Don’t call them bars: the historic cafés of Florence, among their cups, tables and counters, still retain the charm and atmosphere of past eras. The first cafés appeared in the city in the 1730s and were all concentrated in the areas of piazza del Duomo and piazza della Signoria, but in those years via Tornabuoni was also starting to become a real urban lounge
In via Tornabuoni, on the ground floor of Palazzo Altoviti Sangalletti, the Gran Caffè Doney was opened, the first café in the true sense of the term in Florence, then closed in 1986. After the uprisings of 1848, in a café in via Larga, today via Cavour, however, young artists began to meet, many of whom attended the nearby Academy in Piazza San Marco. It was the Caffè Michelangiolo, which is still located in via Cavour and hosts only private events. It is part of the complex that houses the Leonardo da Vinci Museum of the Niccolai family. Right inside its rooms, in the 1850s, the Macchiaioli movement came to life.
Café Giacosa 1815, Florence, the capital of Italy, experienced a new phase of renewal: the number of cafés in the city increased from 19 to 107 in the space of fifty years, from 1815 to 1865. In this period Caffè Giacosa was born, a placewith pastry shop and coffee room at number 9 in via Tornabuoni, in front of Palazzo Strozzi. In 2001 it was incorporated – and at the same time saved – by the Cavalli boutique, transforming it self into Caffè Giacosa by Roberto Cavalli, continuing to offer a good standard Negroni, 100% Arabica coffee, traditional desserts for breakfast and some savory treats. All until 2017, then the closure: end of the Cavalli boutique, end of the coffee, arrival of Armani, but they opened again this year.
However, not all of that historic café in Florence has been lost.At the beginning of 2019, the Caffè Lietta opened in piazza della Libertà, born from the desire of the two sisters Francesca and Lucilla Tacconi (grandchildren of Cavalli) not to lose the experience of via della Spada. The soul of Giacosa remains in the armchairs that furnish the new Lietta, in the custody of the ancient recipes that have made coffee history and in the staff who worked there.
The history of Caffè Rivoire, cup & chocolate. The transfer of the capital to Rome and the city’s economic crisis did not stop Enrico Rivoire who in 1872 in Florence started up not just a café but a “steam-powered chocolate factory”, at the Palazzo Lawison in Piazza della Signoria, on the corner with Via Vacchereccia. Rivoire and the view of him on Piazza della Signoria still resist the onslaught of chains and new establishments, thanks to the incomparable panorama of Palazzo Vecchio and the skill of its master chocolatiers. At the Caffè Rivoire, Florentines still come today to buy chocolate-covered lemon peel, a speciality. The outdoor terrace is a hunting ground for tourists and selfies, but Rivoire continues to keep its charm intact.
Historical cafes of Florence: Giubbe Rosse, Gilli and Cafe Paszkowski In 1890, in what is now Piazza della Repubblica, some of the historic cafés of Florence were founded, among the best known: Centrale (later Paszkowski), Gambrinus, Reininghaus (later Le Giubbe Rosse) and Gilli, all linked to the memory of artistsand literati. Caffè Paszkowski achieved great prominence on the cultural scene in the 1930s, when a group of writers, including Mario Luzi, met there every evening to exchange opinions.Gilli, after a series of modernizations, became a place with two rooms and an outdoor area, along the lines of the nearby Paszkowski: today the coffee you drink at Gilli’s is considered one of the best in Florence. What remains of Paszkowski and Gilli’s past as literary cafés (and the same goes for Le Giubbe Rosse) are paintings, photographs, covers of the magazines Lacerba and La Voce, newspaper clippings and other relics, exhibited as if they were museums.The staff, rigorously in uniform, is particularly courteous and professional, bordering on cutesy, an attitude which however does not discourage the large numbers of Florentines who throng every day, cheerful and noisy, at the café counter. Today Paszkowski is the destination of groups of teenagers walking around Florence who stop here to have a drink and above all take a selfie with the club’s logo, to be posted immediately on Instagram.
In the same square, in 1897, the Florentine press announced the opening of the café-brewery founded by the Reininghaus brothers.The restaurant began to assume an important role in the cultural life of Florence in the years preceding the outbreak of the First World War, becoming a meeting point for futurist poets and artists such as Soffici, Papini, Marinetti and Viviani. It was in those moments that it came to be known as the Le Giubbe Rosse café, a name it still retains today.But these are far more difficult times: in 2018 the Giubbe Rosse cafe ends up at auction due to bankruptcy, 3 go deserted, in the fourth it is bought by the Scudieri group (owner of another historic café in Florence overlooking the Baptistery of Florence), whichwill reopen in 2020 after renovations.
The Gambrinus, first café then cinema and finally Hard Rock On 1 December 1894, in the only porticoed area of the former Piazza Vittorio Emanuele, in via dei Brunelleschi n.1, the sumptuous Gambrinus Halle café-concert was opened.Among his clients there were no shortage of writers and artists, who generally frequented Le Giubbe Rosse. In the 1920s it was a cinema and since 2011 it has housed the Hard Rock Cafè in Florence. The two Robiglios of Florence We close with Robiglio, founded in 1928 and which today maintains two premises in the city: one in via dei Medici 16R and one in via Spartaco Lavagnini 16R, In the latter, the bedside rug, a special rectangular breakfast pastry with a heart of cream, is worth a walk for many Florentines.The rice pudding is also delicious and fragrant, so much so that a series of customers of a certain age say that breakfast at the bar with Robiglio’s pudding is priceless.