The Italian Almanac

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Happy Dogs in Vienna

An Italian ice-cream maker is the toast of Vienna's canine community this summer with her new treats for dogs. Simona Leonardini, the owner of an ice-cream parlour in the centre of the Austrian capital, has created three varieties for her four-legged customers - rice, vanilla and soya. She developed the dog-friendly delights with the help of a vet.

The ice cream, called 'dogissimo', does not contain fat, sugar, artificial colourings or any of the products used in human ice cream that are unsuitable for canine tummies. Nevertheless, Leonardini insists that it is faithful to the "original Italian ice-cream recipe". Sales are booming as a result, even though dogissimo does not come cheap. A 200 gram cup costs 4.80 euros, while the price of a 300 gram portion is seven euros.

Leonardini said she got the idea for the ice cream when thinking about ways to cool her three dogs down in the summer heat. "My dogs like to swim when its hot, so I thought why shouldn't they like ice cream too," she explained. Italy is the home of ice cream and Italian ice-cream makers are widely recognized as the best in the business. They are highly inventive too. Last summer, for example, the trend was to produce new varieties that have a range of healthy. These included liquorish ice cream, which is said to be good for the liver and for coughs, and ice cream made with extra virgin olive oil, which reportedly helps the skin cope with the summer sun and slows the aging process.

Ice cream's origins go back to antiquity, when the Greeks and Romans used to savour fruit purees mixed with snow and sweetened with honey. The father of modern ice cream was a 15th-century Florentine architect, Bernardo Buontalenti. Italian ice cream first took off abroad when a Palermo entrepreneur, Francesco Procopio dei Coltelli, opened an innovative cafe' in Paris during the reign of Luigi XIV, the Sun King.

The Procope café - which still exists today in Rue de l'Ancienne Comédie - became a fashionable meeting place and its ice creams caused a sensation. In the 18th century ice cream crossed the Atlantic. Another Italian, Filippo Lenzi, is credited with opening the first American ice cream parlour in 1777. The success of ice cream proved to be unstoppable and production was eventually mechanised.

In Italy there are now around 32,000 firms in the sector providing work for around 160,000 people, counting employees and owners of artisan firms. The industry exports 14% of what it makes.