Thursday, June 16, 2011


Have a light lunch or a drink in one of the coolest gems in Florence - it's neither chic nor fancy, but local, historical and tranquil, and Brunelleschi’s dome feels so close it's almost as if you can touch it!  It's the cafe on the top floor of the public library on Via dell’Oriuolo 26, situated behind the cathedral. The library and cafe are inside an age old structure which once had quite a different purpose. This was the nucleus of the hospital founded by Folco Portinari (the father of Beatrice, Dante’s muse) in 1285. The female nurses, a religious group called oblate, were housed on this site and the church connected to the hospital was called Santa Maria. Shortly afterwards, a male equivalent was begun across the road and called Santa Maria Nuova, which still exists today as the main hospital in the historical centre of Florence. The original space (now the library complex with the coffee bar on the top floor) was left for the female convent. I have always loved Italy for the way that the old is reinterpreted into the new, and this is a perfect example. The centuries old structure now houses the council library and is always full of students. The top floor is where this little bar is located and the rest of the space has tables and chairs where friends meet and chat, use their computers and/or read. It is a wonderful little respite stop to remember when passing through the city or living in it, as I do.
 In the evenings they do a Happy Hour aperitivo which costs 8 euros and there is a little accompanying buffet. The bar is open according to the schedule of the library, closed Sunday, open Monday 2pm-7.30pm, Tuesday-Saturday 9am-midnight.


  1. This looks great Freya! I will have to check it out next time I visit :)

  2. Lovely entry Freya, thank you! The excellent menu and bright and fresh decor make it feel like a chic bistro (and there is table service). I was there for the first time last November and will be back. Thank you so much for the historical background of the Oblate and Santa Maria Nuova hospital -- such an amazing history of charity and enlightened healthcare. Here is a link which has a nice account of it in English:

  3. How do you find the entrance to the Caffetteria from Via Orioulo?