A brief history of Gelato

Gelato: what a passion! Do you know where it comes from?

Summer might be far away, but what to say about those times when craving for gelato seizes us?

Delicious summer snack (nothing prevents you from tasting it in the winter either!), healthy if you choose fruity flavors, and treating if you prefer the creamy ones, licked on a cone or tasted in a cup with a spoon, it gives prompt energy. It has also calcium, phosphorus, Vitamin A, B1 and B2... this must be the reason why it is so well appreciated by adults and kids alike.

Gelato. Original author: su-lin

But, have you ever wondered who created such a palate’s delight? It seems that gelato takes its origin in Italy and... sorry? What did you say? You already knew it? Ok, that’s fine! Don’t worry, my story doesn’t end here!

So, I was saying that gelato was first created in Italy, and particularly in Sicily. Romans already used to add fruit juices to the snow taken on the volcano Etna, a practice that was refined by Arabs, who also added brown sugar thus creating the Sherbet, that’s what we know now as sorbetto.

It soon widespread in the other regions of Italy, like Tuscany for example, where a cooker, called Ruggeri, was known to make the best sorbettos. Indeed, he was chef at the Medici court, and when he moved to France along with the new queen of France, Caterina De’ Medici, sorbetto soon gained French noblemen’s approval too.

Some years later, in the 17th century, the production of sorbetto was perfected by Francesco Procopio dei Coltelli. Can you guess where we are? Always in Sicily!

Thanks to his grandpa’s machine, which was built to improve sorbetto making, the inquiring Francesco invented something like nowadays’ gelato by adding sugar and salt. Yes, you read well, salt indeed. A little secret to make the ice last longer.

Mounds of gelato
Mounds of gelato. Original author: Robyn Lee.

He moved to Paris, apparently everybody was fascinated by France and opened the Café Procope in 1686. His sweets and gelatos were so appreciated that king Louis XIV gave him an exclusive authorization to produce his “frozen waters” (nowadays water ice), sorbettos and gelatos.  

His café soon got such a fame to become the most famous artists’ hangout at that time. Actors and actresses, Voltaire, Balzac, Hugo, Diderot, Napoleon and Wilde. 

This way sorbetto and gelato overstepped noblemen’s courts and began to be known by the cultured French bourgeoisie. What happened afterwards ? I think you know that.

L'Arte del Gelato
L'arte del Gelato. Original author: Robin Lee.


it.wikipedia.org - Cucina sicialiana
sherbethfestival.it - Storia del gelato

All images released under Creative Commons license.

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