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Gelato Museum Carpigiani

Submitted by on May 25, 2014 – 8:07 amNo Comment

italy_gelato-museumJust when Road Trips Foodies think they know it all, along comes something new.

Take gelato, for example. This frozen confection resembling ice cream (but which must contain at least 3.5% butterfat) is a staple of Italy that has spilled over that country’s borders.

Did you know that it has its origins in the Middle East in prehistoric times? That’s just one of the things you’ll learn at the Gelato Museum Carpigiani, Via Emilia 45, Anzola dell’Emilia, Italy.

Italians — and other Europeans — tend to eat ice cream as a street food virtually year ’round. While in the States, ice cream shops close once summer has faded, you’ll find vendors everywhere on the streets of Rome virtually year ’round.

But for the definitive word on this frozen treat, you must schedule a visit to the Gelato Museum Carpigiani. It’s not something you can do on a whim: all visits must be set up on advance.

Inaugurated in September 2012, the museum is dedicated to the understanding and study of the history, culture, and technology of gelato and the expertise of the innovators who drove its evolution over the centuries.

It features an interactive tour that highlights three principal themes regarding gelato: the evolution of gelato over time, the history of production technology, and the places and ways it is consumed.

The story of gelato starts about 12,000 BCE with snow. In Mesopotamia, dispatch runners traveled one hundred kilometers on foot to get the snow and ice necessary to cool the drinks served during the royal banquets and religious ceremonies held at Mari Palace. During endless feasts, the Romans paraded their gold and silver colj nivarum, using them to filter the snow. The Arabs developed shrb (sugar syrup) and in Palermo, Sicily, they grew 400 different types of flowers to flavor their sorbets.

By the time of Renaissance in Italy, Caterina de’ Medici and Cosimo Ruggieri, celebrated alchemist and astrologist, traveled from Florence to Paris — and they may have brought the sorbet as well.

The Renaissance architect Bernardo Buontalenti is credited with the egg cream gelato, but Francesco Redi and Lorenzo Magalotti made it famous by singing its praises and describing its ingredients.

Francesco Procopio Cutò, later known as François Procope des Couteaux, sold sorbets to Parisian intellectuals in his café. The Neapolitan doctor Filippo Baldini wrote that sorbet is “good both for your body and your mood”.

By Victorian times, gelato and sorbets started to play significant roles in the menus of important luncheons and suppers. Sorbet, gelato, hard treats, and frozen creams appeared in the haute cuisine recipe books.

With the invention of artificial ice, gelato moved out into the streets with the help of street vendors pushing their carts in search of new customers. It was a new era: a powerful host of Zoldan, Cadorean, and Friulian gelato artisans spread gelato throughout the world.

By the 20th Century, gelato was sold in cones to make it easier to eat on the street. Gelato shops sprang up in towns, and The Gelato Manual was published in Italy. Machines from the automatic Motogelatiera to other more sophisticated post-war batch freezers were developed.

The museum’s 1000 square meters are home to 20 original machines, multimedia presentations, 10,000 historical images and documents, original tools and accessories and video interviews.

It is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday. Check your options: there are all sorts of hands-on workshops that can be included with the guided tour. Advance reservations are required.

The Gelato Museum is located in the Carpigiani headquarters at Anzola dell’Emilia, within an industrial space which has been transformed to study and analyze artisan gelato’s history. The museum is part of the Bruto and Poerio Carpigiani Foundation, established in 2011 to promote the culture of gelato.

(Photo courtesy of the Gelato Museum)

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