Getting Merry for Christmas at the Caffè Florian
Like every year, December has arrived and we all know what this means: Christmas!!! This is the period of the year when every evening there seems to be a reason to toast something, when everyone invites you to a dinner party, people run around town as if possessed by a crazy spirit looking for the perfect gift, children write their letter to Santa with shimmering and hopeful eyes and we are all more prone to being kind and attentive. In fact, I love this festivity!
Christmas is great and, although I do agree with the fact that having to buy presents has nothing to do with its meaning, I admit I enjoy trying to figure out what would make the people I love happy. With regard to myself, if one wants to be sure not to get it wrong ,three are the things I prefer the most: food, a good bottle of red wine or an experience. My husband and I always go for the experience and we have our little rituals during the year, something special we do on certain occasions. For his birthday, for example, we usually dine at Al Ridotto, while for Christmas we treat ourselves to a nice cocktail and our favourite choice is always the Caffè Florian.
Like most Venetians, when we go we sit at the bar and watch the elegant moves of the barman. I find that the refined Christmas decorations add even more warmth to a place that is already marvellous on its own, with the velvet seatings, the arabesque and liberty ornaments and the stunning mirrors framed in gold. The soft illumination and the incredible kindness of the staff all dressed up in livery are definitely something I wouldn't mind getting used to.
In fact, to tell you the honest truth, in this period we go more than once, generally three times, just to try different drinks. Our only rule is that the first one has to be red, because red is the most representative colour of Christmas, to get us into the mood. Red is linked to Christmas because it's the colour of Holly berries, which represent the crown of thorns of Jesus on the cross and it was also the colour of Bishops robes, which would have been worn by Saint Nicholas and then became the colour of Santa's uniform. I also read that a popular Christmas Eve Play in the Middle Ages was the Paradise Play, with the story of Adam and Eve and churches would use pine trees and fasten apples to their branches to represent the tree of good and evil.
With regard to cocktails, red allows a wide range of possible options, but this year we went for a Tintoretto and the reason for this is only because last week we went to the Madonna dell'Orto church exactly to see his Presentation of the Virgin at Temple. The cocktail is a variation of the Bellini, invented in 1948 by Giuseppe Cipriani, head barman at Harry's Bar, and of all variants it is probably the most difficult to prepare due to the astringent component of the pomegranate. It's made only with two ingredients: 1/3 of fresh pomegranate juice and 2/3 of prosecco and its name -quite obviously- pays homage to the above mentioned Tintoretto.
Whatever cocktail you order at the Florian you will be served an assortment of nibbles like olives, small squares of tramezzini and savoury pastries. You take your time and relax and, if you allow me suggest, if you can, go in the evening, from 7 pm on. During the day Saint Mark's is probably one of the most visited places in the world and, although still beautiful, it is more crowded, while in the evening the square becomes another place and right now, with the bright Christmas lights under the porticos and the illuminated tree... well, it really is an experience, something definitely worth your visit.
The drink was garnished with some red berries that recalled the traditional -but inedible- Holly berries, the bottom of the glass had been properly frozen and a little bit of sugar had been added to the pomegranate juice in order to make it milder and easier to sip down. Not that it takes much, don't worry. I try to go slowly because I want to get the most of the place, it is such a treat being here that when I come I just want to relax, but Vito is unstoppable! When we go out it often happens that by the time I finish my first drink, he has already had two and if we are with friends things can get even more complicated.
On one thing we agree: I get to eat the olives and he eats the small tramezzini. What I like about these moments is that, in a way, it's like going on a brief vacation. The time of the drink is a time dedicated to positive thoughts and to all those superficial yet necessary chitchats, to remind us that, to put it with Elio's words (one of the protagonists of the movie La Vita è Bella by Roberto Benigni), there is nothing more necessary than the unnecessary!
So, if you happen to be in Venice during the Christmas holidays, treat yourself to a proper drink with a capital D. Walk into the Cafe, go to the bar and enjoy the show.
Cheers and Happy Holidays!
Address: Piazza San Marco 57, 30124 Venezia
Phone: +39 5205641