The origins of gelato – food of kings, emperors and pharoahs

Eating chilled desserts is nothing new – and the Egyptian pharoahs were among the first to serve ice sweetened with fruit and fruit juices to cool them down after a long trip up the Nile.

However, the Florentine dynasty, the Medici family, is perhaps responsible for the origins of gelato as we know it today. The Medicis held a competition to find the best frozen dessert and a farmer named Ruggieri devised a fruity, iced sorbet, which captivated the tastebuds of Catherine de Medici.

Later, the aptly named Bernardo Buontalenti was hired to prepare a banquet on behalf of the Medicis for the Spanish king – and based on Ruggieri’s sorbet recipe, Buontalenti took the frozen dessert a step further and served a creamy frozen dessert and thus gelato was born.

Ice cream

So the origins of gelato as we know it really date from the sixteenth century, thanks to one of the most powerful dynasties in history – though there is no record of what their favourite flavour might have been!

Gradually, it became popular in other European countries and America, with New York tasting its first gelato in the mid-18th century.

Today, no holiday to Italy is complete without at least one scoop of gelato! Recently, temperatures in Rome have reached 38° – and as it is illegal to bathe in Rome’s fountains, gelato has been flying out of the freezers.

If it is good enough for kings, emperors and pharoahs, it is good enough for the rest of us mere mortals. Buon appetito!

Ice cream cropped

Want to go to Rome now?

Download ROME ALONE and ROME AGAIN free at Amazon Kindle Unlimited or for £2.40 – and set off to the Eternal City for a a weekend of surprises, as unhappy housewife Bee and newly-divorced Alzheimer’s expert Dr Neil McCarthy leave from opposite ends of the country for a mini-break full of the unexpected that will change their lives forever. Return to Rome with them three years later and discover the forces at work which they never suspected on their first trip.

ROME ALONE was short-listed for the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook’s New Novel Centenary Award.

Both books contain sexual content, adult themes and dark humour which some might find upsetting. Also scenes of shopping, gelato, vino rosso, amore and Rome.











All images copyright Angela Meredith 2017



One thought on “The origins of gelato – food of kings, emperors and pharoahs

  1. And kulfi was a frozen custard with nuts and saffron that may have originated in the Himalayas where ice was freely available. Then it seems to have been popularised by the Mughals who had to bring ice down from the Himalayas to keep it cool. Again – this frozen dessert was a favoured food of kings and emperors!


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