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Caffé Florian

Venetian coffee culture

Florian's, Interior

Two hundred years ago. Piazza San Marco had 27 coffee-houses, with names like the ‘Queen of the Sea’, the ‘Coach of Fortune’, the ‘Matter of Fact’, and, most famously, ‘Venice Triumphant’, now called Florian’s after its founder. They were open around the clock, lit with ‘a dazzle of everlasting day’ – the best places in Venice for a gossip or intrigue, where checks on fidelity were very lightly kept. If expenses be damned, you may agree with an Austrian writer, who reasoned that

since Europe is the most beautiful continent in the world, and Italy the most beautiful country in Europe, and Venice the most beautiful city in Italy, and Piazza San Marco the most beautiful square in Venice, and Florian’s the most beautiful café in the Piazza, I can sit and have my coffee in the most beautiful place in the world.

Florian's which opened in 1720, making it the oldest coffee house in Italy. Completely, lavishly redecorated at huge expense in 1858, it has two main rooms: the Sala degli Uomini Illustri with murals of famous Venetians, and the Sala delle Stagioni or degli Specchi ('of the Seasons' or 'of the Mirrors'). Other rooms include the Sala del Senato, legendary birthplace of the Venice Biennale. All Venetians learn that this is the place to take one's coffee (if one if feeling flush– the prices are eye-watering, with a surcharge when musicians are performing) as opposed to the Quadri, where the Austrian occupiers used to sit, on the opposite side of the Piazza San Marco.

Today it sells its own array of coffees, teas, wines, liqueurs and chocolates and designer gifts.

The café was used as a location in The Talented Mr Ripley (1999).

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Text © Dana Facaros and Michael Pauls

Image by Mario Antonio Pena Zapatería