gelato cupsMediterranean sun, stunningly ancient architecture, scrumptious food -- Italy is a dream for the senses. If you can't swing a trip to this beautiful country, however, you can still get a small taste of it. Grab your tasting spoon and fill it with the crown jewel of Italian desserts: Gelato. Before you run to your local ice cream shop to say "ciao bella" to gelato cups full of tasty flavors, check out these fun gelato facts.

  • Gelato is thought to have been invented in 1565 by Bernardo Buontalienti in Florence. The inventor apparently showed his recipe to Catherine de' Medici, Italian noblewoman turned French queen. She spread this edible treasure all over France. 

  • The name of this frozen treat came from the word congelato which means "frozen." 

  • Gelato is similar to ice cream because it contains sugar, milk, and flavorings. The difference? Gelato has less cream and no egg yolks.

  • While ice cream contains more than 50% air after it is churned, gelato contains much less. This gives it its unique texture.

  • Gelato's icy sister lives in Southern Italy. There you will find sorbetto, which contains water instead of milk. 

  • Gelato gave the crepe a run for its money when a Sicilian fisherman opened the first Parisian gelato shop in 1686. Francesco Procopio dei Coltelli's shop was called Café Procope and is still operating in the city. 

  • Gelato is sold in shops called gelaterias. The person selling and filling the gelato cups is called a gelatai. 

  • The first gelato cart was created between the 1920s and 1930s in Varese, a city in Northern Italy. Despite being around for centuries before, this is when the dessert really started to gain popularity. 

  • Gelato is stored at a warmer temperature than ice cream. While ice cream is chilled between zero and five degrees Fahrenheit, gelato is kept between 10 and 15 degrees. 

  • Another important difference between ice cream and gelato? The serving tools. While ice cream is served with a rounded scoop, gelato shops generally use paddles. This technique adds to the traditional charm of this dessert.

Is your mouth watering yet? It's time to truly embrace la dolce vita by heading to your local frozen dessert shop. While you're enjoying your gelato, be sure to share these facts.