The Gilli in Florence among the oldest Historical Cafés in Italy

In 1951, Ruth Orkin chose it as set of the famous picture “American girl in Italy”. However, what makes Caffè Gilli one of the oldest coffee shops of Italy and unique testimony of the coffee shops in Florence’s belle époque is its two and a half centuries of history. It was the year 1733 when the Swiss family Gilli opened “The Small Shop of Sweet Breads” in via dei Calzaiuoli, a refined and welcoming confectionery that used to be appreciated and visited by Florentine high society. However, it was in the second half of the Nineteenth century that Gill experienced his highest notoriety with his pastry and coffee shop, moving to Via degli Speziale, just in front of the Trianon Theatre, and then definitely relocating to Piazza della Repubblica, centre and heart of the Dante town since the Roman period. Keystone of literary cafés and meeting place for many intellectuals, Gilli becomes witness of political conflicts of the early Nineties and reading place of the first magazines. Artists and painters, like Caligani, Pozzi, Ferroni and Pucci hang out more and more in these frescoed halls. From the post-war period onwards, Gilli becomes exclusive meeting place of young Florentines and destination of Hollywood celebrities.


Café Gilli is still considered parlour of Florence. The arches, frescoes and precious Murano chandeliers give visitors that antique and royal atmosphere of a place telling about more than two centuries of history, where time is given by the clock, which has been the most famous in town for more than a hundred years, placed at the tea room entrance.

Thanks to the passion of the Valenza family, even owner of the Caffè Paszkowski (1846), Cafè Gilli today still maintains the timeless fascination, offering its clients a more intimate and romantic setting in the internal rooms; instead, who prefers to be in the open air and experience Piazza della Repubblica, can opt for the Dehors, which is the cafés jewel in the crown with more than 250 seats. Heated up during the winter, the location is opened to the Piazza in the warm season, offering its guests a particular wellbeing even in the most sweltering days, thanks to the sophisticated water mister system. Besides the coffee and chocolate shop, Gilli boasts a wide production of Florentine patisserie, including its chocolate truffles coated with sugar, excellent macaroons and irresistible “Paillet d’or”. Moreover, the restaurant offers a typical Tuscan and international cuisine, with a high-end wine list selected by expert sommeliers.

Used with special permission of the Ruth Orkin Photo Archive American Girl in Italy, 1951 photograph by Ruth Orkin – © 1952, 1980 Ruth Orkin


Recommended song for the reading of the present articleSon contento – Francesco Nuti