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Country Roads:Gelato Man
Country Roads:
The Good Humor Man of San Gim

Story and photos by Tom Weber

San Gimignano's Piazza della Cisterna

ow, where was I? Oh yeah, standing next to an ancient landmark in the middle of San Gimignano's Piazza della Cisterna with my band of merry media.

All 23 of us are guests of Insight Vacations on its Country Roads of Italy journey through Umbria and Tuscany, and we're gathered around Belinda, our tour director-slash-storyteller, as she's about to address the peanut gallery.

World Champion ice cream maker Sergio Dondoli in front of his Gelateria di Piazza

Time for an Insight SIGNATURE moment!

Care to meet the World Champion of gelato makers? His ice cream parlor's right over there. And, I've got vouchers for each of you for a complimentary tasting.

What do you say to that?

All together now: GELATO! GELATO! GELATO!

And off we go, like a bunch of school kids running out of class as the final bell sounds, straight across the square and directly outside the arched door with the number four above it: Gelateria di Piazza, home of Maestro (master) Sergio Dondoli, world champion gelataio (ice cream maker).

One of San Gimignano's treasures, along with the Manhattan-like skyline and impressive medieval art and architecture, Sergio is quite the character.

When not inside the shop, sequestered way in the back behind closed doors creating new and exciting zero-fat flavors, you'll find him and his effervescent personality outside on the cobblestone explaining to the masses, in a stand-up comedy routine kinda way, his award-winning artisan treats.

Sergio Dondoli in various poses for the camera

And, he loves to ham it up in front of the camera, too.


different ice cream flavors at the Gelateria di Piazza

A member of Team Italia that took home the World Gelato Championship trophy in 2006 and 2008, Sergio is the Vice President of L'Associazione Italiana Gelatieri (Association of Italian Gelato Makers).

His rank in the gelato hierarchy alone guarantees your visit inside the ice cream parlor will be special, but the real challenge is eyeing, with tongue hanging out, then selecting from all of Maestro Dondoli's great tasting, unique flavors.

Just about every guidebook on the planet, including Lonely Planet, highlights Sergio's gelateria as "must see" while in San Gim.

Of the 36,970 gelaterie that scoop out this frozen goodness around Italy, it's Sergio's little shop of heaven that rises above all the rest, and for good reason: those tantalizing, one-of-a-kind, frozen recipes.

There's Crema di Santa Fina® (cream with saffron and pine nuts), Champelmo® (pink grapefruit and sparkling wine), Dolceamaro® (cream with aromatic herbs) and Vernaccia Sorbet™ (the wine makes it happen).

But, the sinful goodness doesn't stop there. How about his fantastic herbal sorbets Raspberry and Rosemary and Blackberry and Lavender, along with temptations like Gorgonzola Cheese and Walnuts (Say what?), Curva Fiesole (ricotta and bilberries) and Sangue di Bue (spicy chocolate and sour cherries).

And, at the top of the list is Sergio's capolavoro (masterpiece): Amedei, winner of the coveted Gelato Oscar as the best-tasting scoop of chocolate for five years running.

Sergio Dondoli with one of his creations

I can't wait any longer. Time to go inside this landmark locale.

I hand over my voucher and let the Maestro work his magic.

What a treat, five different flavors, each one more incredible than the next – I'm leaning toward Sangue di Bue and Champelmo®, but it's a coin toss – laid into a nice sized takeaway cup topped by a brightly colored plastic spoon and handed to me with outstretched hands and a trademark expression that only a World Champion can make.

accolades and photos on a wall at Gelateria di Piazza

While enjoying my quintet of Sergio's finest, I take a look around at all of the framed accolades and grip-'n-grin photos hanging on the walls, each autographed by some well-known face captured forever alongside the equally talented Mr. Dondoli. There are shots of stars from theatre, opera, the big screen and TV; athletes; iconic chefs; bestseller novelists – including the late Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn – and, a bevy of politicos who stopped by for a taste, but went away with much, much more.

medieval buildings at San Gimigniano

Our day in the medieval town that scrapes the sky now over, we make our way down the winding cobble and climb aboard the awaiting motorcoach knowing full well that we had the time of our lives meeting Sergio Dondoli, San Gimignano's quintessential Good Humor Man.

What's next bella Belinda, someone asks from inside our Mercedes-built chariot.

Oh, not much, she replies then pauses for a beat… just another fantastic wine tasting followed by some real, down-home Tuscan cooking inside a spaceship! Can I get a LIFT OFF?

The peanut gallery, in unison, starts the countdown: TEN, NINE, EIGHT, SEVEN, SIX, FIVE

To learn more about traveling in style on one of Insight Vacations' 12 Italian premium and luxury-escorted itineraries – where you'll meet great local personalities like a World Champion gelato maker along the way – or one of its 100 other journeys around Europe, just click HERE, or call toll free (888) 680-1241, or contact your travel agent.

the Tenuta Bichi Borghesi (TBB) estate at Scorgiano at night

See you in a couple of hours when we'll swirl, smell and sip three superb Chianti wines inside a renovated horse stable overlooking the Val d'Elsa.

Ciao for now.

Related Articles:
San Gimignano: Scraping the Tuscan Sky; Chianti Pours Forth from Fonterutoli; Cortona: Under the Renovated Tuscan Sun; Linnertime in Spello; Take Me Home Country Roads; Saintly Assisi

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Let Tom know what you think about his traveling adventure.

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Feedback for Destination Bosnia: Inside Sarajevo's Tunnel of Hope

Spent time in Sarajevo in the fall of 1973…beer was excellent!

--- David

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Hi Tom,

I must say, you're photographs are always amazing. They are top notch. You bring so much class to Traveling Boy. It's photographs like yours that make me want to go out and do my own traveling. Please don't get tired of sending us your amazing adventures. It's such a delight for the soul.

--- Raoul, Whittier, CA

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Hi Tom:

I'm also an American living in Italy. I've read with interest your blog and articles. I'd like to speak with you regarding residency and citizenship for Americans in Italy as you do seem to have a great deal of knowledge on all of these subjects. Would it be possible to give you a call on the phone? If so, please let me know how to reach you. If not, I can ask my questions via email.

Thank you!

--- David

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Hey Tom – Wow! Love those photos – they are so super that they make me A) Want to start eating NOW. B) Go there myself. C) See all that pristine beauty that looks so restful and peaceful. Great story, superb pix!!! Bravo!!

--- John, Los Angeles, CA

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Feedback for Destination Southwestern France: Saint-Émilion

Good job, Tom, and timely info. St. Émilion is in the list of places Jim Hayes and I will visit in September 2014. If we get the chance, we will exploit your experience to enhance the trip!

--- Bobby Harper, Dameron, MD

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Feedback for Vicenza Walks – Monte Berico

I lived in Vicenza for 4 years in the U.S. ARMY from 1963 to 1967. A wonderful place to explore. Palladio’s works are amazing. Have been back twice since and find new places to visit. My favorite is MONTE BERICO where I have some wonderful photos of my family.

--- Dr. Albert Pizzi, Hanover, MA

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I liked the new TB particularly the Vicenza article that took me back as a youth when we lived in Naples and travelled up there for a baseball tourney (U.S. Military Bases dependent schools played each other.)

Took me back to the plaza.

--- Bill

Feedback for A Canterbury Trail (Sutri)

Very interesting note. I have wedroned which route the early pre-Christian and Christian pilgrims travelled to Rome from England. Is it still possible to travel the Francigena trail?

--- Pawel

You can find out more info on walking tours of Via Francigena at this site: Thanks for stopping by and commenting..


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Good article, enjoyed reading it. Saved your recommended sights for future use.

--- Dardenne Prairie, MO

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You're going to be great at this Tom. Congrats.

--- Donna Vissa -Montreal

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