Curious Florence: Florence’s Historic Cafés

To discover Florence through its buildings, its monuments, and its museums is certainly an effective way to experience the charm of the Medici city that has remained intact over the centuries. To visit its historic cafés, however, is tantamount to catching a glimpse of its soul and its history. Indeed, the fortune of some of the most famous streets and squares of Florence is linked precisely to these important meeting places. This is the case with Piazza della Repubblica, one of the most beautiful squares of Florence. Contrary to what you may think, the square’s fame is not due to its architecture and famous arch, but to its literary cafes: Le Giubbe Rosse, Gilli and Caffè Paszkowski. All three were involved to varying degrees in one of the biggest cultural phenomena of the twentieth century – Futurism – the literary and artistic movement dedicated to the myths of modernity, strength, speed, and power, as incarnations of technology and progress.

Le Giubbe Rosse
Le Giubbe Rosse opened in 1827, and took its name from the clothes of the waiters who wore red coats. In the early years of the 1900s, it was the favorite of many intellectuals of the time. However, after the publication of the Futurist Manifesto of 1909, it became the seat of the Florentine Futurists, in particular Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, Umberto Boccioni and Carlo Carra, and later became a meeting place for writers and artists, both Italian and foreign. It was initially a chess club – it is said that Lenin was a frequent guest – and really never lost this label. In the period between the two world wars, it was home to the famous magazine “Solaria,” which introduced Italians to writers like Joyce, Kafka and Virginia Woolf.
Its walls are still decorated with Futurist and Neo-Futurist paintings in an elegant, yet casual, setting where one can taste the typical dishes of Florence. There are also many photos, drawings and memories of its famous patrons. It is still a center of culture and art.

Caffè Concerto Paszkowski
Caffè Concerto Paszkowski opened in 1846 as a brewery, but it soon became a café where the Concerto Paszkowski performed as well as a famous all-female orchestra, rare for the time. Again, this café-brasserie soon became a meeting place of the leaders of literature and art of the early 1900s; after the war, its musical vocation turned decisively towards cabaret. Even today this ancient musical tradition is well represented by the artists who perform there. There are also conferences and fashion shows, while its tea rooms are a must for foreign visitors who want to have a break. In 1991 it was declared a national monument.

Caffè Gilli
At the beginning of the century, Caffè Gilli was an elegant meeting place, frequented by artists and intellectuals such as Marinetti and Soffici. A café in the Belle Époque style with ivory-colored walls, Murano glass chandeliers, painted ceilings, and arches that confirm the good taste and the warmth of the Florentines. Many photographs of international artists are immortalized within its halls. But it is outside the Caffè Gilli where Ruth Orkin’s famous photograph entitled American Girl in Italy 1951 was taken. The photo, which portrays the twenty-three year old American Ninalee Craig walking on the sidewalk in front of the bar, surrounded by the admiring glances of his young visitors, became in time a well-known icon of cinema and photography.

source: Italia.it

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Curious Florence: An endless love at Grifoni Palace

Florence is a wonderful city, in fact it doesn’t requires a lot of work to fall in love with it. This Italian city is a living museum, where every street, alley, and building is full of history.

The undisputed charm of the city of Florence comes not only from all the works of art you can see in every street, but also from the imperceptible hidden details, elements that can escape the eye at first glance.

I am now going to reveal you one of these hidden elements that will surely blow your mind:

Piazza_Annunziata
Grifoni Palace

On the corner between Piazza Santissima Annunziata and Via dei Servi there is the Palazzo Grifoni (more known as Palazzo Budini-Gattai), which is a red brick palace. When you observe the palace from the square you might notice that on the facade of this building there is a particular window that is always open.

One of the most less known Florentine legends relates that the Grifoni family lived in this building for centuries and it is said that toward the end of the sixth century, one of the Grifoni sons went off to war (which was not something uncommon at the time) and was so forced to leave her beloved wife.

Piazza_Annunziata1
The open window

The beautiful lady ran to the window to greet him one last time and to watch him leaving. The legend tells us that the wife spent all of her time sitting nearby the window, hoping to see her husband again. The love of her life never returned home, and when she died, the window was shut.

There are two different versions to this story:

Some say that the neighbors of the two lovers were so touched by the profound love story that they decided to reopen the window.

Other people say that when the window was closed, objects inside the room began to fly and furniture began to shake. As a servant reopened the window, everything returned normal. This makes us understand that this woman’s love is still there and her spirit still waits for her husband’s return and will probably wait forever.

No one knows the woman’s name and no one will ever know which one of these two stories is true.

For more stories and legends about Florence, do not miss our history of Florence tours!