Among the best known cafés in the world, beloved by the international jet-set, the Caffè Florian in Piazza San Marco is a true institution, one of the few places where you can still feel the dreamy atmospheres of the cafés of the last century. Here many cult movies have been shot, including “Summertime” with Katherine Hepburn and “The Talented Mr Ripley” with Gwyneth Paltrow. The Caffè Florian, actually the oldest Italian café, was inaugurated under the famous porch of the Procuratie Nuove on December 29, 1720 with the name “Alla Venezia Trionfante”. In a short time it was unanimously renamed “Florian” as the name of the owner, Floriano Francesconi.
A destination for artists, intellectuals, historians and fortune hunters, the Florian literally saw the history of Venice flowing between its elegant tables and the Piazza in front of it. The Caffè Florian became famous for coffee but also for its delicious hot chocolate, called “the Indian broth”, and was also the only place to admit a female audience in derogation of the prohibitions imposed by the Serenissima Republic.
In fact, in the eighteenth century’s Venetian cafes, especially during the Carnival time, every type of transgression was on the agenda so that the Government of the Serenissima Republic decided to restrict their attendance. Thanks to its special clientele composed by nobles and international diplomats, often accompanied by their wives, Caffè Florian obtained the permission and right here, in fact, the famous Giacomo Casanova began to meet his lovers.
The impressive book of signatures testifies the passage of characters such as Jorge Luis Borges, Thomas Mann, Goethe, Lord Byron, Gabriele D’Annunzio, Oscar Wilde, Ernst Hemingway, Amedeo Modigliani, Gina Lollobrigida, Marcello Mastroianni, Giorgio De Chirico, Paul Newman , Grace Kelly, Charlie Chaplin, Andy Warhol, Coco Chanel, Clint Eastwood and many others.
Before taking on the current set-up, the café consisted of two simple rooms without windows. Towards the middle of the eighteenth century it was enlarged adding two more rooms until, in 1858, the managers of the time entrusted the renovation to the architect Lodovico Cadorin giving it today’s appearance: a triumph of mirrors, stuccos and frescos.
Nowadays Caffè Florian continues to live as a privileged lounge on the colorful Venetian scene, offering its customers the chance to experience a dreamlike Venice. From the masks of the Carnival, which gather here for the joy of the eyes (and cameras), and their many initiatives dedicated to contemporary art and music.
If you want to experience Caffè Florian as a true Venetian, aperitif or coffee can be enjoyed at the bar (there are, in fact, two different menus, one At the Counter and one At the Table that you can download here), maybe accompanied by the mythical mini sandwiches or by the delicious macarons.
The sculptor Antonio Canova found in Floriano Francesconi a true friend and benefactor. Canova repaid him for his kindness by helping him buy new shoes when he suffered from gout: the sculptor carved a model of his friend’s foot to allow the shoemaker to take his measurements without inflicting suffering on him. The undisputed protagonist of Venetian life, the Florian also distinguished itself on November 4, 1966 when the current record of high water was reached, well 2 meters above sea level. In fact, one of the most iconic photographs of Venice portrays a historic Florian waiter offering a coffee to two emergency ferrymen engaged in commuting from one side of the square to the other.