Updated: May 10, 2020
Last week I went to see Sergio Dondoli in San Gimignano and got his fascinating life story.
Sergio runs the most successful gelateria in Tuscany, in San Gimignano, the third most visited Tuscan village after Florence and Siena.
The Dondoli family lived in northern Germany for years (as a result of the massive exodus from Italy that happened after the second world war). Initially, he tried his luck at restaurants, but it was always tough to make ends meet and the workload was always greater than the revenue. In search of better life quality, his attention shifted to gelato, a seasonal business which would allow him to spend time with his 3 kids during the winter.
At the beginning of the 90'ies, he moved his family back to Italy and settled in San Gimignano, the village of towers, saffron, Vernaccia wine, and now world-famous gelato!
Sergio calls his gelato real - not ice cream. If you ask him what that means, this is the answer. Gelato is made with fresh "real" ingredients. No flavour or colour enhancers. During the season, a batch of gelato will be consumed the same day as it is made, so there are no preservatives needed. Air (around 20-30%) is incorporated but not excessively, just to ensure it is smooth. Different gelato makers may stand out from each other in their choice of ingredients, and their personal recipes.
Ice cream, on the other hand, is usually made by the big industry that incorporates up to 100% air and in order to do so has to up the fat content. Artificial colouring, chemical flavours and preservatives are all part of the making for most of them.
Curva Fiesole and other original gelato flavours
Sergio put himself on the map of World famous gelaterie already over a decade ago. His creation of regional flavours has made him stand out, even inspiring Michelin starred chefs. Apart from Curva Fiesole gelato that you can see in the video, other specials Sergio makes are Crema di Santa Fina (saffron), Rosemary Baby sorbet (raspberry & rosemary), Venere Nera (blackberry & lavender), Champelmo (sparkling Vernaccia & pink grapefruit) or what about an Olives & Cheese gelato?!