Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The 2013 Florence Gelato Festival Saga

A gelato festival is clearly for kids of all ages.  The 2013 edition of the Florence Gelato Festival, however, ruffled the feathers of more serious grown-ups.
As announced by this events poster (below), published by the Florence's town hall (Palazzo Vecchio),
the fourth annual Gelato Festival, hosted in three central squares--Piazza Santa Maria Novella,
Piazza Repubblica and Piazza Strozzi--was scheduled to take place for an unprecedented 10 days instead of the usual four days.

The news of the Festival is visible on the left on the official events calendar compiled and
published by the city of Florence--forgive the reflection of the glass case.
The dates--May 17 - 26--are, however, clearly visible.

Well, only several days before the opening, Florence's city council announced that the Gelato Festival could only be held for the first four days, and the remainder CANCELED.  The reason given was that, according to tradition, a commercial event involving the sale of products normally occupies
Florence's historic squares over a long weekend.
Why no one thought of this before is a mystery....

As I had posted a long article on the Gelato Festival on our new website (,
which would be re-posted in our English column on Florence's Repubblica newspaper site
(, I gave the organizers a call.
"The festival will close at midnight on Sunday, May 19," I was told.
Of course, I hurriedly substituted the article, and like most Americans, believed what I was told.

But, this is Italy, of course.  On Monday evening I walked through one of the event venues and found the stands still up (below).
"What's going on?" I asked, and was handed a free cup of creamy Italian gelato.
"We were ordered to close down.  But since we can't take the ice cream,
 all of it is being given away," replied the vendor.
While witnessing one visitor inelegantly scrambling to find a container to walk away with as much ice cream booty as possible, I enjoyed my dinner antipasto and opted to go home.  After all, I had stumbled upon a complimentary treat to mark the festival's end--or so I thought.

On Tuesday, in piazza Repubblica, I found people once again lined up at the admission booth (above).
What is going on? -- I thought.  I stepped up and was told thanks to a court order issued that day at
11 am, the Gelato Festival would continue through its originally-announced end date, that is,
until midnight, May 26.

But there was only one problem...
all the gelato had been handed out to unsuspecting passersby the night before!
The woman at the cash desk assured me that more gelato would arrive by that evening.

Later on, in the office, intern Annalise Kapusta was trying to update the Puccini summer opera festival write-up.  She noticed, however, on the official 2013 program, that the actual dates did not correspond to the days of the week listed (!).  I quickly moved to a computer and found an online ticket sales site.
"Look at their calendar, it must be correct," I said.

Of  course it was.  At least this time I was operating according to the Italian time-honored tradition of the arte di arrangarsi -- the art of getting by.

The entire country runs according to this unwritten law,
 stronger than those actually on the books.

 I complained about the wrong dates being on opera site, and an Italian friend, Mario, commented
"Don't be so German."

German, indeed!  As a full-blooded Italian-American, my American side was miffed by the incorrect information, but my Italian side found a way to get around the problem.

So did the Gelato Festival organizers--thanks to filing a court complaint,
with city council overruled
and supplies rushed in,
ice cream, Italian style, is now being served.

No comments:

Post a Comment