The Case for Gelato

The first gelato cart appeared between the years of 1920 and 1930 in the northern Italian city of Varese. Legend regarding the actual incarnation of ice cream is vague, though history suggests the idea of ice cream started in Sicily, ancient Rome, and Egypt when frozen snow was preserved underground and flavored. A man by the name of Francsco Procopiio dei Coltelli made the first usable ice cream machine in 1686.

To all of these innovators of gelato, I thank you.

I’m not sure my life would be the same without gelato in it.

Gelato means ice cream, and it starts out with the same custard base, but it has a higher proportion of milk than cream and eggs (and sometimes has no eggs at all). When making gelato, it is churned at a much slower rate than ice cream, incorporating less air, which makes the gelato denser than ice cream. And, as an added bonus, gelato has less fat than ice cream.

As you have probably noticed in your local grocery store, sales of gelato are on the rise. In fact, Americans are loving and consuming gelato right now at a record pace. Sales were up 32 percent last year, and the selection of gelato has increased.

With warmer weather comes our increased desire for gelato of all flavors. If you live in Maryland or plan to visit soon, be sure to visit Vaccaro’s in Little Italy in Baltimore for some of the best gelato around. Or, if you’re content to bring some home from your local grocer, I highly recommend the Talenti brand, especially the Sea Salt Caramel and Mint Chocolate Chip varieties.

If I had my druthers and an airline ticket, I’d venture to the place of gelato’s birth. Some of the best gelato I ever had was in Rome at Giolitti.

You won’t be disappointed.

imageStephanie Verni is Professor of Business Communication at Stevenson University and is the author of Inn Significant, Baseball Girl, and Beneath the Mimosa Tree. Along with her colleagues Leeanne Bell McManus and Chip Rouse, she is a co-author of Event Planning: Communicating Theory and Practice, published by Kendall-Hunt.

Fictography #22—Vivi’s Summer

From Rome, Italy. Piazza Novona. Photo Credit: Chrissie Werzinsky.
From Rome, Italy. Piazza Novona. Photo Credit: Chrissie Werzinsky.

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/FICTOGRAPHY/ def. — The intersection of photography (submitted by readers) and fiction (written by me!).

The above photograph was taken by a dear friend of mine, Chrissie Werzinsky, in Rome at Piazza Navona. Chrissie works for the Baltimore Orioles, and has for years, which is how we met many moons ago. Chrissie and I have a lot in common; we both love the Hallmark Channel, Pinterest, baseball, our Orioles friends, and novels that make you feel good. Luckily, my husband and I traveled to Rome before we had children, so I got to spend time visiting Piazza Navona. I was excited to see the photo Chrissie took and use it to create a story.

To set up today’s short fiction, people have asked me after reading “Beneath the Mimosa Tree,” if I plan to write a sequel. At this time, I have no plans of it. My mother suggested that I write a prequel, featuring Vivi, who is the grandmother in—and an important part of—the story of Annabelle and Michael, and write the background of Vivi’s life. With that in mind, I wrote today’s Fictography post. So, think of it as taking place in the mid 1950s, as Vivi gets the opportunity to go to Italy—Rome—for the summer.

I’ve been trying to keep these snippets under 500 words. Today’s is 469. #flashfiction

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Viv’s Summer

Her English was broken, but Giovanna was able to get her point across. In Italian, she spoke to her niece. “Don’t-a take any wooden nickels,” and “don’t-a bring any strange-a men here,” were the two warnings that Viviana—Vivi—took away from the short lecture that she was receiving from her aunt.

In a matter of minutes, the place would be all hers, as soon as Giovanna and Ricardo left for Capri for the summer. Giovanna had asked her to come, to stay the summer, to get away from old memories and broken hearts, and Vivi had accepted. She longed to separate herself from the suburbs of New York and be back in a city, a vibrant one, and one in which she had often spent time during her summers as a teenager.

The opportunity to return to Rome, however, required her to quit her corporate job, which she did rather abruptly without blinking an eye, and days later, she was flying across the Atlantic and back to a place she would undoubtedly call her second home. It would be a chance to reevaluate her life, and she yearned to find her creativity again—to write, to paint, and to draw. It was not often that one receives the gift of a summer of freedom, and she was about to embrace every waking moment of it.

Her aunt kissed her on the cheek, and Ricardo grabbed Giovanna’s last bag. The taxi had arrived, ready to take them on their own summer adventure. Giovanna pinched Vivi’s cheeks, and kissed her on each one. “There is cheese, huh?, in the box, and bread. You go-a to the market and you get-a whatta you need.” She stuffed a handful of paper lire into Vivi’s hands, waved goodbye, and they were off in the taxi.

Vivi stood on the balcony that overlooked Piazza Navona and let her long, dark hair blow in the breeze. Her aunt’s blooms were full and rich in the flower boxes, but Vivi could still see the action in the piazza. She reached for her Comet, and began to snap photographs, needing to translate what she was seeing into images she would develop herself so she could revisit as time marched on, and her days spent here were over. The vista from the balcony allowed her to zoom in on certain shots and see the world from up above.

The sun peeked through the clouds, and the morning became even more glorious than it already was. Vivi put the camera away, slipped on her Chloe Ballerina flats, put a kerchief around her hair, and made her way out the front door, carefully placing the keys to the place in her small clutch. For a moment, she felt like Audrey Hepburn in “Roman Holiday,” off to participate in her own adventure.



The Mistake I Made

Audrey Hepburn and the Mouth of Truth: Roman Holiday

I made the mistake of showing “Roman Holiday” this week to my feature writing class. Now I’m in trouble.

It’s not because it’s not an appropriate film to show students before they read Taras Grecoe’s super creative travel piece by the same name from National Geographic Traveler; it’s not because I think they can’t relate; and it’s not because it’s an outdated film.

It’s still relevant today. If it weren’t, I wouldn’t have had a student pass me in the hallway afterwards and say, “I love that movie! It’s so cute!”

Cute, for sure. We’ve got dashing Gregory Peck as Joe Bradley and stunning Audrey Hepburn as Princess Ann. We’ve got an adorable day-long, little romance mixed with a touch of melancholy unfolding as the bitter-sweet ending leaves us feeling uncertain and sad for the two main characters. It’s not easy to find love and have to let it go for reasons beyond our control. Some of us may be able to relate to that sentiment.

However, the perpetual appeal of this film is the idea of a holiday…a time to do for a day whatever the hell we want. How often are we permitted this amazing luxury? Look at the calendar. Three-hundred and sixty-five days in a year. How many of these days are all yours…all yours to do whatever you want with…all day long?

When Audrey Hepburn says she wants to spend the day doing things she never gets to do like eat and drink champagne in a café, go dancing, or sightsee, she knows exactly what that “day out” would look like for her. What would yours be like?

As grown-ups with responsibilities and commitments, in addition to some of us having children with responsibilities and commitments, life can sometimes be insane and chaotic. We have to find the minutes in the day to read a book, go see a movie, pick apples at a farm, or dance in a club until 2 a.m. and then have breakfast at an all-night diner.

I danced in a club one night this year, and I was home by 1:30 a.m.

I’m in a funk. I shouldn’t have shown “Roman Holiday” to my students. Now I want a day out, all to myself. A book. A café. Champagne. Some music.

And it doesn’t even have to take place in Rome.