Wednesday, 11 June 2014

I went to "the best gelateria in the world." This is what it was like

The heat has arrived in Milan.

Oh sure, it was hot when I arrived in April. I sat outside bars at night in my T-shirt. But that was heat where now there is heat, like something from The Stranger. It burned me through factor 30 suncream on Saturday and turned tarmac to gloop.

Scooter marks in the melted pavement

I feel for the pets.

There are so many dogs here that, in dreams, I've imagined them staging a coup and overthrowing the humans. But they won't be doing that in this weather. No chance.

In this weather their shaggy coats are instruments of torture, and their leashes are chains. Dalmations drag and dally behind owners. Alsations are too exhausted to bark; too exhausted even to sniff the rears of other passing pooches. They all just pant. And pant. And pant.

For humans, there are only two things worth doing when it's this warm: go to the pool or eat gelato. So I did both. And the gelato was exceptional.

Ice dreams

A few weeks earlier, at about 10pm on the night I moved into my new apartment, I walked past a bunch of people outside a bar. There were maybe 30 of them queueing to get in, and around another 30 chatting, smoking and drinking on the other side of the road.

Except it wasn't a bar. As I got closer, I realised it was an ice cream shop and the smokers across the road were eating ice cream rather than drinking.

I repeat: this was at night.

The next day I asked a friend what kind of oddballs hang around outside an ice cream shop after dark. "Have you tasted the ice cream?" she asked with an arched eyebrow. "That is Gelateria della Musica," she added, "and it was voted the best gelateria in the world a couple of years ago."

I still wasn't convinced. Foodies often bang on interminably about how utterly amazing something is, only for me to find out later that it's merely quite good. Could Gelateria della Musica's Strawberry ice cream, for example, really be vastly superior to the Strawberry ice cream in the slightly less popular place down the road?

On Saturday, in the steaming heat, I found out.

Sweet sweet Musica

The queue just after opening, on a regular day

First, Ms Ciao and I queued for a few minutes outside, next to a graffitied wall with a printout of the day's menu taped to it. Once the bouncer (seriously – security is apparently needed for food this special) had let us through the door, I ordered a cone with two flavours: Strawberry Cheesecake and Salted Pistachio, while Ms Ciao bought a tub of Bread, Butter and Jam. And yes, I am still talking about ice cream.

Looks aren't everything

We ate outside, in the shade. And I can honestly say that the Strawberry Cheesecake flavour was like eating strawberry cheesecake, the Salted Pistachio flavour was like eating salted pistachio, and that you could taste each element in the Bread, Butter and Jam as clearly as if you were having breakfast.

Perhaps after all the build up, it seems faint praise to say the flavours tasted like they were meant to.

It shouldn't.

But I don't want to overdo this. I find things that are hyped up too much are often a letdown (I'm looking at you, Sydney). When I expect less from something, it's easier for it to be special (Hello, Budapest).

So I should dampen your expectations by saying that, despite repeated Googling, I haven't been able to verify my mate's claim that Gelateria della Musica was voted the world's best ice cream shop.

And I don't want to animate the prose I write about it with similes, analogies, rhyme and repetition. Or any of the other techniques I usually use to keep your attention. I'll stop all those right now.

I'm not saying this ice cream will change your life. Or telling you to fly from wherever you live to eat it. What I am saying is that it was delicious, the flavours tasted identical to the ingredients they were named after, and, ultimately, this was the best ice cream I've ever eaten.

Perhaps you've had better. But if you're ever in town, I recommend you try it to find out. Maybe, just maybe, you'll be as impressed as I was.

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