Caffe Florian opened in 1720, making it the oldest continuously operating caffe in Italy. It began as two modestly decorated rooms in Piazza San Marco and has been decorated and enlarged over the centuries.
Lord Byron, Goethe and Charles Dickens were frequent visitors and Casanova liked to take his coffee there, probably because it was the only caffe that allowed women.
The rooms are sumptuously decorated and the prices reflect this. It is ridiculously expensive to eat and drink at Florian, but I think it is an absolute must for visitors to Venice. How could you not go to a caffe that opened 50 years before Captain Cook first sailed along the east coast of Australia? (8 years before he was born, in fact).
From 1893 Florian became the home of the International Exhibition of Contemporary Art, an ever changing display of work from the artists of the time, which became the Venice Biennale. Many of the works of art on display are owned by Florian and are loaned to art museums around the world.
Music features at Florian from April to October. (There is a €6 surcharge per person for this) A band plays all day from under the portico, adding even more atmosphere. I usually choose to eat inside to fully enjoy the gorgeous surroundings, but the music drifts in.
On my last visit I ordered an affogato (which means drowned in Italian...gelato drowned in espresso) and it was delicious.
Best of all, it was served by an extremely handsome and charming waiter...see for yourself.
Don't think about the price of your coffee or aperitivo while at Florian. Think about the history and enjoy the beautiful surroundings and it will be a memory of Venice to savour for years.