Caffè Florian, an essential presence under the Procuratie Nuove in St Mark’s Square, is considered the oldest Café in Europe, a symbol of the city of Venice. It was opened on 29th December 1720 by Floriano Francesconi as “Alla Venezia Trionfante” (Triumphant Venice), although the clientele subsequently rechristened it “Caffè Florian” in honour of its owner.
While the finest wines and coffees from the Orient, Malaysia, Cyprus and Greece were being served inside, history was unfolding outside. Its windows witnessed the splendour and fall of the Serenissima Republic of Venice and the secret conspiracies against French and then Austrian rule; later, its elegant rooms were used to treat the wounded during the 1848 uprising. Right from the beginning, Caffè Florian has had a glittering clientele, including Goldoni, Giuseppe Parini, Silvio Pellico and many others.
Besides being the most famous coffeehouse, Caffè Florian was the only meeting place of the time that admitted women, which explains why Casanova chose it as his “hunting ground” in his continuing quest for female company.
The idea of creating an art exhibition was mooted in the late 1800s by then-mayor Riccardo Selvatico, to pay homage to King Umberto I and Queen Margherita. The first international art exhibition, that immediately gained world renown as the Venice Biennale, was held in 1895.
In the early 20th century, Caffè Florian introduced the traditional European “café-concert” with a permanent orchestra that today still continues to add considerable pleasure to the Florian atmosphere.
The Florian is still very much a living part of the Venetian life and tradition and the place where the world meet.
From a comfortable seat in the magnificent 19th-century rooms, you can imbibe the Café’s long and lively history. Although still a haven of tradition, the Café is also intensely engaged in today’s world. It hosts high-level cultural events, especially in the contemporary-art scene, with encounters and discussions about art and culture, offering itself as a space to experience and get involved in.
In the last years, Florian’s business strategy has seen the brand develop internationally with the opening of new locations with a modern and contemporary style that take the original 18th-century Café alive.