CAFFÈ FLORIAN: WHERE DRINKING A COFFEE IN VENICE IS A RITUAL
Where drinking a coffee in Venice is not simple as that!
A quick coffee in a bar, usually just standing at the counter: an Italian daily routine activity, just like commuting to work or turning on the pc.
But in Venice, drinking an espresso is not simply that!
It is a ritual consecrated by time, and there is a particular special place in the city where coffee itself plays a second role in the ceremony of serving it and sipping it.
Where? But at Caffè Florian, of course!
I was asked by 2NightVenezia to pay a visit to this historical cafè and to write an article, you can view the Italian version here. So, on a not so cold November morning, I strolled into Caffè Florian!
Here you can sit and observe all type of people passing by, be them tourists or locals, and discover the Venetian world in its essence.
Do you want to get noticed? Since its opening in 1720, Caffè Florian is, and will always be, the most suitable place for this.
Located in the gorgeous decorated archways of the Procuratie Nuove in Saint Mark’s Square, it is the oldest continuous service cafè in the world, since the decision of Cafè Procope in Paris to change its intended use, losing in this way the primacy.
The Florian has always been a favourite spot for the gathering of the famous and the scholars: people like Charles Dickens, Lord Byron, Hemingway and even Casanova, to name just a few, have all took a sip of coffee in here.
But what is so special about Caffè Florian?
To begin with, a marvellous almost faded glory, proof of its long history and not of an artificial search for what many modern places want to replicate. Here few concessions to modernity have been made and all of them in the past centuries.
Incredibly frescoed walls and ceilings, adorned by giant mirrors with gilded frames, patinated by age: it truly feels like to be in an exquisite carillon with the sound of classical music of the orchestra in the background. Peering through the beautiful windows you can immediately see the magnificence inside and you are immediately transported back in time!
Originally only two rooms, over the centuries five more were added, now all richly decorated after the restoration occurred in the mid-800.
Works of artists of the last three hundred years hang on the walls. Many end up all over the world, on loan to international art museums. A curiosity: for more than 30 years, the Florian, in contemporary with the Venice Biennale, every year has asked an artist to re-invent the Florian space, acquiring the artwork at the end of the exhibition and adding it to its proliferous collection.
Marble tables, chairs and red velvet sofas, waiters in elegant white jackets.
A sense of calm and refinement is all around this place.
In winter it is not easy to find a seat, people queue at the entrance, way before opening time at 10am; in summer, when the tables widen towards the square outside, it becomes a problem only on rainy days. But this is part of its wonderful charm.
A little bit of History on Caffè Florian
Between the 17th and 18th centuries, in Venice, hundreds of new places were opened, called “coffee shops” or “water shops” – they served lemonade, zabaglione, chocolate and the dark drink, which arrived from Constantinople at the end of the 16th century, coffee! So fashionable that Goldoni wrote:
“Everyone tries to do what everyone else does. Where acquavite flowed, now coffee is fashionable.”
In 1720 Floriano Francesconi called his coffee house “Alla Venezia Trionfante / To the triumphant Venice”. But the Venetians prefered to call it with the name of its owner, simply “Floriàn”. (Notice the accent on the A)
In 2020, 300 years of history will have passed and here they are getting ready with videos, events and exhibitions to celebrate this important anniversary.
Why you must go to Caffè Florian
I met up with Agata Dona’, SMM, and Stefano Stipitivich, Artistic Director, in a private room, reserved just for me.
Yes guys, just for me!
What an honour! I took a seat by the large beautiful windows: a wonderful view of the porticoes, the church tower and the square – allow me my moment of glory….showing off to the people outside, peering through the beautiful polished glass, wishing to be in my place!
The new managing director Marco Paolini, taking the reins from the centennial management of the Vedaldi family, relies entirely on the quality of the services and the products used.
And quality is what Florian delivers!
Why should you go to Caffè Florian?
“Why should you go to the Florian and spend a lot more than in a traditional bar?
Because you do not come in here to simply drink a coffee and leave.
Nowadays companies can no longer just provide products and services, they must offer real emotional experiences and Florian does this. With that cup of hot steamy coffee, I get to travel through history, I get to experience all different emotions and feelings. The most precious thing nowadays is the time for a break. Venice for its vocation is the city of relaxation. Stopping at Caffè Florian you take a break from the stress of life!”
Must have at Caffè Florian
And so I settled down and relaxed ordering a Casanova hot chocolate, the house specialty, a sumptuous and thick cocoa concoction, just like the one we know how to prepare in Venice, with mint flavoured cream and white chocolate flakes. This is an exclusive cocoa blend for Florian, available as a powder from the store as well as their online shop.
It is considered one of the 5 best chocolates in the world according to the Huffington Post.
Stefano suggested I try the Ricotta Cake and the Sacher Torte – I wondered if I would ever come out alive from here!
The desserts on the menu are on a rotation basis, changing throughout the year, but there are some “must have’s” who stays on all the time: the gianduiotto, the tiramisu and the tartufo.
Everything is produced in their artisanal workshop, according to the seasonality of the products.
The waiter returns with a beautifully laid giant tray: saucers and cups are all monogrammed. Service with silver trays as in the old days, perhaps the only one left in Venice. A real touch of class!
I taste the ricotta cake with raisins: a thin biscuit base and top caramelized with brown sugar, filled with a lot of ricotta cheese – a good balance of flavours. The Sacher Cake is a revised version by the chef and it is available both in summer, as a semifreddo, and in winter, as a cake: dark chocolate base with a delicate chocolate mousse and apricot jam – sublime.
I also get to try the homemade cookies: a mix of zaeti, the typical Venetian Yellow Polenta flour cookie, the Esse, the typical cookie from the island of Burano, some spicy biscuits, the baci di dama al cioccolato, small little chocolate filled bites, i brutti ma buoni (ugly but good) and some cantucci. All of them on sale in the store and the onlinesite, like the recipe book collecting Florian’s Venetian desserts.
Walk in, sit down and relax, with a hot drink and tasting sweets in the most beautiful living room in the world, feeling for a moment like Casanova: this is Caffè Florian, not just a simple bar!
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