06 July 2008

At Florian

Yes, I know it’s hopelessly old-fashioned, stuck in the past, a dinosaur. I know it’s moldy and crumbling in places. I know it’s full of Euro-trash, and now Russia-trash. And I know it’s ridiculously over-priced. I know all that.

Still, sometimes on a warm, romantic evening, I have the sense that Florian, particularly its orchestra stand, is the very beating heart of La Serenissima herself. Two other orchestras compete with this one – three, if you count the one around the corner. But somehow they seem… less Venetian to me.

In part, there’s a historical reason for that. When the Austrians occupied Venice they preferred to frequent Quadri across the Piazza, so the Venetians rather pointedly gave all their business to the older Florian (the doors of which never closed for hundreds of years). From here they would politely listen as Quadri’s orchestra played Wagner’s overtures, but they always withheld their applause in subtle protest.

Nowadays I find Florian’s orchestra is just a bit more dignified, a bit less fawning than its rivals. It plays a little more opera and a little less Hollywood and Broadway (although all four orchestras have shamelessly over-the-top versions of New York, New York and My Heart Will Go On, as well as some gaudy tarantellas). As for me, I confess it here. When I catch a few notes of Con Te Partiro or Mi Mancherai coming from Florian, I always pause and listen. There under the stars, amid the Piazza’s draped arches, it’s enough to bring a tear.