The Heartbeat of the City

198 The Heartbeat of the CityThere are two very well-known legends about coffee. The one is a “royal” one connected with King Gustav III of Sweden, and the other one is ordinary and tells the story of a goatherd named Kaldi from the Ethiopian highlands. No matter what the legend is, the “wine of Araby” is inseparable part of our daily life. We wake up with it. We meet friends at coffeehouses where we share thoughts while drinking a cup of aromatic coffee. Some historical and famous coffee shops had a similar goal in numerous European capitals and cities. They were gathering and preferable places for intellectuals, politicians, revolutionists, etc., who also exchanged beliefs and were regular visitors there. Here are only three examples of historical cafés which will bring you back to the past and to the world of intellectuals.

Café A Brasileira (Lisbon, Portugal): If you starve for a cup of aromatic cup of coffee after having gone up and the hills in the beautiful lily of Europe and if you are an artist by nature and soul, your place is Café A Brasileira (the Brazilian Café) opened by Adriano Telles in 1905. The Chiado Square and the Café were a gathering cultural and political point in Lisbon at the beginning of last century where prominent politicians, artists and poets exchanged thoughts and views. Since then this place, and especially “A Brsileira” has still been keeping that image and the figure of the regular visitor of the Café – Fernando Pessoa, has been prompting tourists and locals alike to have a photo taken at his usual table.

Café Pedrocchi (Padua, Italy): If you happen to be in Padua, don’t miss the chance to visit the largest café in the 1830s. Its founder – Francesco Pedrocchi from Bergamo, opened it in the central parts of the city. His choice was really the best one – near the University of Padua, the Town Hall and the marketplaces. His son Antonio rebuilt it some years later (in 1839), the coffeehouse adopting a new style but still keeping Francesco’s initial idea. The Café Pedrocchi was expanded by Venetian architect Giuseppe Jappelli. Several buildings were integrated into one unit making it larger and spacious. As to its interior, he introduced the neoclassical style inside the café (marble floors and pillars, and an opulent ornamentation) turning it more into a palace than a coffeehouse. The coffee place was a meeting spot for academics and intellectuals but also for students and revolutionists during the Italian Risorgimento. It became a central hub for bearing and exchanging revolutionary ideas against Austrian occupiers. As a result of this the Café Pedrocchi was attacked by the Austrian troops in 1848 that aimed at eliminating the resistance of rebels. By the way, Austrian bullets have still been clearly visible in the white room up to now. The café had the misfortune to have been heavily damaged during the Second World War but fortunately, it was soon rebuilt. The neoclassical style was kept and the three rooms on the main floor were painted Red, White and Green. And do you know why? …. Because colours speak – these are the colours of the national flag of Italy. Nowadays the café is a famous coffeehouse that was once visited by Stendhal, Lord Byron, Dario Fo and some others, and it houses a museum (il Museo del Risorgimento e Contemporanea dell’Età) at the same time. And if you pass by it, just have a cup of the flagship hot espresso topped with cold mint crème, indulge in the intellectual ambience and then dive into Piano Nobile and the history of Padua (from il Risogiment to the WWII).

Café Royal (London, United Kingdom): And our last stop is at the in London. After you “London yourself”, you might make a stop at the Café Royal. The 1863 coffeehouse was opened by a French wine merchant and his wife. Daniel Nicholas Thévenon (who changed his name to English Daniel Nicols) and Célestine had to leave Paris running away from creditors. They came to London with 5 pounds in pocket, where down-on-his-luck Daniel managed to obtain the place and import the chic of Paris to Victorian London. The place flourished owing to his and his son-in-law’s entrepreneurship that turned the place into the world’s greatest wine cellar and London legend. “The Café” has always been frequented by artists, writers, poets, politicians, rockstars, celebrities, royalty, and so on.  The list of the regular visitors of that bustling and intellectual central hub is too long but I will mention some prominent names starting from Oscar Wilde, Aubrey Beardsley, Rudyard Kipling, George Bernard Shaw, Arthur Conan Doyle, Winston Churchill, Graham Greene, Noël Coward, Virginia Woolf, Diana (Princess of Wales), Elizabeth Taylor, Muhammad Ali Brigitte Bardot, Mick Jagger, etc.

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4 thoughts on “The Heartbeat of the City

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