lunedì 22 luglio 2013

Florence as the home city of ice cream

by Ilaria Gelichi

Ice cream has a long history, and it’s much older than one could imagine. Something similar to ice cream already existed in ancient times but it was quite different from ours: the custom of cooling milk, fruit and honey was already widespread in the Far East, Greek and Turkey but also the Romans during their banquets used to consume chopped fruit mixed with honey and snow. However, these "mixtures" looked more like a sorbet than our ice cream, and it is in fact during the Middle Ages that in Sicily are prepared the first sorbets and ices, thanks to a new technique of freezing fruit learned from the Arabs and refined by the Sicilians.

But it’s during Renaissance and in Florence in particular that comes the luck of ice cream, which at this point looks quite similar to the one we know. According to legend, a poultry seller named Ruggeri won with his sorbet a contest held by the lords of Florence, the Medici, becoming famous throughout the region. The "ice cream" was put into moulds of various shapes, realizing sculptures that amazed the diners. When in 1533 Caterina de' Medici married Enrico d'Orleans and moved to Paris, wanted Ruggeri with her, who brought to France the tradition of ice cream, giving rise to its spread throughout Europe. In the same period, another Florentine contributed to the birth of the ice cream as we know it today: Bernardo Buontalenti, who was famous mostly as an artist and animator at the court of Cosimo I de 'Medici and was the first to freeze a cream made with milk and eggs. Having received the task of organizing the festivities to welcome a Spanish delegation, Buontalenti organized theater performances in the gardens and along the river Arno, a great show at the Fortezza da Basso, fireworks and prepared a cream flavored with bergamot, lemon and orange, frozen with a mixture of his own invention. Historical records show that it was the brilliant artist in person to think up an important innovation to conserve the snow. During the winter, the snow was normally collected and pressed in cellars lined with straw to keep it longer. Buontalenti created special cellars with an interspace, filled with cork and lined with wood to allow the flow of water as the ice melted. These cellars were located outside the city walls, in Via delle Ghiacciaie (ghiacciaia means icebox) - a road that still exists.

So nothing better than enjoying an ice cream in its home city, Florence!

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