"The rustic wineries and estates here open their hearts and their doors to visitors." Dario Fontanella
The Rhine-Neckar Metropolitan Region is the birthplace not only of the car but also of an ice-cold innovation: the Spaghettieis (an ice cream dish that looks like spaghetti). Its creator was Dario Fontanella (62), born in Mannheim to Italian parents. Thanks to his craze for pressing vanilla ice cream through a chilled Spätzle (soft egg noodle) press, and covering it with strawberry sauce and white chocolate sprinkles, a delicacy with a hint of Italy - popular with young and old since 1969 - was born in the “city of squares”.
His father Mario was an Italian immigrant, who founded the first ice cream parlour in the Kurpfalz (Electoral Palatinate) in Mannheim’s Planken - the city’s main shopping street - in 1933. Today, son Dario is carrying on the family business very successfully: Fontanella’s ice cream creation is not only served in the three Mannheim ice cream parlours but has also found its way into German supermarkets. In his glass-walled factory next to the university, visitors can watch the ice cream makers at work. He buys in the best seasonal natural products from the region’s fruit growers and farmers. Besides the traditional Spaghettieis, he likes to combine the Palatinate’s strawberries with tomato, pistachio with salt, or vanilla ice cream with fruit pickled in mustard oil.
However, it’s not just gelato that makes Fontanella’s heart beat faster. He also has a soft spot for an older Italian beauty: his bright red Fiat 500. As often as he can, he takes a ride in his classic car and savours that feeling of the wind on his face. “The climate, the regional character, and the local agriculture give Rhine-Neckar a Mediterranean flair that is very similar to the Italian ethos.” For him, the German Wine Road is Germany’s answer to Italy: “The rustic wineries and estates here open their hearts and their doors to visitors. And whenever he is drawn to Italy again, he can be there in just a few hours via the Autobahn.
To keep fit, the 62-year-old goes running along the Neckar between Mannheim and Heidelberg several times a week. His insider tip for joggers, however, is the Philosopher’s Walk in Heidelberg, with a fantastic view down onto the castle ruins. “For me, it’s the perfect way to start the day in the Rhine-Neckar region!”