What’s your biggest weakness when you go to Italy? I bet it’s gelato. Travelers often have joked to me that their favorite “meals” in Italy have been gelato.
When I rented an apartment by myself for 3 weeks in Lecce (region of Puglia, Italy’s “heel”) this past spring, I didn’t have anyone showing me around the city and suggesting the best restaurants and gelato shops, and before I looked any reviews online, I came upon a Gelateria called Crem. It was late afternoon and I had been hiking across the city trying to find a nail salon. Needing an energy boost I entered the large modern gelateria.
With ebullient smiles, the guy and girl behind the counter answered my questions.
“You see, the gelato is covered, with stainless steel covers that keep in the freshness. Gelato shouldn’t be displayed, that’s just to grab attention.” They told me.
I chose a yogurt gelato with honey and walnut, along with their specialty Mandorlacchio– a mix of almond and pistacchio. Both flavors were divine. Creamy, and wholeseome, and not overly sweet–clearly made with quality ingredients.
Crem has lots of outdoor seating, and is also a pasticerria, with enticing cakes, spumoni (molded gelato in layers with whipped cream and candied fruit) and mattonelle, (another kind of gelato cake.) I hadn’t been in a gelateria that offers coffee, but Crem does, and if you go that route, don’t miss out on a pasticiotto (Lecce’s signature cream pastry.)
Later into my stay I learned that a gelateria called Natale is considered the “temple of gelato” by locals, and Lonely Planet calls it Lecce’s best ice-cream parlor. It is packed at night, so I recommend going in the day if you want to be able to get into the shop. Like Crem it is also a pasticceria with good-looking cakes. But unlike Crem, the gelato is on display and not covered.
Another gelateria of note, just down the street from Natale, is Settimo Cielo. They are famous for yogurt gelato and their small shop, while not having a huge variety of flavors, offers options for those who are gluten free and vegan. The quality is top-notch.
I enjoyed the gelato I tried at both these places, but they were not better than Crem. Did I have have a soft spot in my heart for Crem, since it was my first love in Lecce? Or is it truly Lecce’s best? You’ll have to go and try for yourself.
Crem, Viale Marconi, open 24 hours
Natale, Via Salvatore Trinchese, open 8:45am to 1:00am
Settimo Cielo, Via XXV Luglio, open 9:00am to 2:00am