Venice is renowned as a captivating and enchanting destination, celebrated globally for its exquisite beauty and unparalleled charm. This magical city serves as an artistic hub and cultural center, captivating visitors with its distinctive architecture that is unlike any other.
Due to its advantageous geographic position along the trade routes connecting the East and Europe, Venice has historically served as a significant commercial center. Throughout the centuries, the city has been a witness to the transit of various goods from the Arab world. It comes as no surprise, then, that Venice has emerged as one of the Italian cities where the love for coffee has flourished.
Owing to its strategic location and early engagement in trade with the East, Venice holds the distinction of being one of the first European cities to import coffee and cultivate a rich culture associated with this beverage. The historical bond between Venice and coffee has endured for more than four centuries, making it a city with a profound and enduring love for the drink. It was in Venice that the first coffee in Europe was introduced, marking a significant milestone in the continent’s coffee history.
In 1591, Prospero Alpini made pioneering contributions to the study of the coffee plant in Europe, conducting significant research on the therapeutic qualities of this invigorating beverage. The establishment of the first coffee shop in Piazza San Marco occurred in 1683, while the true birth of the European coffeehouse took place in 1720 with the opening of Caffè Florian under the Procuratie Nuove in Piazza San Marco. The remarkable success of Caffè Florian triggered a sweeping wave of coffee popularity across Europe, elevating it to the status of a vibrant social and intellectual hub throughout the 18th century.
Even in the present day, the cafes of Venice continue to hold a prominent position in the city’s culture. During the height of their popularity, the government had to intervene with an edict in 1759 to limit the number of new cafe openings due to their proliferation. These cafes still maintain their authenticity and elegance, serving as monuments to refined taste and conviviality. If you are planning a vacation in the world’s most renowned lagoon, visiting these cafes should be on your itinerary, allowing you to experience the charm and ambiance that has made them an integral part of Venice’s allure.
When it initially opened in 1720, this café bore the name “Alla Venezia Trionfante.” However, it later underwent a name change in honor of its founder, Floriamo Francesconi, becoming known as Caffè Florian. As previously mentioned, it holds the distinction of being the oldest coffeehouse in Europe, originating in the year 1720. Stepping through its entrance in Piazza San Marco, one is immediately transported back in time. The opulent furnishings and decor evoke images of famous individuals such as Carlo Goldoni, Giacomo Casanova, and Gabriele D’Annunzio engaging in discussions on the pressing themes of their era. Notably, Caffè Florian gained prominence at the time for being the sole establishment that allowed women to enter, further enhancing its allure. Sitting in one of its splendid rooms and savoring a cup of coffee is an experience that should be cherished at least once in a lifetime.
Gran Caffè Quadri:
Established in 1775, the Gran Caffè Quadri holds its place in Piazza San Marco. Founded by Giorgio Quadri, a merchant, and his Greek wife Naxina, who had recently returned from a sojourn in Corfu, the establishment took over an existing wine and coffee shop known as “Il Rimedio” under the Procuratie Vecchie. With their investment, they transformed it into one of the most prestigious coffeehouses among the Venetian nobility. Despite the initial skepticism of investing their family fortune in a place that served what some considered “boiling black water,” their venture proved to be a resounding success.
The halls of Caffè Quadri have hosted a multitude of illustrious clientele throughout the centuries, including the likes of Stendhal, Marcel Proust, and even the filmmaker Woody Allen. In 1830, the establishment underwent an expansion, dedicating the first floor to a restaurant. In 2018, the current owners embarked on a significant restoration project in collaboration with Philippe Starck and the finest Venetian artisans to revive the original enchantment of the venue, resulting in a romantic, poetic, and slightly surreal atmosphere. This remarkable endeavor has even been documented in a dedicated film, capturing the essence of the restoration process.
For the past 89 years, Harry’s Bar, located on Calle Vallaresso, has stood as a witness to the events of the 20th century in Venice. Its historical and cultural importance is underscored by the recognition it has received from the Ministry of Cultural Heritage, who bestowed upon it the status of a national monument in 2001. This prestigious distinction sets Harry’s Bar apart, as it is the only public establishment in Italy to have received such esteemed recognition.
The origins of the name “Harry’s Bar” are rooted in a remarkable story. In 1931, a young and affluent American named Harry Pickering was a frequent patron of the Hotel Europa, where Giuseppe Cipriani worked as a bartender. However, due to financial hardships, Pickering ceased his visits to the bar. Recognizing Pickering’s predicament, Cipriani decided to lend him a substantial sum of money to assist him during his challenging times.
Two years later, Pickering’s fortunes took a turn for the better, and he returned to the bar to express his gratitude. In an extraordinary act of appreciation, Pickering repaid Cipriani a sum that was five times the amount he had originally borrowed—an amount significant enough to enable Cipriani to fulfill his dream of opening his own bar. To honor Pickering and commemorate the extraordinary gesture of repayment, Cipriani named the bar after him, forever immortalizing Harry Pickering as the inspiration behind “Harry’s Bar.”
At Harry’s Bar, the timeless Bellini cocktail has been savored by an illustrious clientele that includes renowned individuals from various fields. Icons such as Katherine Hepburn, Gary Cooper, Giancarlo Menotti, Orson Welles, Joe DiMaggio, and Ernest Hemingway have all had the pleasure of indulging in this exquisite drink.