in Rome. We decided to talk there and check them out.

History: The Spanish Steps, Scalinata della Trinità dei Monti, are a set of steps in Rome, Italy, located between the Piazza di Spagna at the base and Piazza Trinità dei Monti, with the Trinità dei Monti church at the top. These set of stairs are the widest in Europe.

This stairway consists of 135 steps and was built with French diplomat Étienne Gueffier’s money of 20,000 scudi, in 1723–1725. The stairs were designed to  link the Bourbon Spanish Embassy and the Trinità dei Monti church to the Holy See in Palazzo Monaldeschi located at the bottom of the stairs. The Spanish Steps were designed by architects Francesco de Sanctis and Alessandro Specchi.

Spanish Steps

Spanish Steps

$$ saving tips: It was an extremely hot day in June and we were grabbing Panini’s at carts on the sidewalk as we walked around with our tour guide. The Panini’s were very filling and cost only 2€ in comparison to stopping and eating in a touristy area restaurant. We made sure to carry bottled waters in a bag that we took turns carrying. It is cheaper to purchase a tour of the outside of the Coliseum or walk around it on your own for free! The guided tour which takes you on the inside is more expensive. If you are near the Spanish Steps, than I would make it a point to see them or walk on them. It wasn’t my favorite part of Rome. It was so hot and crowded there. They didn’t allow you to eat on the steps, so we had to leave with our ice cream cone and then come back. There really isn’t anything to do there but sit on the steps, that is, if you can even find a seat. However, there is a ton of high end shopping around the steps. If you are not up for high end shopping, just walk around and visit the coffee shops and window shop. Great leather shoes down some of the alley ways. The Spanish Steps are free to visit and just walking distance from the Trevi Fountain!!!

5wheelsto5star was featured in the March 2014 issue of Destinations Travel Magazine