Old Italy Loved Ice Cream
The making of ice cream, in those days, was a labour of love requiring lots of ice - harvested from glaciers in the mountains and transported to towns and cities up to the late 19th century.
Old Italy Loved Ice Cream
Though for a long time thought to be as a luxury product - enjoyed primarily by only the elite society in days gone by - it turns out that ice-cream was being sold, three centuries ago, to the general public on the streets in Naples, long before freezing technology.
The making of ice cream, in those days, was a labour of love requiring lots of ice - harvested from glaciers in the mountains and transported to towns and cities up to the late 19th century, which saw industrial refrigeration being introduced, though olden times also saw snow being gathered, made into ice via compression, then kept cold for months in pits
Early ice cream-making history of suggests snow providing inspiration for frozen treats - in Roman times, apparently, Emperor Nero created iced desserts by having slaves mix fruit and honey into buckets of snow brought from the mountains by slaves.
King Charles I of England supposedly had his personal chef make frozen sweets, and wife of Henry II -Catherine de' Medici - had Italian chefs imported to her court in France because they knew how to produce flavoured ice, though it was the 17th century
Bernardo Buontalenti, who first conceived what is known as gelato.
Historian at the English Cambridge University, Melissa Calaresu, made it clear, however, that ice cream, in southern Italy at least, was not reserved for the elite, because stifling Neapolitan summer heat presented a lucrative market for cool refreshments.
Neapolitan ice consumption soon made it into an important commodity, on a par with grain and oil, not only being taxed but also subjected to price regulation and recording. So popular was it, in fact, that 18th century English travel writer Henry Swinburne wrote that a scarcity of bread would not be more severely felt than a failure of snow in Naples.
18th century Naples was the third largest city in Europe then - a stopping point on the rite of passage - undertaken by middle and upper class young men from Northern Europe - known as the Grand Tour, an
Achille Vianelli, engraving showing a sorbet vendor selling his ices near the Castel Nuovo.
Several museums and collections contain examples of silver and porcelain ice cream containers, though little is known about those used on streets, which could easily have been either re-usable pewter bowls, though from the mid-19th century, street vendors served up in thick glass bowls known as penny licks, which customers would lick clean before handing them back for reuse, though hygiene worries led New York City Italian, Italo Marchioni, in 1896 to invent a pastry cup, the forerunner to the cone we are so familiar with today.