Destination Coffee: Venice

Caffe Florian – Oldest Coffee Shop in Italy

This edition of Destination Coffee is in heavenly Venice where on every street corner (and in between) you’ll discover heavenly pastries and delicious cappuccino and espresso.

Italians take their coffee very seriously.

They like their coffee often and drink it in small and fast portions, without milk.

Popular drinks like Cappucino (with milk) are forbidden after 11 a.m. (although I’ll admit I like milk in my coffee all day, except after dinner – that is Espresso time). Read here for a little history

When in Italy do as the Italians do.

I enjoyed some of the best coffee I’ve ever tasted in Venice – it was bold but not overly strong with the perfect kick to jumpstart my day.

Our hotel, The Hotel Giorgione had a wonderful coffee machine that tasted better than any Starbucks

Later in the day a few of my friends from the tour group and I tried a local pastry and coffee show in the Campo San Luca area called Pasticceria Marchinni Time.

The Espresso was delicious, and the pastries and cakes light and fluffy. They even had a gluten free cake (see below)

Cafes along Piazza San Marco (St. Mark’s Square) are arguably the best known in Venice given their unique history and mouthwatering coffee and sweets.

A Battle of Coffee Shops: My tip – try them all!

Caffe Florian

Located in the Procuratie Nuove of St. Mark’s Square (towards the right if you are facing the church), Caffe Florian was founded in 1720. It is the oldest coffee house in continuous operation in Italy and the second oldest in Europe (Cafe Procope in Paris was founded in 1686)

  • Originally known as Venice the Triumphant (“Alla Venezia Trionfante”) it later was renamed after its original owner Floriano Francesconi
  • It was a watering hole for the playwright Carlo goldoni, Goethe and notorious Casanova.
    • The Florian was the only coffeehouse that allowed women to dine in – hence ladies man Casanova hanging out there
  • It later became the go-to coffee spot for Lord Byron, Marcel Proust and Charles Dickens
  • When the Austrians took over the city, many Venetians were dissatisfied and Caffe Florian became a pro-Venice/anti-Austrian spot in the city. While our next coffee stop, cafes Quadri and Lavena were pro-Austrian.

The cafe is gorgeously decorated with a Venetian meets 19th century flair. They have different themed rooms (Sala). A few examples:

  • The Sala del Senato – Age of Enlightment themed paintings decorated by Giacomo Casa
  • The Sala Cinese (Chinese Hall) and Sala Orientale (Oriental Hall) are inspired by the Far East and decorated by Antonio Pascuti

While our tour guide mentioned the prices are high – they were less than my Starbucks in the US – so I say it is a win.

Just to sit where such greats as Goethe and Dickens sipped (or quickly downed their Espresso) Coffee is worth its weight in gold.

You can learn about the history of the building and even order products online via the coffeehouse’s website.

If you walk across St. Mark’s to the ‘Old Office’ building you’ll discover two historic coffee shops also worth a visit: Caffe Quadri and Caffe Lavena.

Gran Caffe Quadri:

  • While Caffe Florian may be the oldest coffee shop in town, Caffe Quadri has deep roots. It opened on May 28th, 1775 when Giorgio Quadri arrived in Venice from Corfu. His wife Naxina suggested they invest in a place that serve ‘hot black water.’
  • The couple purchased a thriving bar called Il Rimedio (The Remedy) that served Malvasia wine, which was believed to enliven the body and spirit
  • They began serving Turkish coffee and it became a hit…
  • In 1830, Caffe quadri was purchased by the Vaerini brothers…It is now owned by the Alajmo family
  • When Napoleon conquered Venice and it eventually became Hapsburg territory, this coffee shop was the antagonist of sorts to Caffe Florian.

Not in the mood for a coffee, well Gran Caffe Quadri also specializes in Venetian cocktails including the light and sweet spritz (made with proscecco)

shallow focus photography of wine glass with slice of fruit on top of brown wood
Photo by Kristina Paukshtite on

Just a few doors down…

Gran Caffe Lavena has been welcoming coffee drinkers since 1750.

Gorgeously decorated with Venetian glass chandeliers that makes you feel like royalty this cafe became a favorite of Austrian expats during the Hapsburg rule of Venice. Caffe Lavena was the favorite coffee shop of renowned composer Richard Wagner.

Learn more about this wonderful cafe here.

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We’re touring Italy for the next few weeks.

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Fun fact: this blog is written by a human being and I appreciate your stopping by. I’m Adele and I started American Nomad to share my love of travel, good food and coffee, history, art and adventure with the world

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