Italy’s Historical Cafe Pedrocchi

The cafe from the street
The Cafe Pedrocchi from the street and the bustling piazza 

Appearing more like a palace than a coffeehouse, the historical Cafe Pedrocchi of Padua has entertained famous literary and political figures since its founding in 1831. Because it was also the largest cafe in Europe, Cafe Pedrocchi became a quick sensation.

Coffee consumption by the bourgeoisie of Europe grew very popular during the 18th century. As a result, in 1772 Francesco Pedrocchi of Bergamo began the original and very successful coffee shop here near the University of Padua, the town hall, and the markets. It became the central hub, the social heartbeat of the city.

Over the marble threshold and into the illustrious cafe. Even the tables are lined up to near perfection!

In 1831, Francesco’s son Antonio expanded the coffee house to cover an entire block by hiring Venetian architect Giuseppe Jappelli to redesign the premise. He integrated different buildings and facades into a single unit, creating an eclectic extension. The interior is neoclassical in style, with marble floors and pillars while adorned with graceful ornamentation.

There are three rooms on the main floor. The Red, White and Green rooms which are the colors of the Italian flag. Upstairs are nine rooms and a museum featuring 19th century Paduan history. Famous artists such as Stendhal, Lord Byron, Dario Fo and several others have spent much time here.

The cafe was heavily damaged in WWII and completely rebuilt in its original neoclassical 19th century splendor. During the war, Italian revolutionaries met here to plan an unsuccessful attempt to overthrow their Austrian occupiers. The walls of Cafe Pedrocchi are imbued with many a conversation.

Baby Grand....nice ambience!
Baby Grand and a swanky bar

Inside the cafe, the ambience is one of class and elegance. Cafe Pedrocchi is the name of their signature drink, made of piping hot espresso topped with a cold mint creme topping. Luscious!

Delectible morsels brought to the tabel accompanied my coffee drink
Delectable morsels brought to the table, accompanied my coffee drink

Finger sandwiches, olives and chips accompanied our drinks and were the perfect addition.

Menu d’Elegance
Many feet have padded over this door mat
Many feet have padded over this door mat
Gracious Elegance, the Cafe Pedrocchi
Gracious Elegance, the Cafe Pedrocchi

Tall Greek columns and stately lions gave the cafe a very unusual feel. Exotic, stately, classic, the building graced the streets of Padova with a lot of charm. University professors and students, intellectuals, and artists have all spent much time consorting with each other inside the cafe, solving the problems of the world.

It is called a ‘doorless cafe’ because originally it was open 24 hours a day. During the warm weather the doors are thrown wide open and the waiters breeze in and out while attending to every need of those sitting on the veranda and out onto the pedestrian piazza.

It truly is a remarkable landmark in Padua, one that has earned the right to be listed highly in the city’s “hall of fame.”

Famous Historic Caffe San Marco Facing Troubled Future

Historic Caffe San Marco
                            Historic Caffe San Marco

 “A place where you’re at peace, you read, you write, you chat, a heart of the city; a strong heart that beats  calmly.”                                                          Claudio Magris

I have never liked endings, especially when it comes to something that embodies the heart and soul of a people. Known for its upstanding patrons such as James Joyce, writer Italo Svevo and poet Umberto Saba, the dark-wood Viennese coffee shop of San Marco in Trieste is just one of those places. An Old World cafe with period features, the marble-top tables have held many a cup of cappuccino for those immersed in deep conversation or just meditating alone. Since it was first opened in 1914, it has remained the gathering place for both students and intellectuals.

As the world changed and coffee became a buzz word for a quick wake-up with your choice of multi-ingredient beverages, the Caffe San Marco remained the pulsing center of the old port city. Today young coffee-drinking bloggers mix with 90-year-old former children of the Austro-Hungarian Empire enjoying glasses of wine. The only thing missing from the early days is the lug of atmospheric smoke. Here one can step back in time and dream endlessly about literature.

But trouble is brewing for the old coffee shop. The former manager of the cafe, Franco Filippi, passed away in December and owners Assicurazioni Generali, Italy’s largest insurance company, are looking for a replacement but without success.

A Trieste-born novelist and cultural philosopher, Claudio Magris, has taken on his own campaign to save the establishment by encouraging the owners to save what he perceives as a world-renowned historically unique caffe. Magris urged the owners to keep it running just as before and not let it be transformed into something else.

“It’s not only the [city’s] past. It’s its present and its future,” said Gabriella Valera (chair of the local Poetry and Solidarity Assn.), stating it was imperative the cafe retained “the same features and the same spirit.” She says San Marco has a definite place in history as well as a respected modern meeting place for exchange. Gabriella has gathered a group of supporters who are meeting to discuss options to save the cafe.

Who knows how it will all shake down, but one thing for sure is this. What is beloved to those who have experienced the essence of camaraderie, goodwill, and stimulating exchange will not go down lightly. The heartbeat of a community, like a refuge, will gather together those who would protect it.

Siena-A Day at the “Beach”

Enjoying a quiet moment in siena
Beginning of a Perfect Day! Enjoying a quiet moment in Siena

“Traveling is the ruin of all happiness! There’s no looking at a building after seeing Italy.”  Samuel Johnson

Like seals on a rock, people lounge across the floor of the Piazza del Campo. The bricks of the scallop-shaped piazza are still warm, adding to the sensation of sitting on the beach. Pure bliss is lazing in the sun, soaking up its last rays of the day, steeped in good conversation. The only thing missing is the ocean. What’s not to love?

Piazza del Campo, Siena
Piazza del Campo is Siena’s “Living Room.”

The late afternoon sunlight is ebbing away as shadows begin to creep across the Piazza. Children in sandals scamper after pigeons. People stroll through, a dog leash in one hand and gelato in the other. Friends and lovers sit together enjoying each others company. Siena’s social zone picks up its pace.Capri, Cefalu, Orvietto, Florence, Genoa, Bolsena, Lecci, Napoli 1385

Along the edge of the piazza is the promenade with many cafes and restaurants. There is a myriad of tables and chairs for diners and coffee drinkers set out in groups. Street musicians play their music while an entertainer in a red hat teases passersby to the delight of the crowd. The Campo truly is the physical and cultural heart of the city.

Carlos outside Ristorante Fonte Gaia
Carlos outside Ristorante Fonte Gaia

Our new friend, Carlos, runs the Ristorante Fonte Gaia. There he is in his white shirt and vest. One morning we helped him set out chairs before opening shop, and since then he has treated us to complimentary cappuccino and treats! What a sweetie…..see what can happen when you rub elbows with the locals?

Capri, Cefalu, Orvietto, Florence, Genoa, Bolsena, Lecci, Napoli 1369

The red-brick fan of the piazza radiates out from the facade of the Palazzo Pubblico. Spoke-like paving patterns were commissioned in 1349 by Siena’s then ruling committee, the Council of Nine, to symbolize power and the folds of the Madonna’s Cloak. Since then, it has remained the site for most of Siena’s public events, such as bullfights, executions, festivals, and the famous Palio.

Once the site of a Roman Forum and later the central market place, the Campo is surrounded by buildings that haven’t changed since medieval times. The facade of the Palazzo Pubblico, built in 1288, concave’s inward to accommodate the curve of the Campo. Originally the town hall, today it still houses the town administration.

The Torre del Mangia (tower) was built to rival the tower of the neighboring town of Florence. When the Torre del Mangia was built around 1325, it was the tallest structure in Italy at over 290 ft.

The entire urban center is extremely well-preserved.

Capri, Cefalu, Orvietto, Florence, Genoa, Bolsena, Lecci, Napoli 1380

The Palio, a breakneck, bareback 90 second horserace, occurs twice a year. Originating from medieval times to represent each of the 17 Contrade of Siena (neighborhoods), it still remains highly competitive. Siena’s pride and joy, it draws a huge crowd every year. During this time, the Campo is transformed into a racetrack and turns into a dynamic swirl of activity.

Capri, Cefalu, Orvietto, Florence, Genoa, Bolsena, Lecci, Napoli 1386

Seated on a tiny balcony outside a third story pub with the best view of the Campo….

siena casino royale
James Bond….here he comes…filming the movie “Quantum of Solace”

Watch out for James Bond! He could be jumping out a window and scrambling across the awnings at any moment. He has done this in the Campo before, you know! Remember the movie “Quantum of Solace?”

Quantan of Solace

Well done, James.

Capri, Cefalu, Orvietto, Florence, Genoa, Bolsena, Lecci, Napoli 1387
“Memories, pressed between the pages of my mind…….

Sadly, it’s my last night in Siena….I stand with all my senses working overtime. I don’t want to ever forget the magic of this place. I am polarized between two worlds, the medieval architecture and atmosphere so rare to find, and the culmination of modern-day Italy evidenced by the tourists. The sights, smells, tastes, sounds, and feel of this medieval city soak into my being, flooding my mind with colorful memories.  Siena will remain with me always.

Ristorante Fonte Gaia, Piazza II Campo 121, 53100, Siena,Italy, Phone: 39 0577 281628