We owe it to Bruto and Poerio Carpigiani, the two brothers who spread gelato technology, culture, and business throughout the world. They have played a huge role in the evolution and reach of gelato over the last century. This can be traced at the newly opened Carpigiani Gelato Museum, just outside of Bologna in Italy. The museum is located at the current Carpigiani world headquarters, which also houses Carpigiani University, showrooms and a test kitchen.

The museum highlights three principal themes regarding gelato: the evolution of gelato over time, the history of production technology, and the places and means of consuming gelato. The first form of frozen desserts was documented in 12th century BC. The Arabs, Greeks and Ancient Romans, all were fascinated by the unique blend of snow and sugar that satisfied their sweet cravings and left them refreshed on warm days. It was between the 16-18th centuries that gelato and sorbet evolved into what they are today. Back then, it was a delicacy enjoyed only by the aristocrats.

There are photos at the museum that show some of these lavish banquets where “ice cream” was served as a unique dish to show off one’s wealth. Sugar was a high price commodity that only the rich could afford.

Once industrial ice cream machines made it to the market, the consumption of ice cream sky rocketed. History traces a few gelato artisans from the Florence region who migrated across Europe to open the first gelato shops on the planet.

The museum showcases original machines and accessories, historical images and documents. One can also see trends in cone molds, cake molds, serving spoons, cups and more. Even if you are not interested in the food industry, you feel like you have stepped back in time, or are watching an old movie from the black-and-white days.

If you are a connoisseur of food history, this place is for you! Although the museum is not very big, every piece of information is insightful and strategic.  And you certainly can’t leave this important place of European food culture without tasting it. The test kitchen right outside the museum sells gelato, coffee and pastries made by the students practicing at the university. I have to say, a bite of the “orange gelato with cookies” will take you from Bologna straight to Heaven!

The Carpigiani Gelato Museum is open Monday-Saturday but an appointment is needed to go inside the museum. Call or email at least a day before. They also have workshops and gelato making classes so try to spend a day there. Also, getting to the museum is easy if you have a car. On the bus, it can take almost an hour from Bologna’s central train station. For more information and reservations contact www.gelatomuseum.org;  Phone +39 051 6505306; Email info@fondazionecarpigiani.it

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