Vivoli has long been a gelato mecca for Florentines and foreigners alike. My first workplace on moving to Florence in 2002 was in via dei Rustici, near Santa Croce, and a literal hop, skip and jump from the family-run coffee shop and ice-cream parlour dating to 1930.
While the bar has always had a certain appeal, an Instagram post by filmmaker Sam Youkilis (513K) during the Pucci fashion show in May sent the world wild for one product in particular: Gran Crema Caffè Vivoli. In his words, “the best affogato i’ve ever had”.
Vivoli’s exquisite cream gelato is spread into a pre-chilled cappuccino cup, leaving a square in the centre. Placed under the nozzle of the coffee machine, espresso flows directly into the gap before the barista pops the cup atop a saucer lined with a distinctive white doily styled with blue writing stating the bar’s name and phone number.
“We’ve always served it,” comments Silvana Vivoli one Wednesday afternoon as one person after another walks out of the historic locale, smiling and intent on videoing their cupful before dipping into the delight. “Now we serve 350 of them a day. But there’s a photo of my mum taken in the 1970s in front of a sign saying, Spuma 100 lire, Gran Caffè 1000 lire…To think that the parchment lining the saucer didn’t have the 055 prefix for Florence. It didn’t exist back then!” Nonna adds, with typical Florentine pragmaticism and the loveliest of smiles: “It’s word of mouth, like it’s always been. What’s most important is that it’s good for business and for the people who work for us. That’s what makes me proud.”
If you can’t beat them, join ‘em. And so, we dip into the six-euro wonder. Gran Crema Caffè Vivoli is perfection, social media sensation or not.