History of Gelato
Gelato has been around since the 16th century! It is difficult to pinpoint the exact origin, but Bernardo Buontalenti is usually credited with its creation. Buontalenti was a stage designer in Florence and worked for the powerful (and wealthy) Medici family. The Grand Duke Cosimo I de;Medici wanted to organise a celebration, Buontalenti made a frozen dessert made of ice, sugar, egg, honey and milk. It was flavoured with bergamot, lemons, oranges and wine. He is also credited with inventing a cold storage so this frozen dessert could be made all year around.
Once the word was out about this frozen dessert, people started to recreate it, later spreading throughout the rich families of Europe. It is believed that a Sicilian started to sell gelato to the public in Paris around 1686, before then it was only a food for the rich, as they were the only ones able to afford ice and other ingredients.
Cones were invented in the 20th century as well as mechanisation of production techniques and soon it wasn’t long before the design of the automatic ice cream machine.
Pay attention to colour
When choosing the best place to get gelato, one of the tips is to look at the colours. Like with most things, bright colours, like neon yellow banana, will contain additives and it won’t have the full natural flavour, texture or authenticity of truly good gelato. Also, try to avoid gelato shops where the gelato is piled high in the metal dishes, these are interesting to look at, but not the authentic product.
So, you have picked the gelato shop that you want, what next?
When shops are busy, you generally will pay first. So you must decide if you want a cup (coppa) or cone (cono) and then tell them how many scoops/ what size/ how many flavours. Keep hold of the reciept and move along to the ice-cream counter!
At the gelato counter
Now, you get to choose your flavours. In most shops, cream-based and fruit-based are on separate sides. Italians don’t tend to mix fruit (sorbet style) with creamy ice cream, hence the separation.
Choose your flavours and enjoy your gelato.
Queuing in Italy is practically non-existent! They will happily walk up to a counter when you are next, they only good thing about this is they expect you to do it too. I have a feeling they respect people more for barging in.
It is okay to ask for samples to taste, but choose carefully which ones, I would suggest one or maybe two tastes before you could start to annoy people. We also suggest that you only ask for samples when the shop is not busy. There aren’t usually horrible flavours and if you ask which flavours go well (or the Italian phrase ‘does it marry well’) the server will offer you a suggestion and you may discover a new flavour or combination.
Italian words and phrases for ordering gelato
Gusto – flavour
Gusti – flavours – Due gusti (2 flavours/ 2 scoops)
Due palline – two scoops
Un cono – a cone
Una coppa – a cup
Una coppetta – a small cup
Cestina – wafer
Pagare – to pay
Pagare alla cassa – pay at the till
Lo Scontrino – the receipt
il banco – the counter
un attimo – one moment
si sposa bene – marries well – Cosa si sposa bene con lemone? What goes well with lemon
prego – you’re welcome or it can be used to indicate the server is ready to take your order
dimmi – tell me, used to indicate the server is ready to take your order
per favore – please
grazie – thank you
con panna – with whipped cream, asked if you would like to have whipped cream on your gelato
una coppa con cioccolato e vaniglia – a cup with chocolate and vanilla
un cono limone per favore – a cone with lemon please
Vorrei un cono piccolo – I would like a small cone
Quali gusti? – which flavours
Piccolo – small
Medio – medium
Grande – large
Caffe – coffee
Cioccolato – chocolate
Cioccolato bianco – white chocolate
Cream – cream/ custard
Vaniglia – Vanilla
Caramello – Caramel
Amarena/ ciliegia – cherry
Cocco – coconut
Fragola – strawberry
frutti di bosco – forest fruit
Limone – lemon
liquirizia – liquorice
Pesca – peach
menta – mint
Pistacchio – pistachio
melone – melon
We have a wonderful walking tour with stops for Gelato!