Whether true or not, legend has is that ice cream was invented in Italy. Probably this statement can be shown to be erroneous, but in any case Italy did a lot to popularize ice cream throughout the world. For example, many immigrants during the early 1900s opened "ice cream parlours" as a way of earning a living in their new surroundings.
Italians continue to be among the highest consumers of ice cream, and this consumption is usually spread throughout the year, with peaks during the hot summer months. While many industrial products of high quality are available, Italians (with their love for the unique) go to great lengths to identify artisans who produce special products.
It is not unusual to see a large crowd of persons in an ice cream store, or standing in the street in front of the store, enjoying ice cream cones of the most unusual flavors produced by an artisan who has become famous for the quality of his product; while on the same block another store may be desolately empty even though brightly colored creams endeavor to attract customers. Recent statistics indicate that in the last 2 years, more than 2200 artisan ice cream establishments were inaugurated in Italy, and 54 percent of the Italians eat ice cream at least once a week.
But Italians are not immune to health concerns, and so alongside the innovation with new flavors and garnishing, attention is being given to developing healthy ice creams The Catholic University of Piacenza has been sponsoring research to develop the "perfect" ice cream, with a nutritionally correct balance between fats (30% caloric content), protein (15%) and sugar (55%). These percentages still sound a bit alarming, but the researchers indicate that their work is expected to be of importance in combating obesity, particularly among youngsters. For example a heaping serving of ice cream, about 300 grams, provides necessary nutrients with 400 calories, still a lot if added to the caloric intake of a regular meal.
This year the annual Sigep international ice cream fair took place in Rimini at the end of January 2008. Among the challenges is a World Cup for ice cream producers, which this year pitted nine national teams, including those from the US and Iran. Chocolate is reported to the flavor of the month (or season or year): reportedly a talented artisan can produce about 40 different chocolate-based ice cream flavors. Style dictates a return to the traditional flavors after such peculiarities as anchovy or salmon ice cream!