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

Now the weather is doing its best to heat up – at least in some parts of the world – for many of us, our minds turns to one thing: gelato.

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

Gelateria by night

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! As it is illegal to bathe in Rome’s fountains to cool down, gelato flies 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. My favourite flavours of gelato? Mango and pistachio! Buon appetito!

Ice cream cropped
Gelato – food of the pharoahs

Want to go to Rome now?


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In VERONA ALONE, newly divorced former cellist Moira decides to fulfil a girlhood dream of visiting Verona during the summer opera season. There she is taken under the wing of a quirky and generous American who appears to have a secret, which is only discovered when she finds herself all at sea with him. VERONA AGAIN sees three couples fight to save their relations – who will succeed, who will fail and who will lose the love of their life?



All books contain adult themes, dark humour and sexual content.

All images copyright A. Meredith

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