Floods and coronavirus leave legendary Venice cafe facing ruin

Caffè Florian, the oldest watering hole in Venice and a mecca for writers, artists and politicians, had hoped to spend December planning its 300th birthday party - but instead faces ruin.

Floods and coronavirus leave legendary Venice cafe facing ruin
Caffe Florian on St Mark's Square is a Venetian institution. Photo: Andrea Pattaro/AFP

The coronavirus pandemic has turned the world-famous Italian city into a ghost town and, following on from last year's floods, left the popular cafe on St Mark's Square in dire straits.

“We will stay open for as long as we can, but we can do not more than that,” managing director Marco Paolini told reporters on Friday, in a public appeal for government help.

“Venice is on its knees,” he said, and “the activity of the Florian has been devastated”.


Founded on December 29th 1720 by Floriano Francesconi, the cafe's clients have included everyone from Wagner and Proust to Nietzsche, Charlie Chaplin and Andy Warhol.

These days it employs around 80 people, including the multilingual and always impeccably dressed waiters in their white tails.

Photo: Andrea Pattaro/AFP

“We wanted to organise a big cultural event to celebrate our 300th anniversary, but it was cancelled,” Paolini said.

Venice suffered a major setback last year when the tides reached historic levels, flooding the city. It was only just getting back on its feet when Covid-19 hit.

Since then, the absence of tourists — the city's main source of income — has plunged it into one of its darkest years in recent history.

“We are asking for help,” said the manager, who represents a group of partners who own the cafe.

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EU delays passport scan system and €7 travel fee until 2023

Two major changes that were due to come into force in 2022 for travellers entering the EU - an enhanced passport scanning system and the introduction of a €7 visa for tourists - have been delayed for a year.

EU delays passport scan system and €7 travel fee until 2023

Although both the EES and ETIAS schemes are still due to be introduced in the European Commission has pushed back the start dates for both until 2023.

It comes amid a chaotic summer for travel in Europe, with airports struggling with staff shortages and strikes while some crossings from the UK to France have been hit by long delays as extra post-Brexit checks are performed during the peak holiday season. 

The two separate changes to travel in the EU and Schengen zone were originally due to come into effect in 2020, but were delayed because of the pandemic. Now the EES system is expected to come into effect in May 2023, while ETIAS will come into effect in November 2023. 

The EES – Entry and Exit System – is essentially enhanced passport scanning at the EU’s borders and means passports will not only be checked for ID and security, but also for entry and exit dates, in effect tightening up enforcement of the ’90 day rule’ that limits the amount of time non-EU citizens can spend in the Bloc without having a visa.

It will not affect non-EU citizens who live in an EU country with a residency permit or visa.

There have been concerns that the longer checks will make transiting the EU’s external borders slower, a particular problem at the UK port of Dover, where the infrastructure is already struggling to cope with enhanced post-Brexit checks of people travelling to France.

You can read a full explanation of EES, what it is and who is affects HERE.

The ETIAS system will apply to all non-EU visitors to an EU country – eg tourists, second-home owners, those making family visits and people doing short-term work.

It will involve visitors registering in advance for a visa and paying a €7 fee. The visa will be valid for three years and can be used for multiple trips – essentially the system is very similar to the ESTA visa required for visitors to the USA. 

Residents of an EU country who have a residency card or visa will not need one.

You can read the full details on ETIAS, how it works and who it affects HERE.

Both systems will apply only to people who do not have citizenship of an EU country – for example Brits, Americans, Australians and Canadians – and will be used only at external EU/Schengen borders, so it won’t be required when travelling between France and Germany, for example.