Italy's Revolutionary Concept of Books and Coffee
Grace, Spring 2024, Florence
May 3, 2024

Italy, being known for its richness in history, culture, art, and writing is the long-time home of a concept called a literary café. A literary café is a hidden gem bookstore that carries the aesthetic of old R&B music and a cozy atmosphere. Many bars, café, and pastry shops in Florence are often looked upon as historical figures for their role during the 1900s. Literary cafés began in the early 1700s in a café in France called Café Le Procope. These establishments soon found their way to innovation and restoration in the Enlightenment period. It united people to focus on equality and freedom mainly in London, France, and Italy. These cafés were a special place that was welcome to anyone, regardless of social class.

In the early 1700’s, there were more than three thousand literary cafes in Paris alone. The idea of these café’s brought the idea of sitting with a hot drink while discussing politics or economics.

In Florence today, the literary cafes may be a little different. There are still places anyone can go to enjoy a beverage, but now they are also selling food and alcoholic beverages, not just coffee. The cafés that are still intact are in remembrance of the cultural history.

Le Giubbe Rose

Many artists, writers, and poets would meet in these cafes as a meeting spot. Some of the most famous cafés were Caffe Concerto Paszowski, Caffe Gilli, Le Giubbe Rose, Procacci, Rivoire, and so many more. All these cafés have stories behind them.

Le Giubbe Rose in Florence may be the most famous of the literary cafés, founded in 1897. Two brothers from the German origin “Le Giubbe Rose” came and the Viennese fashion inspired the uniforms that the waiters wear. Here, some important discussions took place. One of them was a meeting place for Eugenio Montale and representatives of Hermeticism.

Caffe Pedrocchi

Caffe Pedrocchi in Florence has been a meeting spot since the 19th century for writers and intellectuals. The cafe provides a sense of charm and delicacy with its big windows and mirrors. This place has held a role in political and cultural history within Florence.

Another popular literary café in Northern Italy was Caffe Cova, near Milan. Famous writers like Ernest Hemingway and Giuseppe Verdi would attend, with Hemingway even including the spot in his writings.

Caffe Florian

Caffe Florian in Venice is one of the oldest literary cafés in Italy. This café was frequented by Lord Byron, Casanova, and Thomas Mann.

Florence’s very own, Caffe Gilli established a name for itself by opening in 1773, when the Swiss family opened La Bottega dei Pani Dolci in Florence. This shop found its home in Piazza della Repubblica in the 19th century. It had its literary revolution and had many futurists frequenting the café.

Written by: Grace, Spring 2024 Florence student from the University of Kansas

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