This month, seven miles outside of Bologna in the municipality of Anzola dell’Emilia, the Bruto and Poerio Carpigiani Foundation opened a museum dedicated to the Italian staple: gelato. The museum details the history of gelato, beginning with the ancient quests for ice partaken by Mesopotamian servants to serve at festivities and religious ceremonies. The Romans, adopting the Arabian invention of sugar syrup (shrb), created a royal treat flavored with more than 400 different types of flowers. In the 16th century, alchemist and astrologer Cosimo Ruggieri of the well-known Medici family synthesized what we know as modern gelato in Paris, where gelato became a local phenomenon. In the first half of the 20th century, gelato became popularly available with the invention of the cone, mechanical automation, and post-war batch freezers. The second half of the twentieth century saw gelato become the Made in Italy cultural phenomenon of today.
The museum has a strong focus on the recent history of gelato, particularly the involvement of the Carpigiani company, famous for its gelato machines and its sponsorship of the Carpigiani Gelato University, where students can learn the artisanal production of gelato. On display in the museum are more than 20 antique gelato machines as well as numerous documents, video interviews, and workshops. A multi-language tour is available to direct visitors through the history of gelato from the late 19th century until today. The trip is sweetened by an optional tasting at the end of the tour, with a sampling of gelatos available for purchase.
The website of the museum, available in English and Italian, can be found at www.gelatomuseum.com.
For more culinary and cultural inspiration, check out Pamela’s Sweet Peach blog, www.sweetpeachblog.com. She recently ran a special on food, culture, and design of Italy, focused on the Emilia-Romagna region.
NIAF thanks Joe Barrows, a senior at Georegtown University, for submitting this post.