One of the things I loved about Italy during our early trips – GELATO. All around me. Loads of it. In bright colors. All for next to nothing. Families enjoying gelato in Italy on a Sunday afternoon. Couples strolling arm in arm with a cone of gelato, sharing each other’s flavors.
Then, I realized everything I knew about gelato was wrong.
Well, not quite wrong, just not quite what I expected.
Learning About Artisan Gelato in Italy
After all, my understanding of gelato in Italy was all of the places I saw in Rome, Florence, and even Umbrian hill top towns like Orvieto. Imagine a corner gelateria, with a dozen or more vats of gelato with exotic flavors like Nutella, crema, pistachio, stracciatella. The gelato was whipped and piled high in the vats, often with wisps of bright red strawberry, or bright purple blueberry peaking through. I would select my flavors based on what looked good. I got a few scoops and happily went on my way.
Oh was I so wrong. There is so much more to quality gelato in Italy.
When Yummy Italy introduced us to their favorite gelato shop, and to a man who was passionate about his gelato, my world was shaken.
We were expected to stop in for a little tasted of their gelato, and instead, we learned so much more. We had the opportunity to see gelato, and I mean real gelato, being made.
This gelateria uses natural products, no artificial flavors, preservatives, or colors. The gelato is not going to be bright red or purple, unless it is due to fresh fruits being added to the gelato. They may freeze fresh berries in the summer for use in the fall and winter – but they will not use artificial strawberry flavor in their gelato. This means that their gelato is not brightly colored like you see elsewhere in Italy.
This was my first revelation.
My second revelation came with respect to storage of proper gelato in Italy. They store their gelato not in giant vats, open to the air and the elements, but deep inside the counter top, temperature controlled, and covered by a metal lid. This storage method controls the temperature and the gelato is not exposed to oxygen or light. This, to me, was even more revolutionary. It is possible to control the temperature within a tenth of a degree!
We toured the gelato laboratory. I mean, a gelato laboratory, how exotic. We learned how they make gelato, watching Gabriele create a typical flavor, crema, which has the color of a custard. Although a full gelato making experience would include making the mixture from scratch, we just experienced a glimpse into the process.
Then, we tasted the gelato. It was almost orgasmic. It was obviously fresh, being served by the gelato maker who had just made it moments before. Cold, creamy, fresh, and sweet. This was true gelato in Italy. I will never be the same again.
Planning a Trip to Emilia Romagna?
Looking for more travel tips on Emilia Romagna, and how to eat the best food in Italy? My book The Food Traveler’s Guide to Emilia Romagna: How to taste the history and tradition of Italy, is available on Amazon now. If you are a NOOK reader, it is also available for download on Barnes and Noble.
We were hosted by Yummy Italy for this experience, but you can learn how to make gelato in Italy on one of their tours. For more information, click here.
For more about the food in Emilia Romagna, check out our Emilia Romagna Food Travel Guide.
Amber Hoffman, food and travel writer behind With Husband In Tow, is a recovering attorney and professional eater, with a passion for finding new food and drink destinations. She lives with her husband, Eric, in Girona, Catalonia, Spain. Together they have traveled to over 70 countries.