An estimated million people had flocked to Rome's historic center on Sunday night for the fettered party when, as Marie-Laure Scherel from Paris, put it, “all of sudden, there was nothing -- a total blackout.”
A huge roar arose from the crowd, after which the fun-lovers returned to partying. Most remained more than three hours into the blackout with tens of thousands of people crowding the sidewalks.
The party, originally conceived by Rome Mayor Walter Veltroni though borrowed from his Paris counterpart, Bertrand Delanoe, was supposed to highlight the benefits of life in the city.
Many at first thought that the blackout was part of the entertainment.
“A big clamor went out as though people were asking 'who is the joker that switched out the lights?' I thought it was part of the white night,” Christophe Girard, the assistant mayor in charge of culture in Paris, who attended the Rome event told AFP.
"A big clamor went out as though people were asking 'who is the joker that switched out the lights?' I thought it was part of the white night"
Assistant mayor in charge of culture in Paris
Despite the velvet darkness, no major incidents were reported other than a few car accidents, the result of non-functioning traffic lights.
Veltroni established a crisis team. Hospitals switched to emergency generators, and the 3,000 people trapped in the metro system were evacuated.
Electricity was restored to the Italian capital shortly before 1000 GMT, while power was restored to the northern cities of Milan and Turin a few hours earlier.
French and Italian electricity officials said the outage had been triggered by a sudden interruption on power lines from France, caused by a storm.