The Carpigiani Gelato Museum – (3) Tales from Emilia-Romagna Culturequake Series

What is it about ice-cream that is so immensely and universally appealing?  Call me far fetched but I think it has something to do with the fact that, at some level, it reminds us of mother’s milk.  Yes, I know that mother’s milk — or bottled milk — is served warm and that ice cream is, instead, its opposite and thus cold.  Baby’s milk and ice cream are both proper foods, however, and yet we don’t need to ‘bite’ into either of them in order to gobble them up. When we ‘eat’ ice cream, therefore, maybe …. just maybe … what happens is that the remotest corners of our memory remember a time when it was bliss to ‘eat’ our mother’s mik. Proust said something olfactorally connected to a glimpse of the past with the ‘madeleine’, and I am saying something similar about ice cream and in an even more distant past time in our lives.


If you google today, you will read that “The Gelato museum will be closed from August 13th to August 27th.  Come and take a dive in a sea of gelato from August 28th on.”

First things first.  The Gelato Museum, i.e. a museum which is all about ice cream, really does exist and it is to be found between Bologna and Modena and it is most definitely worth at least a pit-stop visit if you are driving through Emilia Romagna.  It’s what I call a ‘chronologically and democratically correct’ establishment of culture insofar as it is guaranteed to offer snippets of interest for oldies, youngies and in-betweenies, for the high brow and the erudite, just as much as for the more practical minded, or for the historian, the nostalgia geek, and the design aficionado. It caters to all generations: children will love it just as much as the grumpy adolescent or the faltering senescent.

Secondly … Zagat has ranked this museum fifth place out of a total of its “7  Coolest New Museums Around the World” :  This is what the blurb says: “As if there weren’t already enough culinary justification for a trip to Italy, they had to go and open the Gelato Museum. Since September 2012, the museum has been “a center of cultural excellence dedicated to the understanding and study of the history, culture, and technology of gelato” – complete with original machines and accessories, images, and multimedia exhibits.”

Third: if you are into architecture and design, you will have a field day looking at how the former Carpigiani factory morphed into this beautiful new space : .

Here is a video about the museum:

There is an ice-cream centre in the museum … and we were greeted and treated to a demonstration on how ice cream used to be made by hand many many moons ago …

This is minutes before we sat down to our mini lecture.
We were given a proper and illuminating introduction by our delightful host, and editor of the Museum’s book Caterina Ghelfi.4 Our ice cream instructor in formal garb but in informal teaching style.5Taking note, jotting things down, observing and waiting expectantly.  Food writer Gareth Jones (, blogger and social media manager Miriam Sabolla, and Giulia Pretto, Logistics Coordinator extraordinaire of the IBC, Istituto dei Beni Culturali of Emilia Romagna.
6 In the background is a modern Carpigiani ice cream maker.  In the foreground, is a very old one, that relied on salt or saltpetre and ice and much elbow grease.7
This is the last photo I took because I offered to do the churning!!!  It would take at least half an hour to one hour of churning the fruit and sugar in this ice-cream maker before we’d get anything, so thankfully we were treated to some ice cream made on the spot by the modern machine.  It was kiwi ice cream and tasted very nice indeed, even though I can’t say kiwi is my favourite flavour for ice cream.  (Oh and if you are interested in making sorbet at home with strawberries, say, here is what you’ll need: 500g strawberries, 250g of sugar and 250g water — that and a good deal of patience).

A blogger who writes about child-friendly places was also there and mother and daughter enjoyed themselves a lot, I could see.

Viaggio nel tempo con il gelato – via ai più golosi laboratori didattici per bambini

The Bruto and Poerio Carpigiani Foundation was set up last year to drive the noble trade of artisan gelato, and it organizes courses, seminars, and training workshops worldwide.  The first workshop was held on 24 March 2012, celebrating European Gelato Day.  I remember growing up in Italy when gelato was only available during the more clement or warmer months of the year (March to September basically).  And my children practically grew up on it when it was available all year round.

Nasce la Fondazione Bruto e Poerio Carpigiani. La prima al Mondo dedicata al Gelato Artigianale.

Here are the two brothers, Poerio and Bruto Carpigiani.  They owed their initial success, however, to Otello Cattabriga.  In 1931, it was he who patented the ‘motogelatiera’, i.e. the first automatic machine for making gelato that forever changed the way artisan gelato would be produced from then on.  The Cattabriga motogelatiera was a true revolution because not only could it mechanically reproduce the scrape-and-stir movement that had been carried out manually before … but, now, it was also possible to incorporate air into the gelato, making it creamier, which is the signature of typical Italian artisan gelato.

This is all fascinating … I realise … but me?  I like the history and the gossip connected to ice cream.

I started reading a book a few months ago written by Lucy Lethbridge, called Servants – A Downstairs View of Twentieth-Century Britain.  In Chapter 23, she writes that Edwardian Royal Chef Gabriel Tschumi was disappointed by the modesty of the wedding breakfast that celebrated the 1947 wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten.  With restrictions demanded by the food industry, the meal was very simple fare compared to the gastronomic excesses of King Edward VII, “being merely a fish course (filet de sole Mountatten), a meat course (perdreau en casserole) served with beans, small new potatoes and salad, an ice cream dish with patisserie, and fruit” – Tschumi, Royal Chefs, pg 153.  Normally a fast reader, I am having trouble finishing this book because each chapter gets me thinking about what it must have been like to live before the 1950s if one did not belong to the affluent or middling classes.  But I had to smile when I came across the paragraph quoted above.   It makes total sense to me that ice cream should be on a royal wedding breakfast menu!, even when times were relatively hard (rationing in Britain began to be lifted in 1952 and did not fully end until 1954).   And whereas sherberts and ice and all things gelato nice used to be the preserve of kings and queens and courtiers and statesmen and affluent business men only, we are indeed fortunate that mechanization and industry have made it all so much more democratic now. There is something intrinsically cheerful about ice cream just as there is about champagne except that ice cream can be eaten by little people too, whereas bubbly’s alcohol content naturally makes it suitable only for more older folk.  Viva il gelato!  Vive la vie!

P.S. The seminal food writer, Elizabeth David, who brought Mediterranean cuisine to English readers and became a national institution in Britain, began researching on ice cream during the 1970s.  The result of nearly 20 years of work, published posthumously and finished by Jill Norman, was Harvest of the Cold Months – The Social History of Ice and Ices. It is a book I am determined to read and I can’t help but think that she, of all people, would have loved a visit to this museum!

Thank you Adriamuse project for organising it all.

P.S.  The late and very much loved Italian singer, Lucio Battisti, sang a song about March 21st being the time when the man with his little gelato cart would make the rounds loudly shouting out “gelati!” … The song was called “I Giardini di Marzo”.

Gelato Museum Carpigiani
Via Emilia, 45 40011 Anzola Emilia (Bologna)
Tel.: 0039 051 6505306


Other Tales from Emilia Romagna Culturequake Series:

About myhomefoodthatsamore

Community celebration via food, wine and all beautiful things.
This entry was posted in Anything sweet, Travel and Tales, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to The Carpigiani Gelato Museum – (3) Tales from Emilia-Romagna Culturequake Series

  1. Looks interesting! Did you learn any recipes?

  2. gareth says:

    A wonderful evocation of an afternoon in our lives. Ah gelato.
    I met with Jill Norman just after my return from Emilia-Romagna. She was fascinated herself by our Adriamuse tour. She’s a cultured lady of the old school.

  3. alanna says:

    Jo, ice cream and mother’s milk is certainly a juxtaposition I never considered. The new Museum carves another culinary notch in the belt of Emilia Romagna. Thanks for such a wonderful post!

  4. Wow! What a nice article! Thank you very much and I hope you enjoyed the day like it seems! 🙂

  5. Valentina says:

    This is what I call passionate writing and living… Thank you so much to come to our Gelato Museum josephina!!! Please, come Another time with your beloved ones!! My warmest regards Valentina (VicePresident Carpigiani’s Foundation)

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