In his “Eine italienische Reise” (“An Italian Journey”), German historian Joachim Fest tells the story of when he met a man who sold ice cream on the streets of Syracuse, Sicily in the early 1980s. The echo of his “Gelati!” filled the square, as he “added artistic flourishes that sometimes turned into falsetto […]. He took ice cream out of three containers, covered by tall, cone-shaped domes […]. It is only in the face of such unexpected encounters that we realize how much has disappeared from our cities, without us missing it at all”.
Indeed, ice cream carts have become a rarity in Italy and Europe. In the past, they were one of the many symbols of “Made in Italy” we exported, also through the emigration flows that between the 19th and 20th century brought so many Italians to “the mines in Lorraine and Luxembourg, the railways, bridges and harbors being built in Scotland and Siberia, the coffee plantations in Brazil, the vineyards in North Africa”, and of course, “the ice cream carts […] in New York”, quoting British author Denis Mack Smith.
Roman journalist and writer Mario Pirani, in remembering his childhood holidays in Versilia, once said, “Street vendors from the hinterland periodically came by; some had embroidered table linens, which they opened up on the beach so ladies could feast their eyes on them […]. But the most beloved beckoning was the ice cream man’s, as he pushed a small white cart shaped like a swan along the shore, yelling persuasively ‘Ice cream! Veneta! Seven flavors!’ (I later found out that mysterious ‘veneta’ was the name of a famous ice cream shop in the nearby town of Fiumetto).”
Enjoy the flavors of nostalgia and charm in our gallery of old carts.