“Venice is like eating an entire box of chocolate liqueurs in one go,” Truman Capote once wrote in The Observer. Nowhere is this more true than in the city’s competing historic cafes, Florian and Quadri, which have changed little since their 18th century heyday. Founded in 1720, Florian “is a living museum of Venetian coffee culture, with a jewel-box of an interior … that recalls a lost world of elegant assignations and literary debate,” writes Anne Hanley in The Telegraph. Also in St Mark’s Square is Gran Caffè Quadri, opened in 1775 by Giorgio Quadri, a Levantine from Corfu. Quadri “introduced Turkish coffee to the city,” explains the European Historic Cafes Association, and “was an instant success, thanks to the novelty of the way in which the coffee was prepared, as well as the diversity of its clientele,” which over the years has included everyone from Lord Byron, Dumas, Wagner and Proust to Gorbachev, Mitterand, Woody Allen and Angelina Jolie.
And there’s a third historic café on Piazza San Marco -- Caffè Lavena, “previously known as the Caffè dei Foresti – Foreigners Café – because it was frequented by rich Austro-Hungarian families and the international intellectual elite,” says the Louis Vuitton Venice City Guide. It also retains its original mouldings and an enormous Barovier&Toso Murano chandelier.
Don’t overlook the glorious salons of Venice’s luxurious hotels. The Oriental Bar at the Metropole Hotel serves afternoon tea from Dammann Frères in exotic, baroque style rooms “that have seen Vivaldi compose the Four Seasons and Thomas Mann write Death in Venice,” reports Veneto Secrets. Another hot tip from Veneto Secrets is Bar Dandolo at the historic Danieli Hotel, which is decorated with “the booty of gold, marble and Byzantine artworks carried to Venice by the Doge from the Ottoman Empire.” At the Gritti Palace, tea sommeliers choose the finest brews and serve them up with a glass of champagne and a pastry selection from chef Salvatore Gattullo in the beautiful Bar Longhi, which is “etched with Venetian mirror walls and unashamedly ornate furnishings,” writes The Rake. “It’s the jewel of the hotel … a true sophisticates retreat, indulgent and effortlessly chic in equal measure.”
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