Mangia! Mangia! – Sherbeth Festival in Sicily

By now even a glance at (see here, here, here and here) will tell you of a greater than average interest in gelato. Imagine my distress to find that I would not be able to be in Cefalú on the north coast of Sicily for the fifth annual Sherbeth Festival.

If you love gelato and especially sorbetto and are traveling to Sicily in mid-September, head straight to Cefalú for four days of ice cream heaven.

Cefalu's Sherbeth Festival 2011
Cefalú Sherbeth Festival 2011

From September 15 to 18, the historic center of the town will be transformed into the Gelato Village.

Whereas Florence (and Catherine de’Medici) lays claim to the creation of milk-based Italian gelato, Sicily fights for the honor of sorbetto, a divine combination of fruit, sugar and water. Sherbeth is an Arab word that became sorbetto in Italian (and sherbet when I was growing up in New Mexico).

Mango sorbetto will be a favorite at the Sherbeth Festival
Mango sorbetto will be a favorite at the Sherbeth Festival

The Romans say Emperor Nero started the craze by having his slaves carry buckets of ice and snow down to him from the Appian Way. But the Turks and the Chinese also had sherbeth frozen fruit desserts and Marco Polo is claimed to have carried the idea back from his travels. Certainly Sicily got the inspiration from the Arabs.

Here would be my idea of a perfect September day in Cefalú: In the morning, you can walk Cefalú’s sandy beach, one of the best in Sicily (burning off some calories in preparation for the rest of the day), and swim in the clear, warm sea (mid-70s).

Or you can begin as you mean to go on and order a typical Sicilian summer breakfast, a sweet brioche with gelato inside. (See Joe Ray’s WSJ post that describes the experience perfectly.)

Sicilian breakfast of sorbetto in brioche
Sicilian breakfast of sorbetto in brioche

Finish off the morning wandering the narrow streets with buildings displaying Arab, Norman and Byzantine influences, seeing the impressive Duomo, and then heading to the Corte delle Stelle and along the waterfront to indulge yourself at 35 Sicilian and international artisanal gelateria stands, savoring their hand-made sorbetto.

Stop by Carpigiani Gelato University’s gelato school and take a class in how to make sherbeth. Carpigiani is providing the equipment at a central production lab for all of the gelato makers where they will create their own proprietary recipes for the delight of the expected crowds.

Fruit flavors reign, but try chocolate sherbeth, too
Fruit flavors reign, but try chocolate sherbeth, too

Under the stars, a final gelato in hand, on my perfect September day, I would take in the wide variety of musical and other entertainment provided by Sorbeth Festival 2011 in Cefalú.

Gelato tourism has to be coming soon. Sign me up!

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