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11 June 2014

Fragoline con Gelato (Wild Strawberries with Ice Cream) and the Town of Nemi, Italy


The gelato is melting! Taking photos of gelato is my greatest predicament in food photography. Italian ice cream or gelato tend to melt fast so when I take photos involving my "favorite" protagonist, I panic. Or rather, my whole family panics because I run as fast as I can to the camera with the ice cream in hand while my kids step back (did I notice the dog stepping back too?) and my husband assists me as quickly as he can. So I hope that explains why my ice cream bowl is a bit on the "getting soft" side. But if you want to know, it was delicious as it should be.


Last Sunday, we had the afternoon free and we decided to head to Nemi, a town about 30 kilometers to the southeast of Rome. It is set on the Alban Hills, overlooking a volcanic crater lake called Lake Nemi. The town is known for its production of fragoline or wild strawberries. Apparently, around the lake, the plants thrive very well because they have found a perfect microclimate that retains the warmth of the sun and protection from the wind. The fragoline are sweeter than the others that you can find.


My kids adore fragoline and over the years of foraging for them on the sides of the walking trails in the Dolomites & the Swiss alps, they have become little experts in identifying them fast. They are usually abundant at the beginning of summer so that is one reason why we head out to the Dolomites in early summer. When we have gathered enough, we head back to our place, dish out the vanilla ice cream and enjoy the fruit of our foraging.


Nemi conducts an annual celebration of the fragoline and last Sunday was the last day of the Sagra delle Fragole. The town is very small with a beautiful hilltop position and overlooking Nemi Lake. The main road, closed to the traffic, is lined with bars, restaurants & shops mostly catering to fragoline, porcini and some local charcuterie. From beginning to end, you won't be able to resist to the strawberry temptation! I didn't!



As soon as we reached the middle of the road where there are tables with umbrellas with a magnificent panorama, I gave in to two big bowls of fragoline with gelato. And a few more meters of walking, I gave in again to a tart full of fragoline. It was definitely an afternoon of enjoying what the town is celebrating.





Nemi is not only famous for its fragoline. Two large ships from the Roman times were discovered in the Lake of Nemi. Called Caligula's ships, in reference to Emperor Caligula, an ancient Roman emperor reigning in the 1st century A.D., the large ships were built as immense pleasure barges to go around the Lake of Nemi. One was a shrine dedicated to the Egyptian Isis cult Diana Nemorensis which Caligula was very favorable to. The other one instead was a floating palace built with mosaic floors, baths and marble fittings. These ships were scuttled after Caligula's overthrow.


As early as 14th century, the local fishermen knew about their existence but the recovery project was only officially started in the 15th century. Unfortunately, it failed. There had been a number of trials after that but like the first project, they also failed. Finally, in 1932, both ships were taken out from the lake but in 1944, during World War II, the museum where they were housed burned down resulting in the destruction of both ships. Only some bronze pieces and charred timbers remained of the ships.



Nemi is a nice town to explore for a day or even for a weekend of relaxing while staring at a splendid view in front of you. Its proximity to Rome makes it an easy place to reach to have lunch and just lounge around with some gelato and fragoline afterwards.


I hope you all enjoyed this post about Nemi. It's another little town in Italy to keep tabs on. Wishing you all a wonderful week!

Other Recipes with Fragoline (Wild Strawberries):

Wild Strawbery & Basil Risotto After a Trip to Nemi 
Wild Strawberries in Prosecco Jelly with Elderflower Syrup  
Rosè & Elderflower Cocktail With Wild Strawberries  




Fragoline con Gelato (Wild Strawberries with Ice Cream)

Yields 1
Ingredients:
  • 1 tablespoon wild strawberry or plain strawberry jam  
  • 3 tablespoons wild strawberry or plain strawberry liqueur 
  • 1/3 cup fresh wild strawberries
  • 2 - 3 scoops gelato (vanilla, lemon, strawberry, etc.)
  • fresh mint leaves for garnishing
Directions:
  1. In a small bowl, mix the jam and the liqueur until smooth then set aside.
  2. In the ice cream serving bowl, place the fresh wild strawberries then put the scoops of gelato. 
  3. Pour the jam mixture on top then garnish with the mint leaves.
  4. Serve immediately.