With a name like TravelLatte, you might guess there is a certain fondness for caffeinated goodness. In fact, discussions that grew into this blog started in a coffee shop, as so many great ideas do. So naturally, we want to visit what many hail as the grandest coffee shop in Italy, if not all of Europe, with a storied history to match.
Entrepreneur and coffee roaster Francesco Pedrocchi opened his doors in 1772, near the University, town hall, markets of Padua, Italy, close to where coaches arrived and departed for nearby cities. An expanding bourgeoisie with a thirst for coffee made sure those doors never shut. In fact, the small coffee shop gained fame as the Café Without Doors because Francesco intended to serve coffee around the clock to the people coming and going at all hours, from all walks of life. For many years, it literally had no doors.
In 1831, his son Antonio and architect Giuseppe Jappelli presented town officials with plans to expand and cover the entire block, making it the largest coffeehouse in Europe. Jappelli integrated existing buildings and facades into one large, eccentric complex which many claim is also the most beautiful coffeehouse in Europe. Inside, each room had its own theme and décor; a tradition still alive today. The ground floor is where anyone – and everyone – came for coffee, regardless of social status. Upstairs were meeting halls and parlors, the cafe’s inner heart, reserved for the city’s elite and genteel. When Antonio passed away in 1852, he left Caffe Pedrocchi to the son of an apprentice, Domenico Cappellato, who in turn willed the establishment to the City of Padua and provided that the city preserve the property in perpetuity.
Being close to the University of Padua and the crossroads of regional travel, it quickly became a meeting place of intellectuals and academics. As often happens, those patrons turned revolutionary during the Italian Risorgimento, leading to an attack by Austrian troops in 1848 to break the resistance against the Austrian Empire and the Hapsburgs. In fact, the Austrian bullets are still visible today. Caffe Pedrocchi was heavily damaged during World War II, rebuilt afterwards, and renovated again with a grand reopening in 1998. Today, it stands in all of its neoclassical glory, with three ground-floor salons devoted to the colors of Italy: the Red Room, White Room, and Green Room.
We wonder what revolutionary ideas will come to us as we sip a cappuccino with the spirits of the Pedrocchi’s and all of the intellectual, patriotic, and celebrity patrons who’ve stood at the bar through the nearly 250 years since the Café Without Doors opened them for the first time.