Patron saint and early Christian martyr, Santa Cristina reigns in Bolsena – and in unexpected ways. You’ll want to wander through the Basilica di Santa Cristina, finding the early Christian catacombs, remains of a Longobard cemetery, medieval frescoes, Renaissance Della Robbia glazed ceramic masterpieces and the altar linked to a 13th century miracle. And if it’s a hot day, as you leave the Basilica, follow the town main street (a lane, really) to the gelateria named after the saint. Here more miracles await.
Miracles of flavors. The gelateria is small but will be full – with hot customers awaiting patiently as prize-winning gelataio Giulio and wife, Anna Cristina (logicamente!), serve up coni or coppe di gelato – some topped with panna montata – or paper cups brimming with refreshing granita. (My favorite? granita di yogurt).
Gelato di pistacchio (with famed Sicilian Bronte pistachios) and gelato di nocciola (with Piemontese hazelnuts) are favorites and on a recent visit, quite a few tried the new grapefruit and pear gelati. But Giulio’s Slow Food prize-winner (in 2003), ricotta/canella (ricotta and cinammon), is the draw at Gelateria di Santa Cristina (with his caffe’ and nocciola bringing home trophies too, in other competitions).
“With ricotta-cannella, we turned a Lazio culinary tradition into an ice-cream – and Slow Food is dedicated to the preservation of local culinary traditions and flavors,” Giulio explained. Anna Cristina nodded then told me about a Christmastime dish of her childhood: pasta on Christmas Eve topped with a mixture of ricotta, cinnamon and a touch of sugar. That pasta dish doesn’t entice (after all, it’s laziale!) but… what a gelato! For me, every Bolsena sojourn starts with a stop at Gelateria San Cristina for a gelato di ricotta-cannella.
I thought I’d never veer from this trophy-conquering flavor, but the other day, master-gelataio Giulio took me to his workroom to try a new flavor: “eccellenze.” “Noi italiani abbiamo 4 eccellenze: i pinoli, i pistacchi di Bronte, le mandorle di Agrigento, e le nocciole del Piemonte,” Giulio explained. With the “excellences” of pinenuts, almonds, pistachios, almonds, Giulio has created another winner.
Slow Food, are you ready?