Sherbeth: International Festival of Artisan Gelato

We are halfway through the international festival of artisan gelato that is Sherbeth. The streets of Palermo are packed with thousands of people enjoying some of the best gelato in the world. 50 Maestri Gelatiere from all over the world have assembled in Sicily to share their unique expressions of flavour. This includes Leicester’s very own fantastic Gelato Village.

Antonio De Vecchi from Gelato Village at Sherbeth

The long, narrow streets of Palermo are alive with locals and tourists alike. Their palates are being tantalised by a range of global flavours. Sherbeth is one of the biggest artisan gelato festivals there is, dedicated to traditionally produced, natural gelato. Each morning, the gelatieri from 9 different countries take their shift in the temporary Gelato Laboratory to construct the day’s treats.

Telling stories with flavour

Each gelatieri has brought his or her own flavour which tells a story of something that is important to them. This can be ingredients which reflect a sense of place, like local Sicilian Santo Musumeci’s celebration of the majestic Bronte pistachio. Marcia Garbin of Brazil brings the flavours of the Amazon to life by using the açaí berry along with coconut and tapioca. Other gelato are inspired by memories of childhood, folk tales – almost any narrative can be woven into the story of gelato it seems. As gelato is lower fat than ice cream, being composed of more milk, the churning process is gentler and incorporates less air into the product meaning that more subtle and delicate flavours can be used.

Serving gelato

Freshly produced every day, attendees of the festival enjoy the gelato by the mini cone, cone or cup and pay with a clever card system where credits can be bought at the cash desks around the festival. As well as the delicious gelato, there is a lively programme of live music and events on offer, as well as cooking demonstration areas and the so-called ‘Unconventional Gelato’ tent where presentations of more unique, wacky and downright strange gelato ideas are made. Of course, there are tastings galore along the way!

Gelato Village at Sherbeth

Leicester’s Gelato Village is representing, with Antonio De Vecchi and Daniele Taverna the co-owners standing as one of sets of Maestri. They have created a bespoke new gelato specifically for the festival. Indian Summer aims to tell the story of the movement and assimilation of varied communities which is a common thread that unites Sicily with Leicester. It is made using yogurt, a little honey, lemon zest and a touch of cardamom. This gives a delicate balance of sweet, sour and spice which makes a cooling but aromatic mouthfeel.

Team Gelato VIllage

The public attending the festival vote for their favourite via the website, and there is also an independently judged competition. The judging panel is composed of two food experts and an elected gelatieri, picked by the 50 Maestri themselves. This year the honour was given to PIsa’s Gianfrancesco Cutelli, who will be making an appearance at the Gelato in the Square event in Leicester at the end of October. We will find out the results of the competition tomorrow!

Serving gelato at Sherbeth Palermo

Ideas and Inspiration

As well as affording the gelatieri the opportunity to share inspiration and to keep up to date with global best practice in gelato making, they also manage to find time to party! This is incredible as the Lab opens at 7.30am and the stands are open until as late as 2am in the evening! The welcome party at the town hall was a splendid reception at the beginning of the event where old friends were reunited and we were all treated to a smorgasboard of traditional Sicilian foods – and of course, some gelato!

A Maestro Gelatiere relaxes on the beach at Sherbeth
Taking time out to relax!

This really is an unmissable event for people who want to know more about gelato. The unique opportunity to try such high quality gelato which is natural, artisan and really tells a story is fantastic, as is having so much choice all in one place. There are two main streets in Palermo where all of the 50 stalls and the arenas are placed so it is relatively easy to negotiate, even if the streets are absolutely heaving!


Bestselling author and freelance drinks writer. Champion of pubs and breweries. Occasional printmaker.

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