USA TODAY -- Ice cream has an extensive, storied, and international history. While its place of origin is unclear - everyone from the Arabs to the Chinese to the Quakers has been credited with its creation - we know ice cream was reserved as a luxurious treat for the elite up until the 1800s, when insulated ice houses were invented. But once ice-cream production became a bona fide industry, its popularity soared, prompting the boom of ice-cream parlors and decadent ice-cream creations.
Why do we love ice cream - and its counterparts sorbet, gelato, frozen custard, and ices - so much? Perhaps because nothing captures pure joy and innocence like an ice-cream cone dripping down your arm. Ice cream is a universal obsession, even more so now that the days when plain vanilla cones were the sole option are long gone. From ice-cream sandwiches to floats and sundaes, the spectrum of what constitutes ice cream continues to expand across the globe. At the same time, ice-cream makers are experiencing a return to their wholesome roots, often sourcing their cream closer to home from dairy farms that raise cows hormone-free. And while some toppings are so off-the-wall there's no way they could be natural, many shops are opting for organic garnishes, resulting in unobstructed ecstasy in every lick.
We've got the scoop on the best parlors to satisfy your creamy cravings worldwide. While competition was fierce in the ranking of these ice cream spots, we're confident these parlors will live up to all your expectations. Venues were selected based on critical acclaim, quality ingredients, original concepts, exceptional service, and customer experience.
So go ahead and renew your passport, hop a flight, pick a flavor, and treat yourself!
1) Fenocchio, Nice, France
If you want wild flavors, you'll find them at Fenocchio, a family-owned parlor scooping up scrumptiousness since 1966. While the scoops are on the pricey side, loyal customers will tell you the cones are worth it. Salted caramel and pistachio ice creamare favorites, though if you're looking for something adventurous, go for the cactus or tomato-basil sorbets.
2) Bar Gelateria Ercole, Pizzo, Italy
Bar Gelateria Ercole is infamous for their tartufi, or truffles. A spoonful of fudge is wrapped with ice cream or gelato, rolled in cocoa powder and sugar, and then battered. The result is an oozing, cavity-inducing delicacy.
3) Vipiteno Gelateria, Sao Paulo, Brazil
Named after an Italian town, this Brazilian creamery is highly regarded amongst tourists and locals. The Demoiselle Cup, one of the most coveted menu items, consists of dulce de leche ice cream topped with pear and ginger syrup, followed by whipped cream and crunchy burnt sugar. Be forewarned: Vipiteno is consistently packed - and pricey.
4) Antico Caffè Spinnato, Palermo, Italy
Antico Caffè Spinnato may very well be the pastry capital of Sicily. Known for its granitas and gelato, this swanky bistro serves up ice cream sandwiches on fresh-baked brioche bread. (Yes, you read that right.) Make sure you have two fists free.
5) Big Gay Ice Cream, New York City
These quirky New York City outlets entice customers with flavored soft-serve topped with wacky add-ons. Envelope-pushing items like the Salty Pimp (vanilla soft-serve, dulce de leche, sea salt, and a chocolate dip) and Mexican Affo'gay'to (spicy hot chocolate with vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, cayenne, and shaved chocolate) abound on the menu, while sea salt, Nutella, and dulce de leche are frequently incorporated into everything from traditional cones to cupped "Gobblers."
6) Molly Moon's Homemade Ice Cream, Seattle
Let us count the reasons why Molly Moon's is the best lick in the world: take sweet-and-savory flavors like Maple Bacon or Beecher's Flagship (read: Cheddar cheese, perfect for the à la mode portion of apple pie), add her hormone-free, locavore approach to dairy, factor in her adorable Boston terrier logo, and consider her philanthropic Anna Banana Milk Fund, and you'll conclude that Molly Moon is the fairy godmother of frozen treats!
7) Perché No!, Florence, Italy
Rumored to be Nigella Lawson's favorite gelato haunt, Perché No! features exotic, intense flavors like ginger root and sesame crunch. Big believers in the slow food movement, Perché No! makes each batch of gelato fresh every morning. Put this on your "must visit" list for Florence.
Dingle, Ireland: With the motto 'Ice cream that knows where it's coming from,' you can be reassured that Murphy's small batches of artisanal flavors like Irish Brown Bread or Goat's Cheese and Caramelized Shallot are creamed with care by brothers Kieran and Sean.
(Photo: Manuela Dei Grandi, courtesy of Murphy's)
8) Murphy's, Dingle, Ireland
With the motto "Ice cream that knows where it's coming from," you can be reassured that Murphy's small batches of artisinal flavors like Irish Brown Bread or Goat's Cheese and Caramelized Shallot are creamed with care by brothers Kieran and Sean.
9) Bi-Rite Creamery, San Francisco
This San Francisco staple boasts flavors like balsamic strawberry and roasted banana that "rarely have more than five ingredients, no stabilizers, and nothing artificial." Bi-Rite also bakes every ice cream add-in, like brownies and peanut brittle, on-site.
10) Vaffelbageriet, Copenhagen, Denmark
This Copenhagen creamery specializes in excess. Its most popular menu item is the "Amerikaner," which can pack up to four scoops of ice cream into a cone and is topped with syrup, whipped cream, and a chocolate-covered meringue puff.
11) The Creamery, Cape Town, South Africa
The slow-food devotees who run this ice cream parlor rely on farm-fresh ingredients to create adventurous flavors including apple crumble & cream, mulberry yogurt swirl, and sweet potato with toasted marshmallow.
12) Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams, Ohio and Nashville, Tenn.
James Beard Award-winning chef Jeni Britton Bauer is at the helm of this grassroots - yet rapidly growing - chain. The company prides itself on "pure flavor in whatever direction moves us at any moment," which ranges from wildberry-lavender to poached pear and everything imaginable in between.
13) Eddie's Sweet Shop, Forest Hills, N.Y.
When you want old-fashioned, head to Eddie's. Featuring antique equipment and décor, this sweet shop will take you back to the good old days when whipped cream was made by hand, banana splits were served in metal bowls, and soda jerks could charm the girls right off their bar stools.
14) A.M. Scannapieco, Buenos Aires, Argentina
A quaint shop that has stood the test of time, A.M. Scannapieco serves more than 50 flavors of Italian gelato as well as old-fashioned ice cream sodas. Try one of five dulce de leche varieties - they're said to be delicioso!
15) Simmo's Ice Creamery, Dunsborough, Australia
With 20 years of creamery experience, 71 awards, and 60 flavors (like old English toffee and mango-macadamia) beneath its belt, Simmo's has proven to be a heavyweight in the dairy world. Their Dunsborough location boasts a park, mini-golf, and kids' activities, making this the ideal family-friendly dessert destination.