Where Proust and Dickens went for coffee.
Because of the hefty prices and the tourist mobs, Venetians tend to avoid cafés in the Piazza San Marco. But when they want to indulge and regain control of their city, they go to Florian. If you want to do it the Venetian way, you must do Florian. Misperceived as a typical destination for tourists, and often reduced to only visitors’ central, Florian’s purpose goes beyond maintaining the Venetian travel industry. Famous for its rich history, Florian is a crossroads of art, culture, politics and entertainment.
Although located in one the city’s densest areas that is overpopulated with sightseers, Florian café has more to offer than what you would find mentioned in a typical tourist brochure. Similarly to Les Deux Magots – meaning in French the two Chinese figurines – on the Boulevard Saint Germain in Paris, and the Bloomsbury café at Tavistock Place in London, the café is synonymous with literary and artistic life. Frequented by numerous fame artists, Florian is a Venice icon and institution bringing to mind decades of history, cultural heritage and intellectual brilliance.
Founded in 1720, in Piazza San Marco, Florian café is Italy’s first café. It was named after its original owner Floriano Francesconi. With its interior aesthetics, it is also undisputedly the most beautiful one, until today. Florian’s high-ceilings and neo-baroque interior have a lot of stories to tell about the history of Venice and its legacy. The 19th century wall panels depict Venetian heroes, imbuing the café in local history.
Favored by the city’s citizens during the Austrian occupation, it was the only café to serve women during the 18th century. Aside from being drenched with history, and constituting the epitome of progress and sexual liberation, the café reflects Venice’s cultural, literary and artistic heritage. It was the café of choice for artistic notables and dramaturges such as Carlo Goldoni, Goethe, Casanova, Lord Byron, Marcel Proust, and Charles Dickens.
After the owner’s death, the Franscesconi generation was commissioned to carry out restoration work and redecorate the interiors. The various rooms were subject of an opulent reformation, and were given names that haven’t changed until this day. The Sala degli Uomini Illustri, which means in Italian “Hall of the Illustrious”, features paintings of ten renowned Venetian figures such as Goldoni and Marco Polo. The second room, Sala del Senato, as in the Senate Hall, is characterized by its beautifully ornate walls. Painted squares reminisce on the historical and aesthetic legacy of the city. They depict scenes from the worlds of the arts and sciences with the theme "Progress and Civilisation instructing the Nations". The third and fourth rooms, Sala Cinese and Sala Oriental which respectively mean Chinese Hall and Oriental Hall are inspired from the Far East. The Sala delle Stagioni, Hall of the Seasons also known as Sale degli Specchi, Hall of Mirrors, encompasses women figures that represent the four seasons.
The last room is the latest addition to the café, built in the beginning of the 20th century and is called The Sala Liberty. It is decorated with sumptuous hand-painted mirrors. All the rooms of the Florian are adorned with the works of artists, sculptors, photographers and cartoonists. Café Florian then became since 1893 the birthplace of the international exhibition of contemporary art exhibition, which later blossomed into the Venice Biennale. The showcase displays masterpieces of artists of the culturally rich époque. Contemporary Austrian artist Irene Andessner painted ten portraits of influential Venetian women, and called this masterpiece Le Donne Illustri, meaning The Illustrious Women in Italian. In 2003 her work of art was added to the Hall of the Illustrious Men. Many of the Florian’s works of art are lent to art museums around the world.
Whilst the common opinion misperceives Florian café as only a touristic destination to tick off the Venice brochures’ checklist, this reduction evidently does not do the coffee house justice. Florian sweeps you back to 18th-century Venice with history and art-filled interior. Florian is a perfect spot for an afternoon of culture. Whether seated in one of the café’s sumptuous rooms, or sitting outside enjoying the weather, Florian’s service is impeccable, and offers products of the finest quality. Music is played at the café from April to October. Treat yourself for good cup of coffee whilst listening to the orchestra in the Piazza. Famous for its rich history as a crossroads of art, culture, literature and politics, the Florian is also known for its trademark products: coffee, teas, chocolates, cookies, porcelains, and design objects. We recommend the coffee and the hot chocolate. It encapsulates Venice’s historical, cultural and artistic legacy. Far more than hot beverages, whether you are from Venice or a tourist, you really come here for the atmosphere and to be part of Venetian history.