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Six Famous Bars and Cafes In Italy

Italian bars are more than drinking establishments. They are rooms where writers, thinkers, playwrights, and philosophers would meet. Set in the biggest piazza’s they are lofty perches from which some of the greatest minds of our time would document, observe, and debate, in some cases forming some of our most well known stories and ideas. Sit in the place of history with the most famous bars in Italy.

Caffe Gilli, Piazza Della Repubblica, Florence
Caffe Gilli is one of the oldest bars in Florence, established in 1733. In the 19th century the café was popular with Florence’s nobility, and a meeting place for politicians, and some of the most powerful families in Tuscany. Set in one of the biggest squares in the city, the café bore witness to over 200-years of rallies, protests, and political change, especially during Italy’s unification. In the 20th century, it hosted emerging artists, such as Marinetti’s futurists, and designers, such as Emilio Pucci.

Harry’s Bar, Near Piazza San Marco, Venice
The story of Harry’s Bar is as rich and colorful as the characters that frequently visited here. This was the watering hole for Orson Welles, Charlie Chaplin, Ernest Hemmingway, Truman Capote, and Peggy Guggenheim. Started by a young Bostonian and the Italian bartender who saved him from bankruptcy, the bar, which opened in 1931, featured a who’s who of figures in Italian, English, and American culture. Hemmingway famously had a table to himself in the corner where he wrote his novel “Across The River and into the Trees”. Set on the Grand Canal, this is the place to share an aperitivo in the company of history.

Al Brindisi Osteria Enoteca, Next to the Cathedral of Ferrara, Ferrara
In the shadow of Ferrara’s Cathedral, down a small alley lined with cobblestones are a few small unassuming tables under an old awning. This is the oldest wine bar in Europe, first opened in 1435, and famously counts Nicolas Copernicus, Renaissance artist Titian, and a young bishop named Karol Wojtyla as its guests. The ambiance is simple and modest, and the wine bottles coming from the brick lined cellar are dust-covered and musty, while guests dine on traditional Emilia-Romagna fare such as cappellini di zucca. Also in nearby Bologna visit Osteria del Cappello and Al Cappello Rosso, operating since the 14th century.

Antico Caffe Greco, Piazza Di Spagna, Rome
In the heart of the city, on a street facing the Spanish Steps, is a small bar that was the literary hangout of the 19th century. Opened in 1760, writers like John Keats and Hans Christian Anderson drank here, as did Richard Wagner, Franz Liszt, and Giacomo Casanova. It’s location in the trendy, politically heated city center makes it still a popular place for debate, intellectual discourse, and squabbles between politicians. Over coffee, the writers found their inspiration from the many characters that walked the colorful streets in this lively neighborhood.

Caffe Florian, Piazza San Marco, Venice
Caffe Florian, established in 1720, is one of the oldest running coffeehouses in Italy. This makes Caffe Florian of particular historical significance, since it was the Venetian relationship with Turkey, which first established coffee-culture on the peninsula. Writers from all over Europe flocked to the Caffe Florian, not only for it’s reputation, but also for its rich collection of Venetian art, which it proudly displayed on the richly decorated walls. Dickens and Lord Byron were regulars here as well as Marcel Proust and important figures from throughout Italy.

Al Bicerin, Piazza della Consolata, Turin
Al Bicerin in Turin is the birthplace of a national drink, as well as an important meeting place for aristocracy and ordinary citizens alike. It opened in 1763 and already it had broken one big taboo—it was completely, and still is, operated by women only. It was a landmark moment, and the café introduced the Bicerin, a mixture of espresso, milk, and drinking chocolate favored by the writers and philosophers such as Dumas and Nietzsche, and statesmen such as the Count of Cavour, who was a frequent visitor here. Al Bicerin is a source of national pride.

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