The Good Humor Man of San Gim
Story and photos by Tom Weber
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
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.
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!
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:
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.
And, he loves to ham it up in front of
the camera, too.
CLICK! CLICK! CLICK!
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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