Bologna – Carpigiani Gelato University

Bologna – Carpigiani Gelato University

Gelato Lab display

It was back to school for me this September and not just any old school – I went to the coolest school ever – the Carpigiani Gelato University, Bologna.  I spent a day learning about the history, science and the art of making artisan gelato.   If you know how much I love gelato (I can never eat ice cream again) you realise how excited I was!  Kathryn (travelwithkat) and I took the number 87 bus to Anzola a 40 minute ride from Bologna central and arrived outside the factory gates before entering the world of meltingly, creamy, dreamy dessert heaven.

Carpigiani Gelato Museum

Gelato History Lesson

First lesson was history and started with a guided tour of the newly opened Carpigiani Gelato Museum that showcases the complete history of gelato and is where we learnt how this heavenly confection came into being.  In the 12th Century BC people loved chilled drinks and flavoured ice and this was the precursor to gelato.  Ice itself was then used as a tool to create luscious concoctions from milk and eggs.  Recipes for gelato date back as far the 17th century and include flavours like truffle or bread gelato – a nobleman wasn’t that noble if he didn’t serve gelato or sorbetto at his banquet.  By the 19th century gelato was widely available and has since evolved to where we are today with gelato shops the world over.

Carpigiani Gelato Museum

The museum is full of machinery – much of it manufactured by Parmigiano – and ranges from old wooden churns to some tortuous looking contraptions and gleaming fifties machinery.  Retro packaging is displayed along with a mosaic of photos showing how gelato has been enjoyed through the decades.

Carpigiani Gelato Museum

Carpigiani Gelato Museum

We finish at the museum and head back through the centre of the building passing a laboratory filled with gleaming machinery and stainless steel counters.  This is where students come to learn how to make gelato on a five-week course.  Carpigiani Gelato also teaches how to run a gelato shop and sells the machinery to do it – a one stop shop and I’m sorely tempted…

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The Science of Gelato

Science class and I feel a brain freeze coming on!  We leave the museum and head for the Gelato Lab adjoining the factory which is light, airy and choc full of gelato and sorbetto.  Is this heaven on earth?  We’re greeted by Stella who introduces us to Makoto, master mixer, who has just put out a tray of chocolate bacon gelato – I repeat chocolate bacon!  The only limit to flavour here is your imagination and Makoto has turned it into an art form.  She presents us with a small tub and a little plastic spoon – I secretly wish the spoon is bigger – the gelato is already melting so I don’t waste any time and get stuck in.  The intense chocolate is beautifully complimented by the salty bacon chips and it tastes divine.  Surprised?  You bet I was!

Chocolate Bacon Gelato

Chocolate Bacon Gelato

Now for the science bit which is actually a lot simpler than I expected.  Makoto, translated by Stella, explains that sugars, milk, a little cream, a pinch of salt with a natural stabilizer are combined.  The amount of sugar depends on which flavour is being produced and the small amount of cream added to balance the fat content and stiffen the mix during churning.  Milk powder helps absorb air which increases the volume by 30%.   This mixture is poured into the machine which starts to hum and work its wonderful magic.

Gelato Ingredients

It’s ready in around 15 minutes and we scoop large dollops into a tray before drizzling it with chocolate sauce.   At this point I really feel the urge to bury my face in that tray but manage to hold myself back.

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We sample the gelato that we helped to make – its velvety soft texture tantalizes my taste buds before the flavour takes over in a perfect combination of vanilla subtlety and a rich chocolate hit.  And it gets better.  As gelato is made mainly from milk and ice cream mainly from cream it means ice cream has more than twice the fat content so, yippee, gelato is good for you!

Makoto and our finished Gelato

Because gelato’s not frozen it’s made fresh in small batches – you won’t see real gelato piled high in containers – in fact that’s a good way to tell if you’ve found yourself in an authentic gelato shop.  Does the shop have a gelato machine?   If not odds are they’re buying it in and it’ll be frozen.  Do you need sunglasses?  If the colours of the gelato are full on dazzling it’ll have additives and E numbers – real gelato is made with fresh fruit and goes for the natural look.

Gelato by Numbers

Next up is maths – percentages in particular and we’re taught how to make sorbetto.   Just three ingredients; water, sugar and fruit but the combinations and amounts depend on the type of fruit used.  See handy chart below.  We tasted some sorbettos which were very creamy and not at all icy as I’d expected – I chose two flavours; melon and fig – both delicious of course.

Sorbetto Class, Parmigiano

Sadly our day at The Carpigiani Gelato University had come to an end but we’re happy, tired and stuffed full of gelato.  But that’s not quite where it finishes – there’s homework to do.  I’ll post a sorbetto recipe and step-by-step guide to making it so you can join in the fun at home.  Let me know what fruity flavour you fancy…

Carpigiani Gelato Lab

If you’d like to visit the free Gelato Museum it’s open to the public but you’ll need to make a reservation in advance.

50 Comments

  1. Hi there! I’m actually thinking of taking a course in that gelato university, would you happen to know of a nice cheap place to stay near there?

    Reply
    • Hi, I don’t know of anywhere nearby – lots of apartments to rent in Bologna and it’s just a bus ride away. Maybe the university will have some suggestions for accommodation…

      Reply
  2. Sounds like a fun day of learning and sampling, Suzanne. A few days ago, we returned from our own mini Blogville in Modena & Bologna. Even though it was technically wintertime, we still indulged in 3 divine new gelato flavors. We’re already scheming to head back to Emilia-Romagna as we really liked the feel of the region with its many friendly people.
    Tricia recently posted…Klis Fortress & A Game of Thrones Tour in Split, CroatiaMy Profile

    Reply
    • Emilia Romagna is a wonderful part of Italy – and there’s never a bad time for gelato! Looking forward to hearing more about your visit.

      Reply
  3. Oh this is so interesting! What a great subject matter to be learning in university ;) And gelato can save the world.

    Reply
    • Ha ha! Studying gelato sounds like the perfect degree to me :)

      Reply
  4. Gelato university! What fun! And to think students take 5 weeks of courses learning how to make gelato (no wonder it tastes so good).

    Reply
    • I think it’s a fabulous place – I
      was quite tempted to take a course!

      Reply
  5. Amazing and Thank you so much for sharing

    Reply
  6. WOW! This sounds absolutely delicious! I (reluctantly) tried chocolate covered bacon at a pop-up in Greenwich Market and could not believe what a suprisingly fabulous combination it was – but never heard of a gelato inspired by the same concept – I’m tempted to head to Bologna just to experience this place!

    Reply
  7. Wow! I love gelato and your post has made me hungry. Luckily there is a wonderful gelato shop in Auckland .. gotta go.

    Reply
      • A bit cold here too; although it’s meant to be spring. But my philosophy is that if it’s too cold for icecream, we’ve probably entered the next Ice Age.

  8. I am headed to Bologna this winter and I’m totally doing this. How long is the visit?

    Reply
  9. Wow, I wish I’d known about the museum when I visited Bologna; it looks amazing! Chocolate and bacon together??? Heaven!

    Reply
    • Unbelievably delicious! Now you’ve a reason to go back to Bologna :)

      Reply
  10. Oh my word, what a heavenly experience Suzanne. I assume gelato is featuring prominently in your household these days!

    Reply
    • It would if the weather were a bit warmer! I had a fabulous day there :)

      Reply
  11. Gelato University! Yes, this is Italy :-) Is it only one in the world, don’t you know?

    Reply
  12. This is an important subject and I’m glad you provided so much great information. I wish I could have taken a class like that in university!

    Reply
    • It is indeed very important Meg as we both know! I am seriously tempted to do a course though and start up my own shop!

      Reply
  13. It was a great day I’ll never forget :-)

    Reply
  14. I had a poached pear and port flavour gelato when I was in puglia this summer. Very nice it was too, and knowing it was good for me is a bonus! Looking fwd to your recipe…

    Reply
    • That sounds delicious. Recipe will be for a sorbet – I was really surprised that they are quite creamy – without any dairy so even better for you!

      Reply
  15. Now that’s a school to go back to!

    Reply
  16. Mea culpa, I didn’t know that there is a difference between gelato and ice cream so thank you for this informative post. Knowing that gelato has at least half the fat content of ice cream is a very good reason to prefer it. ;)

    Reply
  17. I’m not so sure on the bacon chocolate flavour – I think I’ll have to take your word that it was good!

    Reply
    • I wasn’t too sure either but it really does work. Sort of along the lines of salted caramel – that’s scrummy too!

      Reply
      • Well I love salted caramel, so that sounds promising! Thanks for the post.

  18. Truly interesting post …. Wow, this art, not that big fan of Gelato – but this was really interesting to read … and your photos are stunning – especially the chocolate & bacon. I would go for that combination. Had use chocolate in a sauce for a lightly smoked pork loin dish. An excellent combination. Also the old wooden boxes, interesting.. never thought about that ice cream would be stored in wooden boxes, but before tetra pack and plastic, what else could they use. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
    • I’m always happy to share Viveka! I recently tried a Cheese platter with chocolate and that was a surprisingly successful combination too. Don’t know til you try…

      Reply
      • I have friends that have eaten chocolate with cheese and they love it … I eat cheese on ginger biscuits – the ones you can by at IKEA at Christmas – pepparkakor. Give it a try. *smile

      • I’ll be sure to look out for them if I get to an Ikea store – thanks for the nod!

  19. What’s not to like about gelato or sorbetto? Great post and delicious photos :)
    How about a recipe for raspberry sorbetto?
    Jude xx

    Reply
    • Raspberries are my favourite fruit so I’ll go with that. Might have to do that next year when they’re back in season in the UK.

      Reply
  20. wow! Those pics make me want to eat gelato, right now! As an italian I love Gelato, and someday maybe I’ll also venture into the art of making this yummy food!,
    Anna

    Reply
    • I’ve wanted to try making ice cream for a while now but since discovering gelato there can be no other!

      Reply

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Travelbunny Highlights 2013 | The Travelbunny - […] saw me back in Italy for Blogville based in beautiful Bologna.  I learned how gelato is made at The …
  2. Emilia Romagna’s Amazing! | The Travelbunny - […] Bologna is the food capital of Italy there were lots of culinary outings, including a trip to the Gelato …

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