Friday, October 12, 2012

The Top 5 Historic Grand Cafés in Florence

Florence boasts many beautiful cafés that make stopping for an espresso or a pastry a real treat. Here is a list of the five oldest historic establishments in the city, which are still today among the most elegant and popular venues for a coffee break in grand “Italian style”.

Caffè Gilli
Piazza della Repubblica 36-39r

Gilli is Florence’s oldest and perhaps most prestigious cafés. The business was originally started in 1733 by the Gilli family of Switzerland as La Bottega Dei Pani Dolci” on Via Calzaiuoli; they changed location in 1860, moving to Via degli Speziali, and in 1890 they sold the café to another Swiss family, the Frizzonis. In the 1920s Gilli moved to its current premises and became a literary café that attracted the most famous artists of the time: the Futurists (Marinetti, Soffici, Boccioni, Carrà, Palazzeschi...). The perfectly conserved rooms and furnishings  from that period make Gilli the only surviving Belle-Epoque café in Florence. And even today, one can’t help but feel transported back in time upon entering this beautiful café, symbol of la dolce vita.

Caffé Concerto Paszkowski
Piazza della Repubblica 31-35r

Originally called Caffè Centrale, this landmark first opened its doors in 1846.
It was purchased in 1904 by the Paszkowski family from Poland who turned it into a beer hall.
During the early part of the 20th century, it served as a meeting place for artists, writers and journalists. After World War II the location was renovated and once again became the haunt of intellectuals from that period, like the poets of the Hermetic movement.
Today Paszkowski remains one of the most elegant and classic cafés in Florence and it is internationally renowned for its musical events. The beautiful Art Nouveau rooms are still used for meetings and fashion shows. The café was designated a National Monument in 1991.

Piazza della Signoria 5r

Enrico Rivoire of Turin was the chocolate maker to the Royal Family. He came to Florence in 1872 and opened his chocolate factory, where Florentines soon learned to savor the fine chocolates and delicious hot chocolate typical of the Savoy tradition. The shop quickly became famous,
thanks also to its splendid location directly across from Palazzo Vecchio in Piazza della Signoria.
In 1977, the Bardelli brothers took over the business and have maintained the traditional methods of toasting cocoa beans and preparing and packaging their products. Rivoire boasts many specialties, all made according to the original recipes using a high percentage of cocoa.
The beautiful original interiors, from the early 1900s are alone worth a visit, but the experience of a sunset illuminating the façade of Palazzo Vecchio while sipping a hot chocolate makes it a must!

Giubbe Rosse
Piazza della Repubblica 13r

Founded in 1897 as the “Birreria F.lli Reininghaus”, the café soon became a meeting point for the city’s large German community, while Florentines dubbed it “le giubbe rosse” – the red jackets – for the waiters’ unusual uniforms. Young Florentine intellectuals were attracted by the international clientele and the fact that there was always an abundance of periodicals and the venue soon became the birthplace and home of literary journals and artistic movements. The habitués included Papini, Sofci, Palazzeschi, Gadda, Gatto, Pratolini, Vittorini, and Montale.
After the Second World War, the café reopened in 1947 but, like the city, it suffered a gradual decline. Since 1991, under the management of the Smalzi brothers, a major effort is being made to restore the café’s image and role as a place of cultural exchange and events.

Pasticceria Bar Ruggini
Via dei Neri 76r

Giuseppe Ruggini began baking pastries and biscuits in 1914 on Via de’ Neri, one of the city’s most picturesque streets – and his business soon flourished. The founder’s wisdom and skill have been handed down through the years so that today, Riccardo, the third Ruggini pastry chef offers his clients freshly baked goods daily, along with fine pralines and chocolates also made on the premises.
The shop, which was expanded in 1989,  is located in an historic building with a characteristic single-arched brick ceiling. The oven, which dates back to the 1960s, still works like a dream, turning out exquisite delicacies every day.

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