The historic cafés of Italy

The coffees. Places of art and letters, heritage to defend

Article by Michele Sergio published on L’Espresso Napoletano of April 2018

Stendhal, Wagner, Goethe, Casanova and even Buffalo Bill spent time there. At the Antico Caffè Greco in Rome, located in the central Via dei Condotti since 1760, all the “great” of the moment were passing by.

For over 250 years literary living and art gallery (over 300 paintings allocated in its halls) par excellence of the Capital, now risks, it is news news, to close the doors due to unsustainable bureaucratic charges. It would be the last of a long list of historic cafés that have had to cease their activity.

It would be desirable that it should not close its doors, it is necessary that it should continue to operate, to continue to welcome in its rooms old and new patrons, perpetuating the fundamental social function of every historical café.

Perhaps not everyone knows that much of the best history of the Belpaese has been made inside the Cafés. Assiduously frequented, starting from the 18th century, by writers, philosophers, jurists, poets and artists, they became the privileged place of “making culture”. Exclusive drinks, elsewhere unobtainable, such as coffee, tea and chocolate and the most innovative music and acting shows, were exclusive to the Cafés, unique places to have fun and drink a la page, excellent and transversal places of aggregation and socio-cultural education .

Without modern media, including the web, it was the Cafés that formed the inexhaustible forge of cultural avant-gardes, the sounding board for new ideas. Listening to a song, admiring a ballet, sipping a drink, patrons among the patrons, artists and writers created, politicians and journalists gave life to parties and newspapers.

The protection of coffee is, therefore, of vital importance, not only for the custody of our glorious past, but also because the cultural furrow for the first time dug by the historic cafés can still be traced.

Italy, fortunately, is still rich in these magical and unmissable meetings: Baratti & Milano, Caffè Fiorio and Caffè San Carlo in Turin; Coffee-Pastry Cova, Bar Jamaica, Coffee Savini in Milan; Caffè Florian, Caffè Quadri, Caffè Lavena in Venice; Caffè San Marco and Caffè Tommaseo in Trieste; Pedrocchi coffee in Padua; Caffè Mangini in Genoa, Gamberini in Bologna; Caffè Gilli, Caffè Giubbe Rosse, Caffè Paszkowski, Caffè Rivoire in Florence; Caffè dell’Ussero in Pisa; Gran Caffè Gambrinus in Naples; Stoppani coffee in Bari; The Ancient Greek Coffee in Rome (hopefully still for a long time).

Caffè Florian – Venice

The Serenissima was for many centuries the main port of the Mediterranean. Here came the most precious fabrics, the unobtainable spices, the exotic dishes. When they open the doors of the first cafés in Piazza San Marco, it is immediately successful. The historical scope of the cafes is so epochal that Carlo Goldoni even writes a comedy, “La Bottega del Caffè”, dedicated to these new meeting places. Even today it is possible to visit these monuments of the history of Venice. The most prestigious Italian coffee (and perhaps also the first) is the Florian. Inaugurated in 1720 by Floriano Francesconi with the name “Alla Venezia Trionfante”, it was renamed “Al Florian” for the way of saying of its patrons “we go to Florian”. Florian’s frequenters, to name a few, Giuseppe Parini, Silvio Pellico, Ugo Foscolo, Charles Dickens, Johann Wolfgang Goethe, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, not to mention Giacomo Casanova who was here courting ladies.

Gran Caffè Gambrinus – Naples

The coffee in Naples spreads “officially” with the arrival of the Austrian princess Maria Carolina, future wife of King Ferdinand IV of Bourbon. It is she who most of all proposes the drink in its lavish feasts; it is thanks to her that, soon, many cafes begin to open in the city, especially along Via Toledo. There is culture in every field. Today the last ancient Neapolitan coffee, the only survivor of the terrible time, is the Gran Caffè Gambrinus. Founded in 1860 and located in Piazza Trieste e Trento, overlooking Piazza del Plebiscito, it is, still today, the temple of coffee, pastry and ice cream in the Neapolitan. Excellent guests of Gambrinus Oscar Wilde, Princess Sissi, Gabriele D’Annunzio, Edoardo Scarfoglio, Matilde Serao, Jean Paul Sartre and Presidents of our Republic.

The Caffè Pedrocchi of Padua

One of the most beautiful, important and monumental cafes in Italy. It was designed and built in 1831 by the Venetian architect Jappelli by the will of Antonio Pedrocchi. It looks like a real temple in the heart of Padua and each of its rooms recalls an artistic style of a specific historical era. Imposing the faà§ade with neoclassical columns and delightful are the interior rooms. Since in the mid-1800s the students and patriots settled here