andiamo a vivoli



I am beginning to worry that Suzanne Vega is stalking me. Yes, that early nineties pop singer who forced her was into the subconscious of countless teens with or without permission. Regrettably, she has remained in mine for over a decade. A few summers ago, she found me in Prague. Her CD played in pubs all over the city in preparation for an upcoming performance. Now, en route to gelato at Vivoli’s, I pass a poster for her summer tour. I quicken my pace but can’t get rid of her.

Do do do do, do do do do, do do do do, dododododoooo.

I make my first wrong right turn.

I have decided to spend my afternoon at Vivoli’s not only because I fully believe that happiness is found on a bright orange gelato spoon, but also to remember my father’s valiant gelato crusade of the summer of 2001.

My father has never been gifted with foreign languages. He adapts his Bronx accent to what he believes to be that of locals, but stubbornly maintains his English vocabulary. Occasionally he attempts French, but never in France. While trying to order me a sandwich without cheese in Barcelona, he asked for “una bikini con fromage.” His dappling in Romance languages tends to end in disaster.

On that August afternoon, he had checked Vivoli’s address before leaving the hotel. A co-worker had recommended it–a small gelateria with a big ego. He couldn’t find the street on the map in the guidebook, but didn’t let that discourage him. He was relying on his trusty navigation skills to lead us to a pint of stracitella at the end of our Florentine day.

If only borgo really were the name of the street, instead of the generic Italian word for district. In fact, we trudged through several borgos before finally stumbling upon the neon pink sign. I delighted in ridiculing my father, though I was careful not to betray that my year-old Italian didn’t include the word borgo either.

But now I am determined not to repeat my father’s mistake. I set off from the Duomo and head instinctively to the right. I sense that I am mere minutes away from my second cup of gelato. (My fingers are still sticky from the cup of mint that I polished off barely an hour earlier.) I know that I need to head towards Santa Croce, and I think that I am, but my instincts are drifters, without agenda or direction.

I make impulsive turns. My guidebook remains zipped in my bag; I am too proud to shatter my delicate mask of confidence and reveal myself as the lost American tourist that I am.

Thirty minutes later, my feet are blistered and my pride is bruised. But fragola sorbetto works as a mind eraser and I happily observe families filter through the open doors; I miss mine. Perched on a milk crate, I write until Suzanne Vega’s voice breaks through the glassy quiet of the tiny piazza. It’s time to leave.

I make it back to the Duomo in five minutes.

And though I might hate to admit it, I know; I am my father’s daughter.

Il Gelato Vivoli, Via Dei Salviatino, 14, Firenze (FI) – +39 055 613470

(photo by bruna benvegnu)


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