Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Dispatches from Rome: Judging gelato

A corner in Tivoli.
It was hot and there were still about 2 hours to go before the bus returns to collect the astronomers and astronomically associated from Tivoli, where we'd gone to see the Villa d'Este, a mid-16th century garden of watery delights and a villa designed by a cardinal hoping to be Pope (his hopes would be crushed).

More than a thousand water features spread out over an enormous formal garden, even the bannisters on the grand staircases had water flowing down them.  And the whole thing is gravity fed, not a pump to be found.  It was certainly an apt place for the Vatican Observatory Summer School to go this year, given that the theme was water in the universe.

(And despite all the water we saw, and the oceans on our little blue ball floating in space, water on Earth is not particularly abundant by comparison with other places in the solar system.)

But after touring the grounds and walking the medieval city in the midday heat, it was flavored water we were in search of: gelato.  And not just gelato, but really good gelato.  In the end, it was five of us following the director of the observatory through the streets, peering into gelato shops, where he would make a quick visual assessment and say, "Nope, not this one.'  We wound our way up the street until we found a spot that passed muster, where indeed the gelato was "molto bene!"

"Just how can you spot the good gelato with just a glance?" we wondered.  The bearded Jesuit revealed the secret.  Since this is not a Dan Brown novel, there are no codes in the names of the stores to break, the basic premise is to reject places where the gelato is piled up into huge mounds, since that requires the addition of stabilizers.  The other 5 criteria are laid out in this article:  how to spot good gelato from 15 feet away.

The author notes that there is no such thing as a bad gelato, so if you can't find a place that passes the test, buy and enjoy nonetheless.

A 3 minute drone tour of Villa d'Este:

1 comment:

  1. Michelle, I'm leaving for Cyprus, Malta and Rome on Thursday as a group of us from Regis College follow the footsteps of Paul. Although Paul didn't stop for gelato, I'm certain that we will make a detour to do so!