• 2023.02.14
  • Cold and sweet as only gelato can be.
Water and milk are the ingredients from which the entire ice-cream business started, and still today they remain the basic elements for making ice-cream and sorbets of all kinds.
We know that in Genoa the snow trade (yes, snow!) was so important in the past as to require the need to organize a dedicated municipal tax, in order to regulate its taxation and sale. The snow tax remained in place for over two centuries (between the mid-17th century and the end of the 19th century) even if the trade of ice certainly cannot be limited to that time span. During the winter, the snow from the Ligurian mountains was collected, stowed and stored in dedicated ice houses, in the form of underground constructions similar to large stone wells, within which, according to a punctual and consolidated technique, the pressed snow would be transformed into ice. Between Spring and Summer, the blocks were sold, among other products, to ice cream artisans as a basic ingredient for diluting and cooling fruit juices and syrups, or as an essential ingredient for the correct functioning of carapigne, ancestors of the current ice-cream containers in which to make the product.

At the Palazzo Spinola art gallery in Genoa, which can be visited, it is possible to take a look at the archives of the Spinola family, one of the most important Genoese families of the 19th century.
You can therefore get a brief insight into the various ice creams on sale in Genoa in the early decades of the that century. The bills sent to Sir Spinola contained interesting facts about the ice-cream flavors available in those times such as lemon and strawberry sorbets, whipped cream and chocolate, bitter orange or dark chocolate and their traditional recipes.
Shaved ice was also popular and it came in flavors such as peach, lemon and strawberry back then.
Panera, the classic Genoese semifreddo made with cream and coffee powder, still widespread and appreciated today, comes from those times.
Ice-creams could be bought then at little makeshift cafés or from street vendors who, with their suggestive carts and bells to attract customers, distributed the refreshing products everywhere, bringing the art of Ligurian ice-cream making even beyond national borders into France and beyond.
Another popular Ligurian flavor which is popular all over Europe now is Paciugo, a very rich ice-cream that is said to have been created from the imagination of an ice-cream maker from Portofino. In the Ligurian dialect paciugo means ‘mess’ and it has a somewhat negative meaning but its name is due to the mixture of different flavors.


The most recent trends are leaning towards a ‘gourmet ice cream’, or better ‘gelato’ as the Italian tradition dictates.
The new frontier in the art of gelato or sorbet sees the use of savory or sweet flavors that derive from vegetables, cheeses or any other ingredient capable of representing the right combination with a dish.
And the famous Genoese basil has proved to be particularly versatile both for giving flavor to different variations of gelato and for characterizing as many sorbets.

The great master gelato makers devote an almost maniacal attention to the ingredients and small details of the production process, since keeping in mind the foundations for a good gelato is also essential when looking towards the future and gelato festivals and competitions are organized in Liguria every year.
The creativity of Ligurian artisans has no limits and among the new challenges there is also the idea to use Prescinsêua, an ancient product that dates back to the 15th century.
Prescinsêua is an essential ingredient for many preparations of typical Ligurian cuisine, such as vegetable pies and ravioli.
A local gelato master created a creamy flavor using prescinsêua sweetened with local honey and variegated with saffron.
Also chinotto flavored gelato is another example of that.
Chinotto, which is also a Slow Food Presidium (it means it is included in a list of local products protected by the Slow Food Association), is one of the new gourmet gelato flavors that has as main ingredient this bittersweet citrus fruit.


  • Patrizia Margherita
  • Jobtranslator, interpreter, teacher

Although she was born in Italy, she is half Italian and half American and she has become a "multicultural person" who can speak five languages. She has lived and worked in the US, Brazil, Australia, France and the UK so she considers herself a citizen of the world. When she is not teaching or translating, she likes cooking Italian food, hiking and traveling around the world...She has traveled to 80 countries and counting!

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