Bologna – Carpigiani Gelato University

Bologna – Carpigiani Gelato University

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’ll realise how excited I was!  I took the number 87 bus to Anzola, a 40-minute ride from Bologna central, and arrived outside the factory gates. I then entered a world of meltingly, creamy, dreamy dessert heaven.

Carpigiani Gelato Museum

Gelato History Lesson

The first lesson was history and started with a guided tour of the newly opened Carpigiani Gelato Museum that showcases the complete history of gelato. Then we learnt how this heavenly confection came into being. In the 12th Century BC people loved chilled drinks and flavoured ice. 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 considered 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…


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.  I suddenly feel the urge to bury my face in that tray but manage to hold back.


We sample the gelato that we helped to make. The velvety soft texture tantalises my taste buds before the flavour takes over in a perfect combination of vanilla subtlety and a rich chocolate hit.  And it gets better.  Gelato is made mainly from milk whereas ice cream is made mainly from cream which 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. Details on the website.

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Emilia Romagna’s Amazing!

Emilia Romagna’s Amazing!

I’ve just spent a fabulous week in Bologna, with Blogville, sampling some of Emilia Romagna’s incredible cuisine, sights and culture – and wow does it have some winners.  Bologna’s known as the food capital of Italy with good reason and as Parma and Modena are nearby they also bring their fair share of flavours to the table.  Bologna’s an old city and is endowed with a wealth of culture, history and art – it’s also beautiful just to wander around.


Blogville - Rachelle & Kathryn

Blogville Housemates – Rachelle & Kathryn


My Blogville housemates this year were Kathryn from ‘Travel with Kat’ whom I met for the first time last year in Rimini and Rachelle from Florida; a food and travel writer at ‘The Travel Bite’. Master of the House was, again, Nicholas Montemaggi who kept us enthralled, entertained and very busy with a brilliant itinerary.

Here’s a little teaser of what we got up to and what I’ll be sharing with you in the next few weeks – of course, there’ll be photos, recipes and fun stuff too.


It’s always good to get your bearings so I think a photo tour of the city is in order.  Bologna has some unique ‘features’ which shouldn’t be missed including towers, statues, it’s beautiful porticoes and, strangely, an unusual variety of knobs and knockers – the city’s full of secret delights and I’ll be sure to let you in on some of them.

Features of Bologna, Italy

Italy’s tallest leaning tower is the Asinelli Tower at 85m high – so good I climbed it twice!  The sun wasn’t in the right place the first time so I hauled myself up the 498 steps a second time just to get the shots you deserve.  I’m so good to you!

We made it to the St Luca Basilica and Sanctuary of the Madonna overlooking Bologna just before they shut the gates at sundown.  This turned out to be the perfect time for some spectacular sunset views before walking back to the apartment via the longest portico in the world.

Modena, San Marino and  Ravenna

We ventured farther afield and for the petrol-heads we’ll take a pit-stop at the cooler than cool Museo Casa Enzo Ferrari in Modena and I’ll introduce you to San Marino; Europe’s third smallest republic with the biggest views and where the 2013 MotoGP Grand Prix is being held this weekend. Ravenna and its beautiful mosaics, both old and new, was an inspiration and home to some delightfully quirky features.

The Guaita Tower, San Marino

Food in Emilia Romagna

As Bologna is the food capital of Italy there were lots of culinary outings, including a trip to the Gelato University, where I discovered the world of artisan gelato and how it differs from ice cream.  I may even share a sorbetto recipe with you – quite healthy but tasting incredibly naughty – my kinda food!


We wandered around Modena taking in the sights and smells of the food market and visited Roberto at Guiseppe Catano where they’ve been making exquisite Balsamic Vinegar for five generations.

Of course, Italy’s not Italy without pasta and we sampled some delicious lasagna at Cervia’s Salt Festival as they celebrated the salt harvest.

The Blogville Gang in Cervia

Photo Credit: Nick Montemaggio

We had a giggle learning how to make pasta from scratch at Casa Artusi cookery school in Forlimpopoli where we cooked up a storm in the kitchen.  Talking of kitchens I’ll let you in on what happened when two top chefs met. Celebrity Turkish chef Arda Türkman was in Bologna filming for his TV series and met up with Michelin star Chef Agostino who cooked for us all at the gorgeous I Portico Hotel.

As you can see we packed a huge amount into just one week and had a wonderful stay in Emilia-Romagna.  I can’t wait to begin sharing it with you. Stay posted!