Our trip throughout Italy’s oldest cafes continues as we discover Genoa’s historical cafes: this city hosts many extraordinary bars harbouring a yesteryear vibe and a long tradition.
Along our way, we have come face to face with some true wonders when exploring historical cafes in Milan, Turin, Naples and many other Italian cities. But each location has its very own legends, and they are all imbued with memories of some amazing events: read on to discover what the ancient cafes of the Lighthouse city have to tell us.
Caffè Pasticceria Mangini – Genoa, Piazza Corvetto
Caffè Pasticceria Mangini is located in the heart of the old city centre in Genoa, near the Prefecture, and it has changed its name several times. It was opened in 1876 as “Fossati & Gismondi” then changed to become “Gismondi & Mangini” and, lastly, from 1945 to the present day, it has been known as simply “Mangini”.
The bar has kept its original period furniture and décor almost intact, maintaining their refined Rococo style. As soon as you enter the cafe, you immediately inhale the charming atmosphere of times gone by, thanks to its chandeliers, golden stuccos and counter of inlaid wood.
The long list of illustrious guests who have been patrons of this historical cafe in Genoa include Presidents of the Republic, Chamber and Senate, such as Francesco Cossiga, Oscar Luigi Scalfaro, Giovanni Spadolini and most notably Sandro Pertini, then chief editor of the newspaper “Il Lavoro”, after whom the elegant indoor room is named.
Caffè Pasticceria Mangini also boasts a long pastry-making tradition, and here you can find typical Genoese treats such as Sacripantina, a layered sponge cake with two cream fillings, and the traditional square-shaped Zena cake.
Caffè degli Specchi – Genoa, Salita Pollaiuoli
Caffè degli Specchi is one of the oldest cafes in Genoa, opened on 11 June 1908 in place of a poultry shop. In fact, it was originally a liquor shop, and remained so until 29 November 1919, when it changed its name to Bar Splendid and also began serving coffee-based beverages.
It soon became a favourite haunting ground for artists and intellectuals, including Dino Campana, Mario Novaro, Camillo Sbarbato, Federico Maragliano and Aurelio Craffonara. The furniture in the cafe today accurately reflects the taste of the time, and the same feel is also evoked by the shiny cream-coloured tiles, which come from the original “porcelain grotto” (the randomly tiled ceiling), a feature that characterises this historical café in Genoa.
In 1937, the fascist repudiation of foreign words prompted a name change, turning the bar into Caffè Splendido. In 1974, the bar was chosen by Dino Risi as the scenic backdrop for a number of scenes of his film “Scent of a Woman” starring Moira Orfei.
In 1988, the historical cafe was restored and adopted its current name “Caffè degli Specchi”. Today, besides breakfast, these rooms with their ancient luxurious decorations are the perfect location in which to savour a host of tasty dishes at lunch or dinner time.
Bar Pasticceria Klainguti – Genoa, Piazza di Soziglia
Instead, Bar Pasticceria Klainguti dates back as far as the year 1828. It was opened by four brothers from Switzerland who were bakers by trade and were passing through Genoa on the trail of fortune, hoping to leave on the next ship to America. However, the ship’s departure was delayed, forcing them to work in Genoa, where they opened their bar in the heart of the historical centre.
With the arrival of the Klainguti brothers, a long tradition of delicious specialties was launched, including the Engadina cake, the Zena cake and the Sacripantina. These delicacies won over the palate of Giuseppe Verdi, to whom the four bakers dedicated the Falstaff brioche, made with a mixture of hazelnuts and sugar frosting. A thank you note signed by the composer is still displayed proudly inside this historical cafe in Genoa to this day.
Today, the same sweet treats left as a legacy by the Klainguti brothers to the residents of Genoa and those visiting the city still delight the gourmet fans who come to the pastry shop/bar on the first floor and the tables outside, both of which have conserved all the charm of the original nineteenth-century cake shop.
In this type of bar, you can often taste some highly unique, delicious treats. And some of these are also easy to make at home: allow yourself a tasty break with the recipes of 3 gourmet coffees, each one better than the one before!