My favorite gelateria in my home town of Perugia was not open year-round, so its first day of operation in the spring was an important event. Given the rich selection offered by gelaterie, eating gelato is an exploration not only of single flavors, but also of combinations of them. My favorite combination of flavors changed often and I alternated between asking for a dollop of panna montata (whipped cream) on top of my gelato and forgoing it. I also alternated between asking for a cono (cono) and preferring a coppetta (small cup). When I visited Palermo in 1980, I was introduced to brioche col gelato, an option that requires a bit of dexterity to be eaten without side effects (a.k.a., gelato stains on your clothes).
On a summer afternoon or evening, it is pleasant to stroll (fare una passeggiata) along the main thoroughfare of your city or town, meet friends, chiacchierare (chat) and mangiare un gelato (eat a gelato). This pleasant activity is made possible in many Italian urban centers, Perugia included, by the fact that the downtown area is completely or partially closed to traffic. In Perugia, the place for the leisurely stroll is Corso Vannucci. As teenagers, we called our walking up and down the street fare le vasche, which literally means to swim laps.
My husband is getting ready to eat as much gelato as he can, when we visit Italy later this year. I will look for gelaterie that participate in an interesting initiative called gelato a chilometro zero: master gelatai prepare delicacies using only local ingredients that do not need to be transported from far away. Those include not only locally produced milk and eggs, but also local fruit like quinces (mele cotogne), currant (ribes) and figs (fichi).
Some gelaterie only offer gelato to go (gelato da passeggio), while others have tables and you can sit down and order creations like gelato affogato al caffè (drowned in coffee), gelato affogato al liquore (drowned in a liqueur to be specified), and various compositions of different gelato flavors, sorbetti (sorbets), fruit, and other ingredients.
[This post was inspired by Maryann of Finding La Dolce Vita]
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