It’s one of the most romantic cities in the world, also courtesy of the immortal ingenuity of Shakespeare who set his most famous work here. Yes, you’ve guessed it! We’re talking about Verona! If you are wondering what to see and do in Verona, don’t forget its historical cafes, a host of little temples eager to preserve the city’s traditions, and well worth a visit for those seeking a tasty break in the company of an excellent espresso.
“Caffè alla Costa”
One of the oldest Italian bars, its long story began at the end of the 18th century, a period in which the city in the Veneto region of Italy was occupied by the French troops, and Napoleon Bonaparte set up his headquarters in Palazzo Emilei Forti.
“La Costa” is a Parisian-style café, in the striking location of Via Costa, where legend has it that Romeo and Juliet shared their very first kiss. The historical café and the Veronese road it is located in are both named after an enormous rib bone (in Italian costola means “rib”), probably from a whale, hung on an arch above the building.
From the 1930s, when the cafe fell into the hands of a family of pastry chefs, it also became a pastry shop dedicated, in particular, to the production of nougat and pandoro, a traditional Italian cake. In 1962, it was again transformed, becoming the first café in Verona to make its own pizza for its customers. In 2005, it moved in front of the Arena in Piazza Bra and changed its name to La Costa in Bra.
Antico Caffè Dante: a historical café with a Florentine name
The name might make you think we’re talking about a historical café in Florence but instead we’re in Piazza dei Signori, in the heart of Verona. Antico Caffè Dante takes its name from the statue dedicated to Dante Alighieri erected here in 1863, as the square also hosts the luxurious palace where the Florentine poet stayed as a Ghibelline in exile.
Affectionately known as “Parlamentino” during the nineteenth century since it had often been the stage for lively political debates, the historical café in Verona has a long tradition as the haunting ground of intellectuals, senators, poets and musicians, including Lombroso, Pindemonte, Simoni and Mascagni.
The long history of Antico Caffè Dante lives on today, reflected in its elegant interiors, decorated in nineteenth century style, offering customers a taste of elegance in an atmosphere with a retro vibe.
Café Carducci, a family affair
Café Carducci is another venue that has earned its place as one of Verona’s most prominent historical cafes. Opened by Guglielmo Bianconi in 1928 as Osteria Carducci, it is located in Via Carducci in the Veronetta area, a stone’s throw from the Giusti Garden.
The history of Café Carducci coincides with that of the Bianconi family and spans four generations. Over the years, various changes have determined its evolution and left visible traces in its decor, including the Bar Carducci sign which dates back to 1970. The latest renovation of the property in 2012 gave the old Veronese café a new sparkle and opened the kitchen up for its patrons to see.
Caffè Borsari in Verona: the ex “Tubino”
Open since 1969 in Corso Porta Borsari, originally known as Caffè Tubino but today called Caffè Borsari, this small café offers its clientele over 120 types of coffee, from the classic espresso and cappuccino varieties to the more sophisticated flavoured versions.
Caffè Rialto, the historical salon of Verona
In the same area, we pay a visit to the ancient 18th century building that hosts Caffè Rialto, a historical café in Romeo and Juliet’s hometown that overlooks Porta Borsari, the Roman gate. Three rooms enhanced by elegant frescoes create an enthralling retro atmosphere and make this café one of the favourite meeting places of the Veronese locals.
Caffè Fantoni: a sweet story
What about a trip out of town? We’re off to Villafranca to visit the ancient Caffè Fantoni, opened back in 1842 by its founder, Giovanni Fantoni, inventor of the café’s famous sfogliatine, its characteristic “Umberto biscuits” created in honour of Prince Umberto and the “Cake of Peace”, prepared to celebrate the armistice in Villafranca in 1859 between the French and the Austrians.
Restored in liberty style in the 20s, the café in Veneto still preserves a number of commemorative stones dedicated to its founders and the historical characters who have graced its tables over the years. Outside, it features a striking seating area with small tables in a style dating back to the Risorgimento.
After visiting the historical cafes of Verona, our tour of Italy on the trail of some of the nation’s most charming cafes continues: discover the old cafes of Cagliari and their stories, full of interesting facts and mysteries.