Florence's historic cafes

The intellectuals of the 20th century gathered around the same tables which still make the city unique

Elegance and quality are two constants in Florence's commercial activities. The city's historic cafes are a key player in Florence's more recent history: literary magazines, artistic movements, and great poetry were born around the tables of these locations which gave rise to inspiration, collaboration and intellectual polemic which have made a deep mark on the city. Today these cafes are key stops for tourists intent on truly understanding Florence in all its aspects.

Caffé Bianchi
Opened by Pasquale Bianchi in 1920 as a mixed business which sold tobacco, pharmaceuticals, liquors and coffee at Piazza S. Felice, 8r. In 1929 his son Bruno moved the business a few doors up the road to No. 5r adding wine and pastries to the other products on sale, and upgrading the furnishings, many of which are conserved to this day. The new location even roasted its own beans, filling the neighbourhood with its aroma. In the 1960s Bruno's son  Luciano took over the business which he runs to this day along with his son Jacopo. In 1996 the name Caffé Bianchi became official and the rooms were restored in their original style - note the rose-marble bar, the door, the wrought iron sign and the decoration of the back room.

Caffé Bianchi
Piazza San Felice, 5/r
Ph: +39 055 224406


Caffé Concerto Paszkowski
First opened in 1846 as Caffè Centrale, it passed in 1904 to the ownership of the Polish Paskowski family which turned it in to a birreria. In the first decades of the 20th century it became a meeting spot for the scholars and artists who were involved with the La Voce, Lacerba and Il Selvaggio magazines. In 1947, in the years after the war, the design was modernized and it became a favourite spot of the intellectual class, like the poets of the Hermetic movement. Today Paszkowski is still one of Florence's most elegant cafes, known internationally for its evening music concerts. The beautiful, early 20th century rooms also host conferences and fashion shows. The cafe was declared a National Monument in 1991.

Caffé Concerto Paszkowski
Piazza d. Repubblica, 31-35/r
Ph: +39 055 210236


Caffé Latteria Caffellatte
Opened in 1920 as a milk shop authorized to "mix coffee and milk" in a former butcher shop from 1840. The shelves, hooks, counter and marble walls and floor all date from the original butchery. In 1984 a new owner, Vanna Casati, began serving classic Italian breakfast with bowls of cafe latte, bread, butter, marmalade and homemade cakes and pastries. Today the cafe is still the local milk shop, but has also become a destination for many, including students and faculty from the nearby Department of Literature, thanks to its excellent organic, vegetarian products and lovely atmosphere

Caffé Latteria Caffellatte
Via degli Alfani, 39/r
Ph: +39 055 2478878


Caffé Le Giubbe Rosse
Founded as the “Birreria F.lli Reininghaus” in 1847, the Giubbe Rosse soon became a meeting point for the German community in Florence, while the Florentines took to calling it the "giubbe rosse" (or "red jackets") thanks to the odd uniform of the waiters. The international atmosphere, including dailies which were available for browsing, soon attracted the young intellectuals of Florence who created literary magazines and artistic movements in its rooms. Among its regular visitors were Papini, Soffici, Palazzeschi, Gadda, Gatto, Pratolini, Vittorini, and Montale. When the cafe was reopened after the war in 1947 it suffered from the city's decline and progressive marginalization. In 1991 the cafe was taken over by the Smalzi brothers and is quickly regaining its role in the city as a site for cultural exchange.

Caffé Le Giubbe Rosse
Piazza della Repubblica, 13/r
Ph: +39 055 212280


Gilli
In 1733 the Swiss Gilli family opened "The Sweet Bread Shop" in Via Calzaiuoli, moving to Via degli Speziali in 1860. In 1890 the cafe was taken over by another Swiss family, the Frizzoni. In the 1920s the cafe was moved to its current location and became the meeting spot for the period's artists, including Marinetti, Soffici, Boccioni, Carrà and Palazzeschi. The furniture and decorations, perfectly conserved, date to this time and Gilli is the only example of a Belle-Époque cafe still around in Florence. Of special interest is the main bar, decorated with bronze neo-calssical designs created by the famous Coppedè workshop.

Gilli
Piazza d. Repubblica, 36-39/r
Ph: +39 055 213896


Pasticceria Bar Ruggini
Giuseppe Ruggini began making biscuits and fresh pastries in Via de' Neri in 1914 and his buisness quickly became one of the most popular in Florence. His skill and passion were passed from father to son down to Riccardi, the third Ruggini pastry-maker who still offers fresh-baked pastries, refined pralines and chocolates to his customers every day. The business was enlarged in 1989 and is in a historic building which is covered in a single brick vault. The oven dates from the 1960s and still produces excellent products.

Pasticceria Bar Ruggini
Via dei Neri 76/r
Ph: +39 055 214521


Rivoire
Enrico Rivoire, Torinese Royal chocolatier, opened his chocolate factory here in 1872. This is where Florentines first learned how to taste chocolates and eat the traditional Savoy "chocolate in a cup." The shop quickly became famous, thanks not just to its excellent chocolates but also to its premiere location. In 1977 Rivoire passed into the hands of the Bardelli brothers, maintaining all of the artisan charecteristics which characterised its production: from the toasting of the cacao beans to the creation of their products. The chocolatiers offer a variety of specialties made from original recipes with a high percentage of cacao guaranteed. The early 20th-century furnishings are beautiful, but are nothing to compare with the experience of eating one of their excellent chocolates at a table in front of a sunset-tinted Palazzo della Signoria.

Rivoire
Piazza della Signoria, 5/r
Ph: +39 055 214412


Robiglio
The Piemontese Knight, Pietro Robiglio, after experience as a baker and pastry chef in Milan and Verona, opened his first shop in Florence in 1928, quickly attracting a refined and loyal clientele. His son, Pier Luigi, maintained the original artisanal mark of the products and Pietro's grandson, Edoardo, continued the family tradition. Today Robiglio is a modern pastry store where, to this day, it is still possible to taste the specialties of the past: the "Torta Campagnola," the "Fruttodoro" and the "Gallette al latte." Some of the original design has been reconstructed based on the originals which were damaged in the 1966 flood. Additional branches are located in Via Tosinghi and Viale Lavagnini.

Robiglio
Via dei Servi 112/r
Ph: +39 055 212784


Vivoli Piero Il Gelato

Serafino Vivoli founded his milk shop in 1929 and it soon became a pleasant meeting spot for a coffee and a place to buy whipped cream on Sundays. With the help of his brother Raffaello, the Vivoli brothers decided to move into gelato making in 1932. The naturally occurring ice originally came from Saltino, above Vallombrosa, where it was produced in the winter and conserved until the summer in iceboxes, before being brought to Florence in night trips to avoid it being melted in the sun. It was Raffaello's son Piero who, in the 1960s and '70s brought the gelateria to the height of its fame, when it was mentioned in guide books as often as Florence's Renaissance monuments. The gelateria is still run by the Vivoli family which has now opened an artisanal pastry bakery alongside the gelateria.

Vivoli Piero Il Gelato
Via Isola delle Stinche, 7/r
Ph: +39 055 292334

 

Click here to see the map

Cover image credit: Kirsi L-M

&
Food and Wine