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What Is Gelato?

For many the best ice cream in the world is Italian gelato. What makes it so unique?

You've just had a great meal at a little trattoria in Italy. You're walking down the street enjoying the summer evening. What can make it better? Gelato! Few pleasures surpass the irresistible flavors of gelato.

Italian ice cream is inviting with its fresh tastes and bright colors. The history of gelato is as old and honored as the Roman Republic. The ancient Romans would bring ice from the mountains and cover it with honey. Immediately people debated where the best ice was to be found and what was the best type of honey. In 1550, Bernardo Buontalenti of Florence created a gelato buffet for the King of Spain. He is credited with creating the modern version of gelato. Giovanni Basiolo brought gelato to north America in 1770.

Italians love gelato, but rarely make it at home. The act of walking to the nearby gelateria and enjoying a cup or cone is part of the Italian culture. You select from a vast array of flavors and enjoy it slowly, while watching the people and world around you. It's not to be rushed.

Gelato is lighter than American ice cream. It has a softer, richer texture. The flavors are vibrant and not-too-sweet. The selection is sometimes surprising. Black licorice? Delicious! The choices are only limited by the imagination of the creator. The higher milk content means that there is less butterfat in gelato. American ice cream uses more cream.

In the late 19th century Giacomo Fassi opened a little gelato stand, generations later the Palazzo del Freddo stands as a destination point for gelato fans. The Palazzo is located near the main train station and is one of the oldest gelaterias in Rome.

Fortunately more areas of the United States have gelato available. While recently driving in Foley, Alabama, I saw a large billboard pointing the way to a gelateria. I'm proud to say I didn't hit any cars changing lanes. While it wasn't the same as strolling down the streets of Vicenza with a cone of bacci gelato it was delicious.

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