In Italy, dessert is more than an afterthought at the end of lunch or dinner. In particular, the Italian-style ice cream known as gelato is a highlight of any trip to Florence.
The supposed inventor of gelato, Bernardo Buontalenti, was a Florentine artist, architect and engineer who lived from 1531 to 1608, creating the frozen dessert for a banquet organized for the Grand Duke Cosimo I de’Medici. Today, “Buontalenti” can be found as a flavor of gelato in some cafes, most notably Gelateria Badiani which has the trademark for it.
Every year, there is a festival in which gelato makers from around Europe compete during the warm-weather months to be crowned the cream of the crop of gelato. The festival is held in stages, giving residents and visitors in several cities a chance to judge the best gelato in each stage. The top two most popular flavors in each stage convene in Florence at the end of the festival to be crowned the European champion by a panel of experts and public judges. A golden medal is then awarded to the overall winner.
By purchasing a “gelato card”, it is possible to try each flavor, to participate in the reserved events of the festival, and to cast your vote for your favorite gelato. The card can be purchased for individuals or for groups of up to five people, with the cost per person discounted for groups.
The Gelato Festival begins and ends in Florence, but stages happen in other Italian cities (Parma, Rome, Naples, Turin and Milan), as well as London, Berlin and Valencia. If you are a new resident or are considering short term rentals in Florence or Florence real estate, the festival is an ideal excuse to hop a train to visit the other cities that participate in the festival. Each town offers something different so there is no chance you or your tastebuds will lose interest.
Indeed, part of the appeal of the festival is that all competing flavors must be original. Some of the flavors featured in 2016 included tropical basil, chocolate-pear, coffee-fig, orange-cinnamon, and Greek yogurt with cranberry and nuts. In Milan, a Japanese-inspired flavor blended green tea and sweet red beans for an entry called “Kimono”. In addition to the maximum 16 competing entries in each stage, other flavors are available for sampling to holders of the festival’s Gelato Card.
Even in the months before and after the festival, the number of possible gelato flavors to enjoy around the city is a good reason to consider long term Florence rentals — to taste the seasonal gifts of the land, from fruit to nuts to herbs and plenty of unexpected combinations. Ice cream is not just a warm-weather indulgence: as the seasons change, the ingredients change to showcase the bounty of ingredients available to Italian gelato makers.