mercoledì 9 maggio 2012

A cappuccino dated 1870

A cappuccino dated 1870

One by one, it seems that the historical businesses in Florence are disappearing, due to the speculation that recently affected them and forced many of them to close. Just a few historical institutions resist and one of them is the Gran Caffè San Marco. Today we speak with its owner, Piero Zani.

The Gran Caffè San Marco is a historical institution of the city of Florence, would you like to tell us its history?
The Gran Caffè San Marco is a café that opened in 1870 under the name “Caffè Fanti” in honor of the General Manfredo Fanti, whose statue overlooks the piazza San Marco. It has always been a meeting place for students, professors, philosophers and artists: in the 1930’s you could have easily met some exponents of the literary school of the “Ermetismo” like Luzi, Bigongiari, Parronchi or Macrì there. In 1961 the café was restored and lost part of its charm, but you could still meet many artist and literates there. The current owners have had this place since 1985.

 Is there some particular episode of its history that you would like to share with us?
One day a Japanese couple arrived and asked for a pastry and a cappuccino, later they wanted me to take a picture of them in a precise spot of the restaurant…then they showed me a picture in a Japanese magazine and I noticed that it was reproducing the same scene I had to photograph. We were famous in Japan and we didn’t know it!

How your job has changed over the years?
Due to the fact that many offices moved away from the city center to the new zone of Novoli, (like the University, the Tribunal and some banks), we have less regular customers and more occasional tourists.

The economic crisis is quite a hot topic right now in Italy. How has it affected you?
Of course it has affected us. Our customers right now are only occasional tourists and we registered a drop in business of the 30%. We had to cut some expenses, most of all affecting our staff.

The historical Florence shops and bars have decreased a lot in these last years. What could be the reason?
A low interest from our government leaders who weren’t able to preserve the historical Florence businesses. They let minor businesses like Chinese jewelry shops or kebab restaurants emerge whilst ignoring the Florentine craftsmanship, admired and known all over the world, that started to disappear.

What major challenges and problems do you face most?
We are constantly pressed by iniquitous taxes, our field is not well promoted and tourists are not stimulated to come back here.

What aspect of your business gives you the greatest satisfaction?
To see our customers happy and satisfied and also to see them coming back with other people.

How is your relationship with the city of Florence? Would you give some advice to the Mayor?
As I already said, it is necessary to make an effective promotion through agencies abroad and give more services to the tourists. If we apply iniquitous taxes like the “tourist tax” or the “tax on the tourist coaches” (about 260,00 € a day), the travel agencies cannot send many tourist here, to the detriment of our businesses (hotels, bars, restaurants…etc.)

How do you imagine your business ten years from now?
If our government leaders won’t stand and try to transform the city, many beautiful projects, right now plagued by the Italian bureaucracy, will remain irresolute and we will find ourselves in a world of chaos.

Some advice for young people starting careers?
Always remember not to take anything for granted, but try to deserve it. The biggest satisfaction is to see the customer happy and satisfied. Our personal problems must never interfere with our job. Work, work, always work with a smile, time will repay you.

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