At Caffè Lavena coffee is a moment of intense pleasure to enjoy sitting at one of the tables facing the mosaics of the Basilica of San Marco. An unmissable opportunity to share the mundane ritual of the city elite in the uniqueness of the historical and artistic setting of the Piazza.
Gran Caffè Lavena History
A meeting point for illustrious guests, Venetians and tourists, Caffè Lavena has always actively participated in the cultural life of Venice, and experienced the most important historical events of the city during the 18th and 19th centuries. Initially referred to as Queen of Hungary, under the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Café later became Coronated Bear due to the picturesque sign depicting a bear raised on its hind legs and crowned on its head.
Known at that time among the Venetians as the Caffè dei Foresti, it was frequented by a predominantly international clientele; it was the meeting point, in the Piazza, of all those who did not know how to orient themselves in the Venetian streets. That's why at its doors stationed codega, gondoliers and land carriers, that is, how many ensured the city traffic, especially that night. Accompanying with the typical light in hand the foreign customers of Lavena to their homes through the dark meanders of the Venetian streets, the codega can be considered in all respects the first guides with international opening of the city.
But it was Carlo Lavena, who took over the management of the restaurant in 1860, to give prestige to this coffee shop. He changed the name of the place but was careful to preserve the architecture and the refined furnishings of the previous eras. Thanks to his sympathy and culture, he recalled in the Cafe a large circle of artists and musicians, including the great Richard Wagner. In addition, thanks to its reputation as a pastry chef, the coffee became known abroad, exporting its sweets throughout Europe.
Wagner usually sat in the upper loggia of the Cafe with his wife Cosima, his daughters and his father-in-law Franz Liszt - the great pianist and composer - and he had tea with pastries or a glass of cognac. The original table and chairs that he occupied have been preserved until today. Rarely, instead, he sat in the Piazza, among the cafés' outdoor tables, preferring to remain in solitude to meditate and write pages of memorable music. The biographers assure that it is among the tables of Caffè Lavena that composed many pages of the Parsifal and the duet of Tristan and Isotta, as recalled by the plaque of Vincenza Cadorin inside the room.
Today Caffè Lavena, a member of the Historic Places of Italy, with its precious furnishings and the magical atmosphere that still breathes inside and outside its premises, invites you to relive the illustrious past and the popular traditions of Venice between its tables facing the mosaics of the Basilica of San Marco. Going through the gates, Caffè Lavena immediately appears as it was in the eighteenth century when it was called Queen of Hungary. The green marble tables and the wooden and velvet chairs, the same on which Wagner and the many illustrious guests have sat down, introduce the Austrian-style living room atmosphere.