A Christmas Treat: Venetian Coffee Culture

What remains today of the 206 cafes that were counted in Venice by the year 1750? This coffee house tradition is still kept up in Venice, and in an excellent manner as you will see: When you are out and about to discover Venice before Christmas, you may long for a place to sit down, warm up and digest the new impressions this city can give you at each and every corner. And here is my personal Venice luxury coffee house collection that I want to present to you these last days before Christmas ...
Imagine the Piazza lined with 16 coffee houses in 1659: Click here for a round view from the Campanile
The Venetian tradition of Il Caffè (the coffee house) is celebrated in a grand and elegant atmosphere in Piazza San Marco. This is how it all began: In the year 1585, the bailo (Venetian ambassador in Constantinople) Gianfrancesco Morosini first related about a bevanda nigra (black drink) to the Senate of the Republic of Venice.
In this book "Relazioni degli Ambasciatori Veneti al Senato"you can read the original text on the Turkish-style drink of Coffee, by Gianfrancesco Morosini who as bailo related to the Republic of Venice about the Ottoman empire
The first caffé opened in Venice in 1683, and within 70 years, there were 206 cafes spread all over Venice.
One of the first coffee houses was called Alla Venezia Trionfante, opened by Francesco Floriani under the Procuratie Nuove arcades in 1720. Soon, this cafe was not referred to by its original name thought a bit too pompous by the Venetians, but was and is still called today after its first owner: Caffé Florian
Caffè Florian's entrance is now festively decorated for Christmas
Of course in addition to coffee, other delicacies awaited the guests, as they do today. Venetians have always loved distinct flavors, colors, and luxury: of course this would translate into trading spice and delicacies and other luxurious goods. As pioneers (who on earth would have built a town from scratch in a malaria-infested lagoon) they are naturally very curious, and food delicacies as well as spices were not only traded, that is sold to potential clients, but Venetians loved to taste, experiment and refine the goods before selling them onwards. So what was on sale back in the seventeenth century can be tasted today:
From the famous rosoli (liquors) to hot and dense chocolate and spiced almond biscotti, to orzate (drinks made from ground almonds, water and rose water), sorbetti di neve (sorbets), ice cream and zabaione. The Venetian-style hot chocolate was made of a mixture of maize, cocoa and vanilla, you can still taste a variant today if you ask the waiters in the Venetian coffee houses to bring "cioccolata densa".
Menu at Caffe Florian
A coffee blend based on a recipe from 1720: Miscela di caffé 1720
Rendering the tradition of the rosolio; Caffé Florian's coffee liquor
The interior of Caffé Florian, red velvet benches and white marble tables towards the backdrop of the original setting of 1720
In 2010, Caffé Florian celebrated its 290th birthday, take a look at this short video relating about the most historic cafe in Venice:
Another famous Caffé for winter time (and not only) is Caffé Lavena, situated on the opposite side of San Marco under the Procuratie Vecchie archades, next to the Clock Tower, which I like because they sell an excellent almond-scented hot chocolate: cioccolata calda all'amaretto.
Caffé Lavena - you can also enjoy a cup of hot chocolate at the bar. I like their particular setting, with a gallery on the first floor ...
... and Murano glass chandeliers. Imagine what is like to sit on the first floor at a table facing the gallery ...
tasting this particular brand of hot chocolate.
There are more coffee houses lining the Piazza of course, such as Gran Caffé Quadri, which was first opened in 1775 by Giorgio Quadri, a merchant from Corfù.
Christmas decoration at Caffé Quadri
Finally, you may turn away from the Christmas-decorated Piazza ...

... and continue towards Riva degli Schiavoni and visit Hotel Danieli which gives you the opportunity to see the exceptional interior of the former palazzo Dandolo, and to taste a luxurious Christmas coffee at the Bar Dandolo which you can see in the video below.

Take a look at Palazzo Dandolo - the old part of the Hotel Danieli
Christmas tree at Hotel Danieli