• Nicoletta Fornaro

Enjoying an Ice-Cream at Caffè Florian


Have I ever told you that my greatest weakness is called ice-cream?! This is so true that every year, from May to mid September, I engage in a real tasting and treat myself to as many gelato as I can. This year I have been particularly lucky and had the fortune of inaugurating my ice-cream tasting season at the Caffè Florian in Piazza San Marco.

This happened simply because one morning, while going to Rialto, I met Agata -social media PR of the Caffè- and told her about my cravings, at which point she kindly invited me to try their 'Coppe Gelato'. How nice, an invitation I could certainly not turn down. After all, going to the Florian is always an experience.

As some of you know, for me the pleasure goes beyond the beauty of the place and is linked more to its history. Besides being one of the oldest cafes in the world, opened in 1720, the Florian has a special allure all of its own and it always makes me fantasise about the great men and women who passed by its rooms, some gossiping and abandoning themselves to earthly pleasures, others discussing politics, literature and art. A place of pleasure and ideas at the same time. Out of all the glorious personalities, I have to tell you that the man my thoughts always go to is not Casanova, but Venetian patriot Daniele Manin, who on the 22nd of March 1848 stood on a table of the cafe and declared Venice's independence from the Austrian rule, screaming out loud "Siamo liberi" ("we are free"). What a man he must have been...

As usual I sat in the Hall of Seasons . The room, with its rich floral decorations, couldn't have been more appropriate. Two lavish mirrors create a particular game of reflections that highlights the paintings of the four elegant female figures, allegories of the seasons. Their traits are sober and their dresses simple, in pastel pink, light blue and cream. Spring is carrying some flowers, summer has a bunch of golden hay under her arms, autumn a great quantity of grapes, while winter is turning her back to us. Pretty young ladies that enrich the room without stealing any attention from the other women, costumers of the cafe. The Florian, in fact, was the only cafe that admitted women.

My daydreaming was interrupted by the fine waiter in livery, who had kindly come to take my order. I opted for a 'Coppa Estate': a lemon, strawberry and mango ice-cream topped with fresh fruit. Normally I would choose something chocolaty, but the temperature was so hot that I was in need of a bit of freshness. The weather in Venice has gone crazy, the city passed from deep winter to summer from one day to the other and, personally, the only spring I saw was the one painted in that room!

The ice-cream was brought on the traditional heavy silver tray, together with some water and a cup of coffee. The first thing I noticed was how generous the portion was! It looked amazing, with bright colours and lots of fruit. The only pity was that I was on my own, because it would have been really perfect for two, maybe replacing the coffee with a glass of bubbles. Anyway, I savoured every bite and found it just perfect for the occasion: sweet and refreshing. It had pineapple, strawberries, water melon, berries and apples and, if you ask me, the best part was the mango ice-cream, with a perfect balance of acidity and sugar.

I took my time and since I have been invited to the opening evening, I seized the occasion to do a little research about Aldo Cibic, the designer and architect that for the 16th Biennale Architettura will exhibiting his work "(IN)complete". The exhibition will showcase an interactive installation in which visitors are required to participate by anonymously answering some question, thus, contributing to the creation of a new virtual 'FreeSpace'. The exhibition is free of charge and will be hosted in the Chinese Room, so if you happen to pass by the cafe do stop and have a look! As already mentioned in a previous post, I really appreciate the attention the cafe pays to contemporary art and the initiatives addressed to locals and visitors alike, like the special guided tours delivered by the Artistic Director Stefano Stpitivich.

After a while I went to the American bar to spy the moves of the barman and then, before leaving, I stopped for a moment in the Hall of Illustrious Men. From the white Istrian stone baseboard outside, you can still note that the original function of the room was the one of secret passageway that led to the Procuratie Nove. The atmosphere is magnificent and dark, characterised by the alternation of portraits and mirrors, all with golden frames. The portraits represent Marco Polo, Titian, Carlo Goldoni, Paolo Sarpi, Francesco Morosini, Benedetto Marcello, Pietro Orselo, Enrico Dandolo, Andrea Palladio and Vettor Pisani, all important personalities for the city. The one who fascinates me the most is Enrico Dandolo and one day (hopefully in the near future) I hope to visit his tomb in the Santa Sofia church in Istanbul.

How lovely. Spending time at the Florian always moves my head and relaxes me so much that I always leave energised and full of ideas and inspiration.

Being Venetian, I cannot but recommend to visit at least once in your life, whether you decide to take it easy and enjoy the music of the orchestra seated in Europe's most elegant piazza or to simply enjoy a cocktail standing at the bar! An experience not to be missed !

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