We too have recently returned from Italy, where we ate much excellent gelato.
Perhaps the best was from Panne e Cioccolato in Menaggio, on Lake Como. This place is fabulous, leading us seriously to consider moving to Menaggio. My husband can't stop talking about the apricot flavor. We also really loved the melon, super-nocciola, and bicerin di cavour (chocolate, coffee, and nocciola). You also get to have your gelato while enjoying the million-dollar view of Lake Como from Menaggio. Unforgettable.
Others in the top tier: Carabe in Florence, and Nannini in Siena. Carabe has lots of unusual flavors, including a delicious prickly pear. Their nocciola and almond were also first-rate. Pear and fig were lovely, but more subtle. We did not try the granitas, but they looked delicious as well. We did not get to Badiani, so we can't comment on that.
Nannini in Siena has a very creamy chocolate, frutti di bosco packed with fresh berries, and an extraordinary tart-sweet limone. Overall a much creamier gelato than some other places.
Honorable mentions: Like another recent poster, we thought Vivoli in Florence was excellent. We were impressed with their very fresh fruit flavors, in our view the test of the good gelato place.
There's also a place in Manarola in the Cinque Terre, called something like "5 Terre Gelato Artigianale." This is very good, especially the fruit flavors. We tried frutti di bosco, arancia, apricot, and ananas. All had fresh fruit and tasted very fresh. Also very good nocciola.
We also ate other things. The highlights:
Sostanza, which we hit on the day after they came back from August vacation. So many posts about this I need not say more, except that the chicken in butter sauce is to die for.
Buca del Orafo in Florence. This is a little place near the Ponte Vecchio that is found by many tourists but is not at all touristy. It's a traditional trattoria, much like Sostanza. Primi piatti were first-rate -- we had a delicious pasta e fagioli and maltagliati al sugo (fresh handkerchief-like sheets of pasta in meat sauce). The latter was the best pasta dish I had the entire trip. Their grilled chicken was also really excellent.
Most interesting and unique meal: Joia in Milan. I haven't seen any posts about this place on this board. I'll probably be ripped up on this board for even mentioning a place like this, but here goes. It's haute vegetarian, and I've never had anything remotely like it. I suspect it's kind of like going to El Bulli in Spain. The best parts of the meal in terms of deliciousness were a soup with fresh porcini and creme fraiche, an apricot soup with cherry sorbet, other unusual sorbets (one parmesan, one dill), the cheese course, which I'm certain included many things you can't bring home to the US because they involve unpasteurized milk, and fabulous desserts. My husband's dessert involved five little desserts with a delicious vanilla cream, mine was a rhubarb cake with ricotta mousse. The most amazing dish we had was something called the Egg Apparent, which involved an egg yolk that had somehow been encased in a little cube of intense spinach flavor.
Honorable mention: We had a very good dinner in Manarola (Cinque Terre) at La Scogliera. I figure any time you get a very good meal in a place that touristy, you should spread the word. They put on a very solid menu of grilled fish and seafood, and, they had very tasty bread, which brings me to...
Biggest mystery: Why is the bread at restaurants in Italy so uniformly terrible? This was the case even at places where they really cared about the food, like Sostanza and Buca del Orafo? Seriously the only two meals we had the entire trip with bread worth eating were at Joia and La Scogliera. Someone please explain this to me.