THE ORIGINS OF THE FAMOUS LITERARY CAFE CHALET FONTANa
The story behind the celebrated literary cafe in Florence is an integral part of the history of Tuscany’s capital city.
“We entered the avenues: pale sunshine, leafless trees, mounds of dead leaves piled up along the pavements. I looked out through the windows and this unaccustomed sight made me unable to recognise places that I knew so well: the Chalet Fontana, the Giramontino, the Porte Sante.”
Vasco Pratolini, Cronaca Familiare
Chalet Fontana, old Florentine literary cafe, opened way back in 1896, not far from the heart of the lilied city. Its founder, Tullio Fontana, modelled it on the celebrated Parisian cafes: places to meet and discuss new ideas. This period in Italy’s history was still a long way from being defined “Belle Époque” but Italy was certainly starting to feel its exciting influence.
Florence, lively and dynamic city of art and culture, soon appoints Chalet Fontana to its noble vocation, as the key place to go to sip a coffee over good conversation. From their lofty positions, poets, writers and intellectuals and others engaged in admiring contemplation of the city spread out at their feet, while bringing the rooms of this special place to life. By the 70s the, by now, beloved Chalet on Viale dei Colli had become one of the top piano bars in Florence.
So, history endorses this much-loved literary café as one of the most fascinating places of interest to visit in Florence and the surrounding area. Dear to Vasco Pratolini, Ottone Rosai, Sandro Pertini and Leonardo Sciascia people say that the artist composed his extraordinary pictures while the author of ‘Metello’ and ‘Il Quartiere’ made mention of the café as an integral part of his moving “Cronaca Familiare”.
Extended gradually over the years, Chalet Fontana is a unique, individual place: a precious example of the ‘hidden’ Florence that is there for the curious to discover. It is making a come back after many years to perform what is now a starring role on the wine, food and culture stage of the region.