9 gennaio 2023
by Guendalina Dainelli

The History of Italian Gelato


Tradition, taste, 100% Italian passion. Gelato. One of the best-loved craft confectionery products worldwide. But also something more: the ice cream industry generates around €2 billion a year and creates over 70,000 jobs, as reported by the latest survey by the trade association CGIA Mestre.

The data was produced for MIG 2022 (International Gelato Exhibition), which will reopen in Longarone from November 27 to 30, attended by industry players and stakeholders. It is an important and historic event, this year in its 62nd edition.

The first MIG dates back to 1959, and it was initially an occasion for the gelato makers from Zoldo and Cadore to meet up when they returned home after a season spent abroad selling ice cream. The Belluno valleys of Cadore and Zoldano have indeed been known throughout the world as the Valle dei Gelatieri (Valleys of the Gelato Makers) since, at the end of the 19th century, the artisan gelato makers from these areas made ice cream a popular and affordable food, with famous carts along the streets of the biggest cities of the Austro-Hungarian Empire

For the gelatai, immigrants in search of fortune, life was not easy, even from a bureaucratic point of view. In 1894, the Vienna authorities denied them a license for itinerant trade in order to prevent too strong competition for Austrian confectionery sellers. This led to the idea of renting small premises and furnishing them with benches and oil lamps: thus were created the first ice cream parlors.

It is no coincidence that it was a native of Cadore, Italo Marchioni, who emigrated from Peaio di Vodo di Cadore to the United States, who after various experiments, on 13 December 1903 (as confirmed by the Washington patent office) patented a mould for making ice-cream cones and wafers

In the early 1900s, the Gelaterie Venete (Veneto Ice Cream Parlors) — known by this denomination in different areas of Italy, such as the Adriatic coast, Tuscany and Umbria but also in Abruzzo, Lombardy and Piedmont — became a widespread phenomenon. Even then, Italian gelato makers had understood the importance of creating for themselves a unitary and well-identified image, which recalled the quality of the product offered according to an established and valued tradition. And it is no coincidence that it was precisely a homegrown native of Cadore, Italo Marchioni, who, having emigrated from the village of Peaio in Vodo di Cadore to the United States, and after various experiments, on December 13, 1903 (as confirmed by the Washington patent office) patented a mold for producing wafer and waffle ice cream cones.

When it comes to gelato, no one interferes with tradition. It is true that, in recent decades, the windows have been filled with the most inconceivable flavors, such as tomato, beer and even chili pepper. Please note, however, that the Longarone trade fair has dedicated the customary international Coppa d'Oro, the Oscar of ice cream, to none other than Malaga, a flavor which is almost on the verge of extinction. A warning to everyone, gelatai and enthusiasts: don’t mess with the classics!

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