Learning the Italian language is a little like learning to ride a bike. It seems simple at first (after pizza and pasta, bella and baci, ciao and grazie what else do you need to know). It is a relatively easy language to read and speak because it is phonetically spoken, meaning that you sound out the letters speaking it the way it is written. And if you believe everything you read on the Internet Italian must be the easiest language to learn. Almost every Google search for learning Italian brings up the following
- Easy Italian Learning
- Learn Italian in 10 days
- Learn Italian in 10 minutes
- 10 Ways to Instantly Learn Italian
But like learning to ride a bike it does take time and a dedicated effort and if you lose your balance you’ll be sure to take a fall, like my friend did when he tried to order a cone of gelato in Italy.
The set up – When ordering gelato in Italy you will be presented with a staggering array of flavors and colors displayed like works of art. It is easy to become overwhelmed by the sheer number and variety of flavors with names like lampone (raspberry), limone (lemon), stracciatella (chocolate chip), gianduja (chocolate hazelnut) frutti di bosco (“fruits of the woods” –wild berries), mela (apple), pera (pear) and pesca (peach). And here is where my friend lost his balance. “Vorrei un cono con pesce gelato per favore (I should like a cone with FISH gelato). Of course he meant pesca (peach) gelato. The Italian word for peach (pesca) is very close to the Italian word for fish (pesce). He lost his balance over a word ending and everyone laughed in good fun.
Leonardo and Alice. These are not the names of two characters from a 14th century Italian novella or a recently discovered secret diary of Leonardo da Vinci. Leonardo and Alice are the names of two flavors of gelati at Riva Reno Gelateria on Via G.Mazzini 12 in Ferrara. With typical Italian sprezzatura ice cream becomes an art form and as such takes on a personality that requires more than a mere labeling of chocolate or vanilla.
Like a work of art people take pause, gaze and in this case take a lick and if they’re at Riva Reno Gelateria you hear comments like “You can feel the ingredients”. The creamy, velvety texture, intense flavors and exclusivity of product have brought Riva Reno gelato many accolades including the Best Gelateria in Italy awarded by Golosaria Magazine in 2008 with more glowing reviews in Gambero Rosso, the Lonely Planet and the Michelin Guide. You can taste Leonardo (mascarpone with chocolate and hazelnut topping) and Alice (pronounced ah-lee-ch-ay) (pine nut cream with toasted pine nuts) in Ferrara or at Riva Reno Gelateria shops in Milan, Turin, Venice and Florence. Other Riva Reno specialities include Otello with chocolate, egg cream, Marsala wine, Barozzi chocolate and coffee cake, Morena a white cream gelato topped with candied sour cherries and syrup and Zafferano al sesamo with saffron cream and carmelized toasted sesame seeds. Like other gelateria in Italy, the more traditional flavors are also available. You can combine scoops of vanilla with chocolate chips(Stracciatella), pistachio, hazelnut, coffee, coconut and chocolate in a cup or a cone. Most gelateria will offer both so depending on your preference. When ordering, ask for either “una coppa” (a cup) or “un cono,” (a cone). Unlike an ice cream cone in the States, the ideal cone in Italy comes with two similar flavors (gusti) of gelato like nocciola (hazelnut) and ciccolato (chocolate). It’s also popular to order three flavors in a single cone or cup and they don’t necessarily have to go together!
Designer gelato reaches new heights in the Tuscan hill town of San Gimignano. In “la citta ’dalle belle torri”, the city of the beautiful towers, there is a 13th century octagonal cistern in the middle of the Piazza della Cisterna and a gelateria that serves some of the best artisan gelato in Italy with innovative flavors like Cream of Fina® Saint (cream with saffron and pine nuts), Champelmo® (pink grapefruit and sparkling wine), Dolceamaro® (cream with aromatic herbs) and Vernaccia Sorbet made with regional Vernaccia wine. The gastronomic creations at Gelateria di Piazza are limited only by the imagination of master ice cream maker Sergio Dondoli. His cups and cones are award wining creations with names like Sangue di Bue (Blood of Ox), inspired by Sergio’s first Armani leather jacket. It was a reddish-brown oxblood color; his gelato, dark chocolate with cherry jam and chilli pepper.