The summer of 1991 I went to school in Florence. It was a little Italian language school at Via del Corso 1. If you make an L from Piazza della Repubblica to the Duomo, it would be in the point right where you’d turn. You’d walk past the espresso bar with doughnuts that fall out of the ceiling. The idea was a little creepy, but they made a wonderful Fiorentine breakfast before class.
In class that summer two lessons were mine alone. First, I loved the tolling of the bells; I’d just swoon every time they rang. Saverio, the very handsome Italian instructor, stopped whatever he was doing every hour on the hour and said, “Rebecca?” and I said, “Aaaaahhh… le campane….” if I could remember the words for bells.
The second lesson was more complicated. I was the only American in the school at the time and at lunch they’d all speak German. I’d scarf a quick panini with them and head out on my own in search of gelato. A routine quickly emerged: every day for the entire month I’d taste test a different gelateria. When Saverio got wind of these lunch-hour expeditions, I was tasked with a daily review. In Italian, certo. I learned gelato, words to describe it, and central Florence’s backstreets and hidden alleys pretty well.
In the summer of 2004, though, I discovered gelato to end all Fiorentine gelatos — and it was at Il Doge in Campo Santa Margherita, Venice. I’ve been back several times to make sure I was right that it was the best gelato on the planet.
When I moved to Lugano in 2005 I was disappointed in the gelato. There’s one place down on the lake, a stand across the street from the Hotel Walter, that’s okay. The gelato in Lugano isn’t great, though. Until now.
Some fabulous person has clearly taken on as his or her life’s work perfecting gelato… and he or she has opened a gelateria (they call it Creminolatino, Gelateria Artigianale) at Via San Salvatore 2 in Paradiso, a short lakeside walk from downtown Lugano (or straight down the road from the funicular if you’re going up Monte San Salvatore). Bless that person’s mortal soul.
It’s different from Il Doge in Venice. What’s spectacular there is the intensity of the flavors. Here it’s the texture of the gelato. The first night I was there the guy friend I was with said, “It’s like cake batter…” It really was. It’s nice when they serve it almost warm like that. My favorite flavor combination is Ticinese (dark, dark chocolate maybe with a hint of hazelnut) and Biscottatta… some kind of buttery vanilla with fudgy chocolate cookies crushed up in it. That’s just a good idea.
They scoop portions so big they have a special technique for getting it to stay on the cone… they have to sort-of scrape it up one side with a cookie and pin it in place. You get a cookie, then, too. Just when you thought it couldn’t be better.
It doesn’t get better than this with a walk on the lake.
If you come visit I promise we’ll go there. Really, it’s no trouble. I’ve been three times this week.
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