Mid-may will see the start of the Italia Gelato Tour, an itinerant festival celebrating the traditions and protagonists of Italian gelato-making throughout the peninsula. Starting from the most beautiful piazze in Florence on May 17, the tour will proceed to Milan on May 31, then Turin on June 7 and finally Rome on June 21, promoting each city’s contribution to the history of Italian gelato.
While Florence is traditionally considered the birthplace of gelato, other cities and regions of Italy have also contributed to the evolution of what is known abroad as il vero gelato italiano. For the first time this year, the event organized by the Firenze Gelato Festival will be visiting three other Italian cities: Milan, Turin and Rome.
It were two Renaissance Florentines, Ruggeri and Bernardo Buontalenti, who independently came up with and improved the idea of a frozen dessert. Ruggeri is credited with the invention of the gelato as we know it today, while Buontalenti invented an innovative refrigerating technique which allowed him to further improve the gelato recipe. However, it was its introduction in France that made Italian gelato famous all over the world. See also: differences between gelato and ice cream.
In the capital of Lombardy, Milan, the itinerant festival will celebrate the beginning of the “modern phase” of gelato. It was in the north of Italy that gelato first hit the streets in the beginning of the 1900s. Some sources credit the Italian Giovanni Torre da Bussana with the invention of what were called “parigine” or “nuvole“, consisting of a portion of gelato compressed between two round or rectangular wafers, the forerunners of our gelato cones. Thanks to this convenient and light weight solution of eating gelato enclosed between two wafers, ice cream began to be sold on the streets of Milan, and from there went on to conquer the world. However, it was the northern Italian Italo Marchioni, who first patented the invention of the ice cream cone in the US in 1903.
The gelato tour will stop off in Milan from May 31 to June 2.
In Turin, a special tribute will be paid to the House of Savoy’s cook and confectioner, Giovanni Vialardi. In his book Trattato di cucina, Pasticceria moderna, Credenza e relativa Confettureria Vialardi made the first drawings of a gelatiera (ice-cream machine). In the 1800s, gelato hit the international stage, thanks to the great gelato makers of Turin and some of Turin’s famous coffee houses (especially caffè Fiorio), which were frequented by international visitors and celebrities.
Turin’s three-day program from June 7 to 9 will include workshops, meetings and full-blown shows devoted to the world of gelato. Top flavors will be created especially for the Gelato Festival.
In Rome, the Gelato Festival will grab back to even older traditions dating to ancient Rome. Two thousand years ago Romans already used to eat a sweet and refreshing food similar to sorbet, according to Pliny the Elder. It is said that the Roman emperors Nero and Elagabalus were particularly fond of this refreshing treat.
The Italia Gelato Tour will be in Rome from June 21 to 23.
Photo credits (top to bottom): Florence Gelato Festival (1, 2 & 5); © spinetta/Fotolia.com; Competition69