A friend of ours always says that ‘nobody enjoys life as much as they do in Northern Italy.’ And Caffè Gilli, on Florence’s central Piazza della Repubblica, is proof.
Gilli opened its doors in 1733, when a Swiss family opened a bar in its own name, with the idea of serving sweet goodies to tourists in a city which, even then, was one of the cultural capitals of Europe. Since then, business has boomed and Gilli has become a Florentine institution.
In the early years of the 20th Century, Caffè Gilli moved to its current position on the Piazza della Repubblica. At the time, it was one of the favourite spots of Marinetti, the poet and founder of the futurist movement. Not much has changed since then, although perhaps the prices have crept up with the years (check the menu before ordering).
The café is divided into two parts. The bar area is a place for a drink/mingle or to have one of Gilli’s delicious desserts. We heartily recommend trying the cannoli while trying to tear your eyes from the bartop bronze copy of the Rape of the Sabines (below), the frescoed ceiling and the Murano glass details (and the cakes).
By night, this is the place to be seen, and draws a varied clientele, from Americans dressed in zoot suits (yes, really) to trendy Italians to Northern European tourists. In the background, they play quiet electonica but nobody really pays attention. This, if anywhere, would be a Jep Gambardella haunt (if you’ve not seen it already, watch The Great Beauty).
To the rear of the premises and through an arching glass doorway is a genteel tea/dining room and one of the most famous clocks in Florence. Service is slick and attentive; think starched tablecloths and plates of nibbles impeccably matched to your drinks order. We ordered a Bellini and a Gin and Tonic (12 and 13 Euros respectively) and a canolo (6 Euros).
For lovers of photography, the Ruth Orking took her famous picture American Girl just outside the Gilli in the postwar years.
Address: Caffè Gilli, Piazza della Repubblica 39R, 50123, Firenze (Italia)
Tel: +39 055 213896