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Gelato and Sorbetto: A Cool History

Evening Program with Tastings

Evening Lecture/Seminar

Wednesday, August 17, 2016 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. ET
Code: 1H0168
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It’s summer. Join food historian Francine Segan, as she digs into some delicious gelato, starting with the fascinating history of Italian ices and sorbets, and ending with a taste of some of the scrumptious frozen desserts that made even Alexander the Great's mouth water.

People have been chilling with iced confections as long ago as 3000 B.C., where in China mountain snow was mixed with fruit and beer. Biblical references recount that King Solomon was fond of iced drinks. During ancient Roman times, Nero sent runners into the mountains for snow, which he enjoyed flavored with fruits and juices.

According to lore, an alchemist in the court of the powerful Medici family invented creamy gelato in the 16th century in Florence, and it’s been a delicious Italian gift to the world ever since. Learn how it’s made, and why it’s not ice cream!

After the program, enjoy a tasting of various gelato flavors and a “lolly,” Italy’s lemon-shaped sorbetto-on-a-stick. Organic lemon and orange sodas accompany the cold treats.

Gelato supplied by Washington’s Dolci Gelati; lolly and sodas donated by Galvanina.

Smithsonian Connections

Though not as ancient as Nero’s summer treat, the popsicle is America’s venerable version of a fruit-based cooler. looks at its history, and offers a few tasty variations on the classic theme to try at home. Ready to give a lick to a sour-plum pop?


S. Dillon Ripley Center
1100 Jefferson Dr SW
Metro: Smithsonian (Mall exit)