Caffè Florian, Venezia
When traveling I normally like to avoid places that are overly touristy. I feel like you get a much better feel for a place and its people if you go to the little places that are frequented by locals, as opposed to the big name locations, that appear on every tourist guide, where you will only be getting a feel for the city’s tourists. However, sometimes certain places are not truly tourist traps, but are famously popular with both tourists and locals for good reasons. This is certainly true of the world renowned Caffè Florian in Venice.
Caffè Florian is Europe’s oldest café and is almost as rich in History as Venice itself. When you walk inside you feel as if you have traveled back in time to Casanova’s Venice of splendour, elegance and guiltless indulgence. It was originally opened by Floriano Fracesconi in the breathtaking Piazza San Marco (St. Marks Square) in 1720, as “Alla Venezia Trionfante” (To the Triumphant Venice), but the café’s clientele later renamed it Caffè Florian in honour of the owner.
Caffè Florian was not only the most popular café of its time, but it was also the only gathering place that admitted women, which explains why the famous and infamous Casanova was a regular visitor. The list of other notorious visitors throughout the years has included names like Charles Dickens, Alexandre Dumas, Claude Monet, Ernest Hemingway, Charlie Chaplin, Clark Gable and Andy Warhol, to name a few.
Aside from simply being a meeting place for intellectuals and artists of different realms and times, the Café has a long history of being actively involved in the world of arts and culture. In fact, it was the birthing place for what we known today as the Venice Biennale, one of the world’s oldest and most important fine arts festivals. The inspiration for the festival, which was first held in 1895, came two years earlier from then Mayor of Venice, Ricardo Selvatico, who wished to transform the artists’ evenings at Caffè Florian into a prestigious Contemporary Art Exhibition.
Since 1988 the café hosts a contemporary art exhibition in conjunction with the Biennale, The Temporanea: le realtà possibili del Caffè Florian (Temporanea: the possible realities of Caffè Florian), where artists are invited not only to exhibit their art but to reinterpret the café’s halls with installations. The next Art Biennale will begin in May 2017, and has now earned a pretty high position on my bucket list.
The café is open all day serving delicious sweet and savoury treats. It has various rooms, each decorated with a unique theme, but all quintessentially Venetian. I was seated in the elegant Sala delle Stagioni (Room of Seasons), also known as the room of mirrors. I went to the café mostly just wanting to sit inside and soak up the place. I went in the early evening for a pre-dinner cocktail, but after reading their menu I was tempted to try the Fiori di Tè Florian (Florian Blooming Tea) instead.
It consists of spring tea buds that are tied by hand in the shape of pearls, and once infused open up into a beautiful flower. The tea is served in a transparent glass tea-pot, allowing you to watch the blooming of the flower. It was a true feast for the eyes, and was as scrumptious as it was beautiful. Just what I needed to warm up and relax after a long day of walking around exploring Venice.
Although I must be honest and say it certainly did feel like most of the people in the café that evening were tourists and not locals, it is absolutely not a tourist trap. I sincerely recommend for any art or history aficionado visiting Venice to spend some time at Caffè Florian, soaking up the beauty and significance of the place and delighting in their scrumptious treats.
To plan a visit or learn more about the famous Caffè Florian go to: www.caffeflorian.com