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Gelato is an age-old delicacy that dates back thousands of years with the very first frozen dessert made from snow and ice brought down from mountain tops and preserved below ground in ancient Egypt. Italy joined the culture of serving frozen desserts when the Romans began the ritual of covering ice from the volcanoes Etna and Vesuvius with honey and enjoying them as a sweet treat. It was during the Italian Renaissance when the great tradition of Italian Gelato began. The famed Medici family in Florence sponsored a contest, searching for the greatest frozen dessert. A man named Ruggeri, a chicken farmer and cook in his spare time, took part in the competition. Ruggeri’s tasty frozen dessert of sweet fruit juice and ice (similar to today’s Sorbet) won the coveted award, which immediately put Ruggeri in the spotlight. The news of Ruggeri’s talent traveled quickly and Caterina de Medici took Ruggeri with her to France. Caterina was convinced that only he could rival the fine desserts of French chefs – and had to make his specialty at her wedding to the future King of France.
In the late 1500s, the Medici family commissioned famous artist and architect Bernardo Buontalenti to prepare a beautiful feast for the visiting King of Spain. Using his culinary skills to present an elaborate and visually pleasing display, Buontalenti presented the King of Spain with a creamy frozen dessert that we now call Gelato. Buontalenti is considered the inventor of Gelato. Later, in 1686, the Sicilian fisherman Francesco Procopio dei Coltelli perfected the first ice cream machine but the popularity of Gelato among larger shares of the population only increased in the 1920s to 1930s in the northern Italian city of Varese, where the first Gelato cart was developed.

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