Gran Caffè Lavena
Situated on the sunniest corner of Saint Mark's Square at the foot of the Clock Tower, in front of the Basilica, the Caffé Lavena has been one of Venice's most renowned coffee boutiques since 1750.
The Caffé Lavena is a meeting place for illustrious Venetian guests and tourists, and has always actively participated in the cultural life of Venice, experiencing the most important historical events in the city during the 18th and 19th centuries.
Originally the Café was called Regina d'Ungheria (the Queen of Hungary), when Venice was subject to the rule of the Austro-Hungarian Empire; it was later named Orso Coronato (the Crowned Bear), due to the picturesque sign depicting a bear with a crown on its head, standing on its hind legs.
At that time, the Venetians called it Caffè dei Foresti (the Foreigners' Café), because it was frequented by a mainly international clientele and was the meeting place in the Square for anyone who did not know how to orient themselves among the Venetian calli (i.e. alleys). For this reason, the codegas, gondoliers, dry land porters and those who guaranteed transportation in the city, especially in the evenings, stationed themselves outside the café. They accompanied the foreign clients of the Lavena to their homes, through the dark meanderings of the Venetian canals, by the light of their typical hand-held lanterns. The codegas, in effect, may be considered the first tourist guides with an international clientele in the city.
But it was Carlo Lavena, who bought the café in 1860, that gave prestige to this "coffee boutique". He changed the name of the business, but was wise enough to preserve the architecture and refined furnishings of previous ages. Thanks to his personality and culture, a wide circle of artists and musicians were attracted to the Café, including the great Richard Wagner. Additionally, thanks to his fame as a baker, he made the Café famous even abroad, exporting his sweets throughout Europe.
Today, the Caffé Lavena is on the Italian Historical Places of Italy, with its precious furnishings and magic atmosphere, which still exists inside and outside the café, where guests are invited to experience the illustrious past and the popular traditions of Venice, among the tables that face the mosaics of St. Mark's Basilica.