Il Caffè letterario tra storia e modernità

The Literary Café between history and modernity

Literary cafes are born as a meeting point where you can sip a coffee, tea or herbal tea, and at the same time devote yourself to culture, reading and thinking.

History of the literary café

They began to spread in Europe at the beginning of the 1700s and soon became a point of reference for intellectuals and scholars who met there to discuss politics, economics and progress. The first literary café was born in France and was founded by an Italian, Francesco Procopio dei Coltelli who opened the famous Cafè Procope. In a short time the Procope became a meeting place for intellectuals, Enlightenment people and leading figures of the French Revolution. Marat, Danton, Robespierre and Diderot used to meet in this famous literary café.

Literary cafes also spread rapidly in Italy throughout the eighteenth century and it was in those environments that the ideas, debates and political convictions that led to the subsequent revolutions were nourished. The foundations of what was the Italian Risorgimento were laid and discussed in literary cafés throughout the boot. Literary cafés became the places where conversation created reality, where plans, utopian dreams and anarchist fantasies were born.

The literary café in Italy today

Given the great importance that literary cafés had in the history of our country, why not find out which ones are still open and where are they? Here is a list of the oldest and most famous literary cafés in Italy that can still be visited today.

Literary cafés in Northern Italy

  • Caffè Tommaseo is one of the oldest cafés in Trieste, it takes its name from Niccolò Tommaseo, hero of the short and heroic Republic of San Marco (1848-1849) and author of the "Dizionario della lingua italiana", the most important dictionary published in the country during the Renaissance. The date of its foundation is uncertain, but we know that in 1830 its halls were filled with bankers, journalists, artists and writers boasting regular guests of the caliber of James Joyce, Italo Svevo, Franz Kafka.
  • The Caffè Florian , symbol of the city of Venice, opened in Piazza San Marco way back in 1720. It was founded by Floreano Francesconi from whom the name derives. Among the famous people who sat in these frescoed rooms and sipped a coffee on these white marble tables, we remember: Stendhal, Ugo Foscolo, Lord Byron, Honoré de Balzac, Richard Wagner and Charles Dickens.
  • The Caffè Cova in via Montenapoleone in Milan, near the Scala theater, was opened in 1817. It was frequented by the city's upper class and by famous artists and writers. Even Giuseppe Verdi often sat at his tables. It was also mentioned in some writings by Ernest Hemingway.
  • Caffè Al Bicerin was founded in Turin in 1763. It takes its name from one of the city's iconic drinks - the "bicerin" (meaning "small glass" in Piedmontese) which is a blend of milk cream, chocolate and coffee. Located in the heart of the city, near an important church, it owed its initial success to the fact that the faithful went there immediately after mass. Many famous personalities frequented the Bicerin, among them Count Camillo Benso di Cavour, Alexandre Dumas father, Giacomo Puccini and Friedrich Nietzsche.

Literary cafés in Central and Southern Italy

  • Caffè Giubbe Rosse was founded in Florence in 1897 by two German brewers, the Reininghaus brothers. Giubbe Rosse is one of Italy's most famous literary cafés - and in fact it is often considered the country's literary café par excellence, having served militant futurists such as Prezzolini, Marinetti, Boccioni, Palazzeschi, Carrà and intellectuals such as Montale, Gadda, Saba , Pratolini, Vittorini and Quasimodo.
  • The Antico Caffè Greco in Rome, the capital's temple of culture since 1760 and which at one time was also known as "the German café" due to its illustrious German patrons, including celebrities such as Schopenhauer, Wagner, Liszt and Mendelssohn.
  • In Naples, intellectuals and politicians used to meet at the Caffè Gambrinus . Oscar Wilde during his Neapolitan exile in 1897 used to frequent this ancient literary café. Caffè Gambrinus was founded in 1860 in one of the most beautiful areas of the city of Naples and was the backdrop for the chatter of the local bourgeoisie of the Belle Époque and of Italian and foreign celebrities such as Hemingway, Sartre, Croce, D'Annunzio, Totò, the brothers De Filippo and even Bill Clinton.

Did you like the article? You may also be interested in: The Neapolitan coffee machine: coffee before the moka or Turkish coffee: delight and tradition .

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