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July 2010

An outdoor concert at Caffè Florian

Venice's Caffè Florian is one of the oldest coffeehouses in Italy: It was founded in 1720, nearly four decades before the collapse of the Venetian Republic, and it has long been popular with well-heeled tourists who are willing to pay stratospheric prices for historic atmosphere.

Along with Caffè Quadri and Caffè Lavena, its rivals on the Piazza San Marco, Caffè Florian offers live outdoor music to its customers and passersby in decent weather. Guests at Florian's tables pay a whopping six-euro surcharge for music, but tourists who are just wandering through the square can enjoy the "Dueling Orchestras" for free.

In the video below, you'll see and hear the Caffè Florian's musicians playing on their bandstand overlooking the Piazza. (Note the middle-aged waiter on the left at the beginning of the video, who resembles the late Ed McMahon in his Johnny Carson Tonight Show days.)

Top 11 tourist mistakes in Venice (and how to avoid them)


ABOVE: Hauling luggage on a crowded vaporetto is no fun, and it can be expensive if you're traveling with more than one bag of reasonable size.

We've just published  a new article at our main Venice for Visitors travel-planning site titled "Top 11 Tourist Mistakes in Venice, Italy (and how to avoid them)." The illustrated article discusses:

We don't just tell you what not to do: Where appropriate, we suggest alternatives. For example, on the page about overpacking, we explain why you'll be unhappy if you show up in Venice with heavy luggage, but we also describe where to store your bigger bags while taking only a small suitcase to your hotel.

To read the article, click here.

Take a tour--or a class--at Venice's Orsoni mosaic foundry

Orsoni color library
ABOVE: The Color Library at the Orsoni mosaic foundry, where colored glass is turned into tiny tiles. INSET BELOW "Peggy," a portrait of the late Peggy Guggenheim by Maestra Anntonella Gallenda, who teaches Master in Mosaic classes at Orsoni.

Peggy Guggenheim mosaic portrait by Antonella GallendaOrsoni, in Venice's sestiere or district of Cannaregio, has been an important source of glass mosaic tiles since 1888. More than 110 years after its founding, the foundry still crafts its tessere with fire, glass, pigment, and 24-karat gold. It also offers classes and accommodation in its own B&B, where mosaics are a prominent design theme.

A company spokeswoman writes: 

"Entering through a secluded garden, Orsoni is an oasis of artisan beauty. Over 2,000 colors of mosaic smalti are filed in the Color Library, the used crucibles display remnants of liquid rainbow batter, and the elegant Domus Orsoni with each of its five unique bedrooms is a vision of contemporary mosaic design. Orsoni is Italy's only artiturismo (inspired by the Italian word artigiani for artisan),  providing the opportunity to experience an intimate, working Venice. 

"Staying at Domus Orsoni allows a rare glimpse into the Orsoni legacy that has existed in Venice for generations and impacted the creation of mosaics throughout the world

"The Orsoni Master in Mosaic classes originated by Honorary President Lucio Orsoni and taught by  Maestra Antonella Gallenda, provide an immersion into the heart of Venetian artistry and culture. Students from beginning hobbyists to professional artists use a traditional hammer and hardie to cut the glass tesserae, study andamento to create movement and choose from the expansive Orsoni palette of colors to learn subtle shading techniques. For architecture and design professionals, continuing-education units are available through IIDA, ASID and IDEC.

"Whether visiting the foundry for a private tour (by appointment only), staying as a guest at Domus Orsoni (beginning at Euro 80 per night) or participating in a 3, 5 or 10 day mosaic class, the Orsoni artiturismo is an authentic experience that brings a remarkable understanding to Venice and the Byzantine beauty of San Marco Basilica.

"Information about the foundry and classes can be found at  More information about Domus Orsoni can be found at"

Editor's note: We intend to write an in-depth description of an Orsosi tour in due course, but in the meantime, we suggest reading Karen Henderson's account of her visit to the foundry.

Photos: Orsoni.