Caffè Letterario: Aperitivo in an Old PrisonTuesday, November 22, 2016
Last month I told you about Tamerò, one of my favourite places to go for aperitivo here in Florence. Today I am going to let you all in on another little secret place: Caffè Letterario, Le Murate.
I found out about this wonderful little gem from one of my beautiful Polish friends Natalia right when I first moved to Italy. It is a little bit of a secret because it is a bit out of the way and a little difficult to see if you don't know what you're looking for. We met one evening right in front of the Santa Croce church and she then proceeded to bring us for what seemed to be an eternal walk through Florence's back streets (it was only 5-10 minutes) until we finally arrived at an entrance which I could have easily walked past. "It's a restaurant in an old prison!" she said when she explained it to me, and walking into the grand structure I could so easily visualise what it would have been like back when it still was one (i'm sure binge watching Prison Break helped with this).
The history is actually really interesting. It was first a convent with nuns who chose to live hidden away from society which is where the name Le Murate (the walled) comes from. They lived here for a few hundred years until Tuscany was invaded by the French in the 19th Century. The convent was then slowly turned into a prison, however in 1974 there was a prisoner revolt from which the building could never fully regain its strength and 11 years later it was deemed unsafe to have so many criminals near to the city centre in a building which was not so secure and they were relocated.
The city has made good use of the old convent/prison structures by opening a complex in 2011 which includes public housing, shops, restaurants and bars, bringing it all back to life. We went to the Caffè Letterario (literary cafe) which offers live music, a simple dinner menu and an extensive cocktail menu. Traditionally aperitivo drinks are a little more bitter, however I like mine sweeter and went for a passion fruit cocktail.
I love this place for summer time as you can sit outside and enjoy a glass of wine, catching up with friends in such a relaxed atmosphere. They have fairy lights in the trees which adds to the ambience and you wonder what stories the walls could tell if they could speak - let your imagination run wild. Aperitivo/apericena (more info on what that is here) is €8.50 for a drink & an unlimited buffet and they had a wide range of dishes, although as usual most of these were carb-based (i'm certainly not complaining). Now it's a little too cold as Florence temperatures have dipped to below 10 degrees (eek) but I went there so many times in summer and also recommended it to a couple of friends who loved it too.
Opening times vary depending on the day so make sure to check out their Facebook page. It is a kind of hipster/bohemian paradise but don't be put off - my friends and I are neither but still appreciated it's beauty. It can be a little bit difficult to find so if you have a phone: use Google maps (I will put one below), drink the cocktails & enjoy!
p.s. Please excuse the poor quality of some of these photos as I took them in summer when I still wasn't sure how to use my camera - ha!