In Short: Gelateria da Massimo Portoferraio is our pick for some of the very best gelato in the Tuscan region and an absolute must try if you find yourself in Portoferraio. Artisan Massimo Cova Moscardini blends premium ingredients into refined flavours that demonstrate why good gelato is more an art-form than a simple sweet treat.
For many Italians, gelato is far more than a summer treat, more than just a topping for a dessert, and more than just a sweet ending to a meal. For some, gelato is life, a little moment in the day that provides the chance to indulge in la dolce vita and appreciate the craft of a local culinary artisan.
On a recent trip to the island of Elba in the Tuscan Archipelago, we were strolling the sunny streets of Portoferraio when we were overcome by that all too common urge that strikes like clockwork every summer’s afternoon. It’s the urge that drives locals to the laneways in the ceremony that is the ‘passeggiata‘ with the knowledge that, at its end, there’s a prize to sate that craving, and that prize is some of the world’s best gelato.
In Portoferraio specifically, that leisurely stroll will inevitably end by joining the line into Gelateria da Massimo. With owner Massimo Cova Moscardini ever-present behind his gleaming glass gelato cabinet, it’s not hard to see why Gelateria da Massimo stands out as the place to experience a true dairy artisan at the peak of his craft.
Massimo seems to embody that quintessential Italian balance of a joy for his craft and a serious dedication to its execution in the same moment. He greets you with a warm, friendly smile, and carefully watches your choice of scoop combinations. Honestly, with this level of artisan watching your selection of his handcrafted melt-in-your-mouth masterpiece, it can be a little stressful!
No need to worry though, Sonia’s Italian is up to snuff, so with a little guidance from Massimo, our first cone is bestowed upon us in the form of Biscottini e Fondante. A base of African chocolate that is natural and not roasted, boldly blends with the cream of the gelato and comes to life on the tongue with a sweetness that never feels overbearing. All heaped atop a cone that is more biscuit than a wafer, the smooth and crunchy textures are conversation stoppers.
Having made it to the front of the line, it’s not like we were just going to order one serving of Gelateria da Massimo’s treasure. The next request we offer to Massimo is Cremino e Crema. A slippery smooth and rich blend of hazelnut chocolate, pralines, and white creamy vanilla. This time we go a little more traditional and opt for this serving in a colourful cup. Massimo is not stingy on the serves either! Keeping in mind that this class of gelato is far richer than the mass-produced variety, the heaped servings are more than enough to satisfy any hardcore gelato fan’s need for a fix.
Sitting outside on the cute little benches and watching excited school children rush in with their precious pocket change in hand, it’s a little like stepping back a few decades when the skilled work of a true craftsman could bring smiles to the faces of so many in a small community and make you really appreciate the simple pleasure of slowing things down to taste every bit of the talent in every lick. Bravo Massimo, we’ll keep you forever at the top of our gelato go-to list when we’re next in Tuscany.