Before the refrigerator: the icehouse


Populations since ancient times knew that cold prevented deterioration of food. Before the invention of the refrigerator, snow and ice represented an excellent way to preserve its freshness.

Snow and ice were considered precious goods and were transported from the mountains with sedan chairs, mules or carriages. These goods were then stored and preserved in the so-called ice houses and finally marketed.

Initially the ice houses were cold and humid places exposed to the North, such as caves, cellars and pits.

From the Seventeenth and Eighteenth centuries they became real architectural structures in brick and thatched roof built in small towns. Inside, pressed snow or crushed ice was collected, alternating with layers of dry leaves or straw that served as insulation.

People used to work in ice houses. This “profession” has completely disappeared today …


Once upon a time, frozen desserts such as snow cones and sorbets were prepared with actual snow. Today, unfortunately, the snow is too polluted and dirty to be used in the kitchen!