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Venice's Historic Cafes

When it comes to historical Italian coffee, you can not help but talk of Venice. It is in this lagoon city that the tradition of coffee was born, that due to its position and its trade relations with the Arab world, which then spread to the rest of Italy.

The first "botega da caffè" in Piazza San Marco existed already at the end of the seventeenth century; and even the master of the Venetian theater, Carlo Goldoni, dedicated one of his works the coffee shop. But the real explosion of the phenomenon took place in 1700, with the emergence of numerous cafes and bars. Among these, one of the best known and oldest is undoubtedly the Florian, even now the symbol of the city. A journey through the best known, historic Venetian coffee starts right here, right under the arcades of the Procuratie Nuove in Piazza San Marco.

The Caffè Florian
The Caffè Florian was founded in 1720 and opened under the name "Alla Venezia Trionfante - In Venice Triumphant." From then on, this elegant building has been characterized by its exclusive products and guests: here, noblemen, politicians, intellectuals and womanizers would meet, protagonists of their own time, such as Carlo Goldoni and Casanova or, more recently, Gabriele d'Annunzio. Today, the Caffé Florian still retains the charm of the ages it has lived through. With its architecture, the result of renovations and reconstructions, the richly decorated rooms in different styles (the most famous being the Senate floor, the Chinese Room and the East Room, the Hall of Famous Men), and its 18th-19th century interiors, the café is an important cultural center where exhibitions are organized, meetings, and installations (here, at the end of 1800s, what would later become the famous Venice Biennale was created). But it remains, however, also an ideal place for tourists who simply want to enjoy an espresso sitting at a little table in the heart of Venice, a few steps from the Grand Canal.

Gran Caffè Quadri
Sempre in piazza San Marco, c'è un altro caffè storico che dal 1775 si è conquistato uno spazio di  rilievo fra i molti locali della piazza. Il Gran Caffè Quadri racchiude in sé il ricordo dei secoli vissuti tra il crepuscolo della Repubblica della Serenissima e la nascita dell'età moderna, e i segreti dei personaggi che sedettero nelle sue sale. Dopo Stendhal, Lord Byron, Alexandre Dumas, Wagner, Marcel Proust, ancora oggi, il Gran Caffè Quadri è la meta preferita di attori e registi che frequentano la Mostra del Cinema di Venezia, fra i quali compare anche Woody Allen.

Gran Caffè Quadri
Also in St. Mark's Square, there is another historic cafe that since 1775 has earned a prominent place among the many. The Gran Caffè Quadri embodies the memory of centuries lived in the twilight of the Republic of Venice, and the birth of the modern age, and the secrets of the people who sat in its halls. After Stendhal, Lord Byron, Alexandre Dumas, Wagner, Marcel Proust, even today, the Gran Caffè Quadri is a favorite of actors and directors attending the Venice Film Festival, including Woody Allen.

Harry's Bar
More recent, but equally fascinating, is the story of Harry's Bar, opened in 1931 and declared a national monument in 2001 by the Ministry of Cultural Heritage. Built from an old warehouse close to Piazza San Marco, Harry's Bar owes its name and existence to the American student Harry Pickering. This is not strictly a coffee bar, but inside intellectuals, artists, writers such as Arturo Toscanini, Guglielmo Marconi, Charlie Chaplin, Orson Welles and Peggy Guggenheim, all spent time.

Caffè La Calcina and Other Historic Spots
Moving to
the southern limit of the city, in the ancient neighborhood called Le Zattere, we find the Caffé La Calcina, another important spot that was a bohemian meeting place for artists and writers in the early 1900s such as Rainer Maria Rilke. The place is now a bar and restaurant called La Piscina, in memory of the bathhouse with a pool that used to be there.
In the Lido area, finally, is Lion's Bar, designed in 1925 to offer to visitors and tourists a shining example of Art Deco friezes with its wrought iron, stained glass, and floral decorations typical of that era.

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