Gelato in Italy - Everything you must know

We loved Gelato and covered many posts of top Gelato shops around Italy, 

Table of Content

  • Who Invented Gelato and History of Gelato
  • Why is gelato so popular in Italy?
  • Differences between Italy Gelatos and US ice creams
  • What is the most popular flavor of gelato?
  • Does Gelato have milk? Is Gelato Better for lactose intolerant
  • Which is healthier, gelato or ice cream
  • Why does gelato melt so fast?
  • Why is gelato so expensive
  • Where Can I Find Good Gelato in Italy
    • City Guides of Gelato (Florence, Rome, Milan, and Venice)

Who Invented Gelato and History of Gelato

Ruggeri was a humble chicken seller who lived in the first half of the 16th century, who entered a competition sponsored by the De Medici court that sought to have competitors to “prepare a singular dish never seen before.” Ruggeri concocted a sorbet that was deemed to be the most delicious dessert the judges encountered. He delighted the people of Catherina dei Medici with his creation.

During the 14th century, Bernardo Buontalenti, also known as Bernardo Delle Girandole, a stage designer, architect, theatrical designer, military engineer, and artist from Florence, though of gelato by introducing milk and eggs to the mixture.

Around 1550 to 1600, he prepares a banquet for the King of Spain and gelato is served for the first time.

In 1686, Sicilian-born Francesco Procopio dei Coltelli, a fisherman, then started selling gelato in public and outside of Italy. He went to Paris and opened a cafe named after himself called "Cafe Procope", which quickly became one of the most celebrated meeting places of the literary establishment in France.

In 1770, Genoa-born Giovanni Biasiolo introduced gelato to New York, the US with a gelateria. There were sorbets and gelato to cater to different preferences.

In the U.S. in 1840, Nancy Johnson invented a hand-cranked ice cream maker. In Europe, a certain Fuller did the same, and now gelato became creamier and less icy than its predecessor.

In 1896, Italo Marcioni invented the first cone mold. In 1927, Otello Cattabriga of Bologna patented his new machine, which was essentially a perfected electric batch mixer.

Meanwhile in Italy, the art of traditional gelato making was still passed on in each generation, improved and perfected right up to the 20th century, when many gelato makers began to emigrate, taking their expertise to the rest of Europe. 

Overview of Gelato

In Italy, there are approximately 37,000 gelato shops; Gelato is part of Italian culture, and consumption is massive all year long. 

Although ice cream translates to gelato in Italian, they are different, especially to an

The main difference in the making of American ice creams and Italian gelatos is the churn rate. Gelato is churned slowly, so it whips less air into the product, which makes it denser, richer, and tastier.

Gelato comes from the Latin word gelātus, derived from gelū (“frost, chill”), ultimately from the Proto-Indo-European *gel- (“cold”).

Why is Gelato so Popular in Italy

The key reason is the taste, texture of gelato, and the health aspect. Unlike ice cream which can tastes artificial, gelato tastes richer and good. Chocolate gelato taste likes chocolate.

Besides tasting better, the texture is also different in your mouth. Nevertheless, it can be expensive since ice cream can be mostly air too (in case you didn't know).

In terms of health, it contains less fat too since it uses less cream.

Differences between Italy Gelatos and US ice creams

Gelato is also made in small shops, and usually fresh daily. This makes it taste different daily and unique.

The big brands in US factories mass produce ice cream and perform quality checking to ensure consistent texture and taste and have a longer expiry date. Given that fruits taste different seasonally due to harvest, do you know how it is done?

Similar to orange juices, real fruits like strawberries are made tasteless either by boiling them or cooking them for easier management of taste.

Although made from real fruits, ice cream can be made from these fruits that are tasteless and contain zero nutrition. These can be kept for much longer before they get added to ice cream. Additives such as vitamins and food flavoring will be added to the final product to create a consistent taste for your ice cream.

What are the most popular flavors of gelato?

The most popular flavor is pistachio in our opinion. It is not often you can find pistachio ice cream so pistachio gelato makes it popular among tourists.

Other popular flavors are usually nut flavored (e.g. hazelnut, almond) and also citric fruit-flavored (e.g. raspberry, lime, and lemon). Normal flavors found in ice creams like chocolate and strawberry are popular too.

Does Gelato have milk? Is Gelato Better for lactose intolerant or vegan

Sadly, most Gelato is not suitable for lactose intolerant because it has a higher proportion of milk than ice cream. Nevertheless, there is vegan gelato available too. 

If not, there are fruit sorbets, which are almost always vegan-friendly and suitable for lactose intolerant. Do ask as some still put milk protein into the sorbets.

Why does gelato melt so fast?

The reasons for gelato melting so fast are:

  • Very low fat so it cannot protect the gelato from melting;
  • The use of stabilizers (such as carob gum or guar gum) that reduces the melting rate; and
  • The temperature in Italy can be so hot especially with climate change.

Why is gelato so expensive

Gelato costs more expensive than ice cream because there is less air than ice cream.

Do you know air can take up to 30-50% of ice cream content?

Gelato also uses more milk than cream. Overall, that is is why gelato can cost more than ice cream by 30% to 50%, in addition to the better taste and texture.

Where Can I Find Good Gelato in Italy

To find a good gelato in Italy that Italians also love and shared to us, look at these posts:


Efforts have been made to get the information as accurate and updated as possible. If you found any incorrect information with credible source, please send it via the contact us form
Sky Hoon
Italy Lover. He travel to Europe a few times and loved Italy for its unique language and culture. He loved the idea of Italian food focusing on original taste of the ingredient.
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