Postcard from... Bologna


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The Independent Online

For those of you who like a little culture but find museums rather dry and academic, the little town of Anzola dell'Emilia has served up a rather tastier history lesson.

The world's first ice cream museum, built by the gelato-machine maker Carpigiani, opened its doors there last week. Visitors can learn about the history of ice-cream as they walk through 450sq-metres of exhibition space, not far from the city of Bologna.

The museum details the history of the dessert back to ancient Mesopotamia when locals in mountainous areas used snow to cool beverages. There are also references to the ice and salt sherbets developed by the Chinese through to the modern technologies. But it was Italy that developed the modern, creamier version in the 1500s in Florence.

And it was an Italian, Francesco Procopio Cuto, who, the museum says, sold the first sorbets to the public in 1686 when he opened "Le Procope" in Paris, which remains in business to this day.

But Luciana Polliotti, an ice-cream expert and the museum's curator, said ice-cream wasn't always so readily available. "Ice and salt were key ingredients and were expensive," he said.

Thankfully, those days are long gone. And when the visitors have had their fill of history, they can taste some of the prime exhibits at the gelato shop outside the museum, which serves treats such fig gelato with balsamic drizzle, and strawberry and raspberry sorbets from an early 1800s recipe.