When history was made (also) at the Caffè

When history was made (also) at the Caffè

When history was made (also) at the Caffè

Time.news – Not only tourist places or precious and now sparse corners of the Peninsula where a visit is always advisable and pleasant. Italian coffees they have been the spaces in which urban sociality has been modeled and political and cultural history has often been interwoven in the last two hundred years and more. They replaced or joined, opening to the public, the aristocratic salons where entry was possible only for elite privilege. But not only that: the Cafes opened up to the frequentation of women, favoring female emancipation. They favored the exchange of opinions, the comparison of ideas, the circulation of culture thanks to the diffusion of newspapers, visual arts and music. It was, those cafes, the sanctuaries accessible to the Italian bourgeoisie, sometimes even to the people, and they were sanctuaries, like the Paduan Pedrocchi, “without doors” (because it remained open day and night).

It is a guide that can also be used by the simple tourist, or by those curious about history and stories, what Massimo Cerulo, professor of Sociology at the University of Perugia, has just published: Go for Historic Cafes (152 pages, 12 euros, Il Mulino ed.). But it is above all a excursus political, aesthetic and sentimental that unfolds along eight Italian cities where many of those cafes are still active: Venice, Padua, Turin, Trieste, Florence, Rome, Naples and Cosenza. If its philosophy were to be summarized in a phrase, or slogan, the most effective would be the one chosen in the introduction: “Enter without being invited”.

cup of coffee (Agf)

“In the cafes one could find out about the city’s news, discuss animatedly, take political positions, plot intrigues, generate groups or associations, conclude business”, writes Cerulo. Other than many bars of contemporary everyday life, where all this no longer happens or takes place in a minor and desolate key due to haste, sloppiness or ugliness, with very happy exceptions. Instead, in those cafes, the author adds without hiding enthusiasm, you could also “write (consuming a single cup, you could have a table, pen-paper-inkwell, light and heating available for many hours), read newspapers and magazines (therefore convey and form public opinion), listen to music, smoke, take a nap, haggle, draw, baste flirtation (in 1961 Gino Paoli sang ‘In a café / for the first time / we loved each other’). But also to practice recreational activities, because cards, billiards, chess were almost never lacking in these places, since the time spent there was often one of relaxation and distraction “.

Those cafes were also the ones additional policy offices inspired or conspiring: regular customer Al Bicerin of Turin, which shares the square with the Sanctuary of the Consolata, was Camillo Benso count of Cavour, “who used to sit at one of the eight marble tables and write down notes on the process of Italian independence”. Or, in the same city, the San Carlo, a reference to the early twentieth century of artists, politicians and writers from Croce to Giolitti, from Gobetti to Einaudi to Felice Casorati and Antonio Gramsci, who used to go there to write theatrical criticisms for theForward!

And who passes through Florence how can he ignore the Gilli, “prototype of the literary café” already frequented by Carducci, where the embryo of the futurist avant-garde developed whose followers would then move in front of the Red Jackets (unfortunately recently closed), on the current Piazza della Repubblica.

But then, how many other places full of beauty, of atmosphere. Densi of Italy. The Florian of Venice, the oldest in the country founded in 1720, which in three hundred and one years saw the fall of the Serenissima, conspiracies against the French and Austrians, Italian unity, two world wars, in short, all the way up to the pandemic. Or the Neapolitan Gambrinus, heart of the Belle Epoque, where D’Annunzio and Di Giacomo, Matilde Serao and Ferdinando Russo challenged, and also won, the dispute over time.

The historic cafés, “stubbornly resistant to the passage of time and to the upheavals of fashion and consumption, are waiting to welcome”, concludes Cerulo, “the next customer to take him on an exciting journey”.