As the days get longer and we move into a new season, nothing is better than gelato. While eating gelato is national pastime during any season in Italy, it is the heat of Summer, nel caldo dell'estate, that makes this icy treat a daily must.
More than it's stateside ice cream cousin, gelato is an integral part of Italian culture. Sure, it's delicious like ice cream (some say more delicious), but grabbing a gelato and strolling the piazza during passeggiatta is commonplace.
The history of gelato goes back to ancient Rome when frozen desserts were made from ice and snow from the mountains then stored underground. In 1686, the first gelato-making machine was invented by a Sicilian fisherman, Francesco Procopio die Coltelli, but it wasn't until the first gelato carts were developed in the 1920s that the frozen treat became an Italian staple.
Today, you will be hard pressed to travel a city block without encountering a gelateria. As with most things Italian, most gelaterias are family-owned and the gelato is hand-crafted on site. In fact, Italy is the only country where the creation of this icy treat is made more by artisans than by industrial companies.
As summer comes your way, consider taking a walk in the early evening heat with hand-crafted gelato in hand. Delicious, cool, refreshing...and we would be remiss if we didn't mention, lower in calories, fat and sugar than ice cream. Better yet, come to Italy and enjoy gelati (that is plural for gelato, because, well, you can't just have one). Andiamo!