With the approach of summer, students in our Italian Study Centers are beginning their search for the best, most authentic gelato experience. To help them on their quest, our ACCENT staff lead a series of gelato crawls, introducing students to some of their city’s hidden gems. This week, ACCENT Rome Programs Coordinator Alice Mangia discusses this spring’s gelato crawl, the history of the dessert, and some notable locations for delicious treats.
The weather is finally warm enough to live on gelato! Gelaterie and coffee bars everywhere sell cones and coppette (cups) filled with creamy, refreshing ice cream. But how do you recognize a good gelato?
This is what SBCC and UCEAP students tried to learn on ACCENT’s Gelato Crawl!
Where gelato came from or who really invented it no one knows. Traces of “sweet snow,” or snow mixed with fruit juices, can be traced back to the Bible, ancient Egypt, and even the Roman Empire.
Gelato as we know it today (made not only with fruit but also with cream and other flavors) dates back to the 16th century. Rumor has it, Bernardo Buontalenti, a native of Florence, delighted the court of Caterina de’ Medici with his creation.
But it was actually a Sicilian, Francesco Procopio Dei Coltelli, who first sold it to the public, introducing gelato to Europe. In Paris in 1686, he opened a café named “Café Procope,” which quickly became one of the most celebrated gelateria in Europe.
Meanwhile, in Italy, the art of traditional gelato continued to be improved and perfected until the 20th century, when industrial, mass-produced gelato began to spread .
On our hunt to find the perfect gelato, we tried to capture the Italian passion for artisanal ice cream by trying three gelaterie near the ACCENT Study Center.
First off, Gelateria del Teatro, which experiments with flavor combinations and is definitely not your average gelato! The second – I Gracchi– is hidden in the streets near Piazza Navona and follows traditional Italian gelato making. It is said that their pistachio gelato is the best in town. Last but not least, Gelateria Pica is an institution that all Romans know. Tucked away next to the Ministry of Justice, this little café saw the political history of Italy unfold.
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