By Rosario Mariani, http://www.europebychoice.com
Summer 2015 is almost over and by now you must have had your fair share of ice cream for the year. But wait! If you are visiting Sicily in September, you must attend “la Sagra del Sherbeth” in Cefalù – gelato and sherbet festival – to enjoy all the varieties of gelato found throughout Italy.
This is the area where modern-day gelato got its start. History tells us that the Arabs who invaded Sicily took advantage of the snow of Mount Etna and saved it in deep caves for use during the summertime. The snow was then taken from the caves in July and August and flavored with juices from the many fruits found on the peninsula. They called this invention “Sharbat,” or “sherbet,” as we say in English.
By the 16th century, Bernardo Buontalenti, from Florence, delighted the court of Caterina de Medici with sherbet as a dessert that was modified to include new ingredients such as milk, nuts and other flavors. It was a big hit with the courts and, with the help of Sicilian-born Francesco Procopio dei Coltelli, gelato had officially arrived north of Sicily and prospered.
Catherine de Medici was fascinated with Italian cuisine and promptly took the recipe to France, where her husband reigned. Mr. Procopio was also invited to Paris, where he opened “le Café’ Procope”, on Rue de l’Ancienne. The Café is still open today and is the oldest restaurant still operating in Paris today.
Meanwhile, in Italy, the art of traditional gelato-making was passed on from father to son, improved and perfected right up until the 20th century, when many gelato makers began to emigrate, taking their expertise to the rest of mainland Europe and the Americas.
Rosario Mariani is the owner/CEO of Europe By Choice, which promotes travel to Italy and other select European countries. He has more than 40 years of experience in the travel industry, previously serving as Director of Italy Product for Italiatour and Club ABC Tours, and also in other positions with EuroFly, Alitalia and Air France.