Italians refuse to give up their ice-cream amid the belt-tightening

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As Italian ice-cream makers flock to Rimini for a convention sales show that despite the debt crisis few have given up gelato

Italians facing up to job losses, rising prices and austerity budgets are cutting back on their traditional long holidays and leisurely lunches.

But as the nation’s ice-cream makers meet this week for their annual expo in Rimini, there is evidence that millions of hard-up Italians are refusing to give up their gelato.

“Spending on ice-cream in 2011 showed no change on previous years, amounting to €2.5bn (£2bn), which is about €100 a family,” said Marco Forcellino, a spokesman for the expo, known by the acronym Sigep, where 100,000 visitors will get stuck in to the latest confections dreamed up by Italy’s 36,000 ice-cream makers.

Forcellino said he was seeing a new focus on classics such as chocolate at the show this year, as well as new trends such as rice-based cinnamon ice-cream, seaweed flavour and a salted, mushroom variety to eat with main courses.

At the expo, ice-cream makers from 10 nations will square off in competition with rounds involving best cone, best ice-cream dessert and best ice-cream sculpture.

After entering the record books last year with a 3-metre (10ft) high ice-cream cone, organisers are showing off an 800kg (1,700lb) chocolate this year, the world’s biggest, claimed Forcellino, “and as large as a desk”.

The expo is also dedicated to Italy’s cake and pastry makers, who are providing their own sweet relief to Italians during the downturn, with sales of pandoro and panettone cakes rising 6% at Christmas.

Clever designs are big this year, said Forcellino, noting how one chocolate rendition of a violin uses three different types of chocolate to denote three different types of wood.

The traditionally male-dominated pastry making trade was now being increasingly entered by women, he added. “The long, difficult hours were traditionally seen as putting off women in Italy, but things are changing,” he said.

The atmosphere in Rimini this week, he added, would be “party-like”, with a large crowd expected on the first day. “Pastry shops are often closed in Italy on a Monday so we expect a huge crowd,” he said. “When Italian pasticcieri get together you see how they love their work.”


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