By Dave Katz
A warm autumn sun slips around ancient facades, painting the streets a shimmering gold. Chatter and music fill the Sicilian air as 400,000 tourists and locals alike swim around each other for their next taste of some of the best gelato in the world.
This is the Sherbeth Festival. Despite the debate regarding who invented gelato and where, producers of artisanal ice cream from around the world flock yearly to Palermo to show off their latest creations. The variety is absolutely dazzling- this year’s event featured 53 different flavors, all created with fresh ingredients.
While some aim for the platonic ideal of pistachio, others prefer to flex their creativity with flavors like walnut-nectarine, ancient barley or Scquaquerone (a raw cheese) with biscuits and quince marmalade.
The competition is fierce and this year we saw a rare tie for the gold, both winners hailing from Japan. One flavor by Satoshi Takada combines white chocolate with matcha and manuka honey from New Zealand. The second is a sorbet of pineapple, celery and apple made by Taizo Shibano.
Besides the hugely popular competition for best flavor, there are panel discussions, cooking show segments, musical performances and more- all gelato centric. Obsessive? Maybe. Entertaining? Most definitely.
During this trip around Italy, I decided to let spontaneity decide the direction of my plans in major cities. The stars aligned when I found out about the festival a few days before it started and my hosts in nearby Partinico mentioned they were longtime friends with the master ‘gelataio’ and founder of the festival, Antonio Cappadonia.
Though I only attended one of the four day-festival, the atmosphere was absolutely electric. Bees flying from one flower to the next in search of their fix, the buzz kept on into the wee hours of the night.
I chose to approach this event through a documentary lens, often shooting from the hip and remaining as unobtrusive as possible. I hope you enjoy looking as much as I did shooting.