Gelato Amore mio

Gelato Amore Mio:  Is ice cream( GELATO)  from Italy? How is Italian ice cream made? Who made the first ice cream?

gelateria il masgalano
gelateria il masgalano

IL GELATO  is for sure one of the best loved Italian food and even though you may read many different stories about its origin, the first type of ice cream-like dessert dates back to Roman Emperors. Back then it was not ice cream as we know it, since there was no milk or cream. It was rather a sorbet, with ice as base,  very similar to what it is now called SORBETTO and GRANITA: ice flavoured with fruit juices or flavourings. Romans knew how to store snow and ice for food and cool drinks.


As evidence of this, an old recipe written by Pliny the Elder was found , showing their concept of sorbet : “a drink made of finely chopped ice and honey mixed with another portion of ice and juice fruit”

However, the truth about  Gelato is that  it was introduced to Southern Italy by the Arabs together with sugar cane (ZUCCHERO DI CANNA).  They used sicilian mountain snow and fruits juices to make Sharbat – sweet snow- ( can you see the connection with the Italian word Sorbetto?) or “Sharber” ( to sip) from Turkish.


The spread of ice cream originated from Sicily, where the master ice-cream makers learned from the Muslims all the new techniques for the preparation of a more refined and lighter ice-cream.  GRANITA is a typical Sicilian dessert generally made with crushed ice and lemon, orange or mint .   It has a slush-like consistency while SORBETTO may have small amount of milk  in it and in America it’s known as Italian Ice

During the period of Alexander the Great (Alessandro Magno)  it is said that holes were dug in the ground (called NEVIERE – Snow storage) that were used for the conservation of snow to provide a supply during long campaigns for making drinks mixed with honey and fruit juice to cool off in the hot summer months.

So iced-dessert were definitely popular in the ancient world , but what about the creamy desert we know today? For its creation, we must thank a Tuscan lady who introduced it by the way of France all around Europe.


Caterina de Medici ( great food lover ) Queen of France, married to Henry II d’Orléans, took to Paris her troupe of chefs from Florence and it was with her that lemon sorbets started to be served at dinners. Caterina is also credited with the invention of the small rounded sweets nowadays known as the very French macarons together with many other Florentine recipes that are recognized as French Cuisine.

Crema gelatera Siena
Creme gelateria Siena

The link between Gelato and Florence has a quite long story behind.

coppetta o cono
coppetta o cono

Chronicles tell about a competition between Bernardo Buontalenti and Ruggeri, both at Caterina’s court. Maybe Ruggeri was the true inventor of the original recipe, but it was Buontalenti who added eggs , making it even more delicious and he was also the one who invented the first equipment  to make ice cream

A Curiosity:  in Parco delle Cascine, in Florence, one can find a small ancient pyramid: it was a real kind of freezer dating back to Renaissance and used to store ice.


gelato artigianale
gelato artigianale

Finally, how do you eat it? Do you prefer a cup or a cone? Do you know that the Cone was ideated by Italo Marchioni, born in Peajo di Vodo di Cadore, Belluno  Ice cream-maker, he emigrated in America ( as numerous bakers and ice cream makers from the Dolomites), and came up with the idea of a crispy wafer to be shaped as a cone to hold ice crem while enjoying a stroll . Creative example of street food and innovative food design , it was the first food container that was food itself and gained the Patent in United States on December 13th  1903. It was patent N. 746971, a simple number sequence that changed Italo’s life and eating habits for generations.

If you think about it, life is all about simple things!


Are you Gelato lovers like we are? You should then follow us during one of our workshops to meet the best ice cream makers in town and see with your own eyes all the steps involved in making the best ever gelato

Would you like to know the best of the best GELATERIE in Tuscany? Follow Chiara’s Tuscany , we have our secret list of excellences from big cities to small villages along the sea coast.

ITALIANO & GELATO Tour and Workshop with Ice cream tasting @Chiara’s Tuscany. For info contact us

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