Italian Ice and gelato are welcome refreshments in the intense heat of Italy, where the icy confections are served at cafes and sidewalk stands. I was able to experience several Italian Ice and gelato confections in Italy, in a variety of flavors. Italian Ice and gelato are extremely popular in italy, with their icy goodness offering cooling refreshment during the heat of the Italian weather.
Italian ice and gelato are related but different. The Italian Ice consist of shaved, or pureed, ice with flavored with sweet syrups. Gelato is an Italian variation of ice cream, creamier than ice but not as creamy as ice cream. The gelato treats have a gelatin base and a lower butterfat content than American ice cream. Some of the fruit flavored treats are technically sorbets, since they do not contain milk.
The frozen concoctions come in a variety of flavors that seem to be limited only by the imagination. Some of the popular flavors were lemon, chocolate, coconut, raspberry, cherry, mango, orange, strawberry, pistachio, almond and fig.
The very first food I purchased in Italy was in the Rome train station, where I purchased a cone with a scoop of raspberry and a scoop of chocolate gelato. After an overnight flight and a train ride from the Rome airport to the main train station, the case of colorful gelato was a welcome sight. The freezer case was filled with bins, each filled to the brim with a colorful gelato. The signs were in Italian, so it was not easy to decipher all of the flavors, but going by color I selected a raspberry and a chocolate. The server put a generous scoop of each into a cone for 4 about Euro ($4-5 US). The richly flavored gelato was delicious and refreshing to this tired out traveler.
On the Isle of Capri, I sat in an open cafe overlooking the Mediterranean Ocean while eating a dish gelato along with a cookie and drinking a cappuccino. I felt totally pampered by the experience.
My favorite icy refreshment came from a sidewalk vendor outside of St. Peter’s Cathedral in Rome. The August sun was overbearingly hot and I would have probably welcomed any kind of hydration, but what I got was an experience and a treat.
The stand was manned by a solo gentleman who let me peruse the sign to select a flavor. The sign was in Italian, so I was not sure what to order. The top combination was listed as limon, cocco and amarena. I could recognize limon as lemon and cocco and coconut, but amarena was a mystery. Nevertheless, the lemon and coconut sounded like winners, so that is what I ordered.
The gentleman carefully lifted a slab of ice, wrapped in a towel, and treating it like a precious treasure, he unwrapped the ice. He handled a sharp blade with a flourish, as he started shaving the ice. He would fill the plastic cup and press down the ice and then shave some more until the cup was heaping full with shaved ice. He then added the flavors from individual bottles, pouring the sweet syrup to the ice. The amarena turned out to be black cherry flavor, so the ice was colorful. He sprinkeled the ice with small chunks of coconut and served it with a straw. I felt like I had witnessed a glimpse of the old way of making ice and enjoyed the process. The ice was 3.90 Euro ($4-5 US).
Needless to say, the Italian ice was a rare treat, a cooling refreshment from the heat as I stood in the hot Rome sidewalk. It turned out to be one of the memorable moments of the trip.
The Italian Ice and gelato stands were plentiful in southern Italy. Although I did get to try many of the treats, I now wish I had tried more of the flavors and different icy refreshments while I was in Italy.
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