The Italian Almanac
Saving the Garden Gnomes
A group of Italian youths are offering to pose as Snow White's seven dwarves for home owners worried that their beloved replicas could be snatched by an organisation that 'frees' garden gnomes. The seven young men from Cuneo north of Milan will dress up as the fabled dwarves and entertain kids for an evening before camping out in people's gardens.
"Our services are very cheap. We're prepared to work for the price of a dinner," said Fabio, the leader of the group. The gnomes' fees are next to nothing anyway since they're offering their services on eBay, the online auction site where bids start as low as one euro. "We'll even work for free if people feed us," Fabio said. "The Front has to be stopped".
Though never as active in Italy as other European countries, the Garden Gnome Liberation Front is still capable of striking fear into the hearts of gnome-owners. In a recent case in the northern Italian city of Bressanone, several gnomes were reported missing after a lecture in the nearby city of Brunico by a Swiss academic whose theories have sought to legitimise the Front's pranks.
The Front is devoted to saving gnomes from allegedly unnatural fates in boring middle-class gardens and restoring them to their native habitats in rugged mountain-top scenery. The Swiss professor, Fritz Friedmann, wrote a book claiming that gnomes are living beings imprisoned by man in cement because they are repositories of the wisdom of the "Great Dwarf".
The Front has been active in Belgium, Germany and especially France since the 1990s and an Italian chapter was set up in 1998.