Caffè Florian

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Emblem of the Caffè Florian
Interior view of the Caffè Florian
Another interior view

Caffè Florian is a coffee house situated in the Procuratie Nuove of Piazza San Marco, Venice. It was established in 1720, and is a contender for the title of the oldest coffee house in continuous operation (Antico Caffè Greco in Rome was established in 1760).


Coffee, which the Venetians first recorded in Turkey in 1585, began to be sold commercially in Venice in 1638, and coffee houses soon sprang up around the city. The Florian opened with two simply furnished rooms on 29 December 1720 as Caffè alla Venezia trionfante (the Café of the Triumphant Venice), but soon became known as Caffè Florian, after its original owner Floriano Francesconi. The Caffè was patronised in its early days by notable people including the playwright Carlo Goldoni, Goethe and Casanova, who was no doubt attracted by the fact that Caffè Florian was the only coffee house that allowed women. Later Lord Byron, Marcel Proust, and Charles Dickens were frequent visitors. It was one of the few places where Gasparo Gozzi's early newspaper Gazzetta Veneta could be bought, and became a meeting place for people from different social classes. In the mid-18th century the Florian expanded to four rooms.

Valentino Francesconi, the grandson of Floriano Francesconi, took over the business at the beginning of the 19th century, and passed it on to his son Antonio. By 1858 the establishment had passed into the hands of Vincenzo Porta, Giovanni Pardelli, and Pietro Baccanello, and was in need of some restoration. Lodovico Cadorin was commissioned to carry out restoration work and redecorate the interiors, but there was public outcry over the expense[clarification needed] and because he was tampering with a much loved institution. However the work pressed on, and the rooms were redecorated in opulent splendour and given the names by which they are still known. The Sala degli Uomini Illustri (Hall of the Illustrious Men) featured paintings by Giulio Carlini of ten notable Venetians: Goldoni, Marco Polo, Titian, Francesco Morosini, Pietro Orseolo, Andrea Palladio, Benedetto Marcello, Paolo Sarpi, Vettor Pisani and Enrico Dandolo. In the Sala del Senato (Senate Hall) the walls are decorated with panels depicting scenes from the worlds of the arts and sciences by Casa with the theme "Progress and Civilisation instructing the Nations". The Sala Cinese (Chinese Hall) and Sala Orientale (Oriental Hall) take their inspiration from the Far East with paintings of lovers and scantily clad exotic women painted by Pascuti. The Sala delle Stagioni (Hall of the Seasons) or Sale degli Specchi (Hall of Mirrors) was decorated by Rota with the figures of women representing the four seasons. The Sala Liberty which was added at the beginning of the 20th century is decorated with hand-painted mirrors and sumptuous wooden wainscoting.

The exterior of Caffè Florian, Piazza San Marco


From 1893, at the prompting of Ricardo Selvatico who had been inspired while dining in the Senate Hall, the Florian became home to the Esposizione Internazionale d'Arte Contemporanea (International Exhibition of Contemporary Art), an ever-changing display of work from the artists of the time, known today as the Venice Biennale. The rooms of the Florian have been decorated with the works of artists, sculptors, photographers and cartoonists. In 2003 Irene Andessner added Le Donne Illustri (The Illustrious Women), ten portraits of notable women of Venice, to the Hall of the Illustrious Men. Many of the works of art are part of the Florian's private collection and are loaned to art museums around the world. Music is played at the Florian from April to October.

Branching out[edit]

In the early twenty-first century Florian experimented with branching out of Venice and opened a location on Via del Parione in the centre of Florence. Florian also has branches in Marina Mall, Abu Dhabi, in Harrods department store in London, and the Gate Village, Dubai International Financial Centre.


Coordinates: 45°26′1″N 12°20′17″E / 45.43361°N 12.33806°E / 45.43361; 12.33806