It is the most famous bar in Venice and how it came into being is the stuff of legend.
In 1929, Giuseppe Cipriani was working as a bartender at the Hotel Europa, where one of his best customers was a young Bostonian, called Harry Pickering. The American's drinking habits were financed by his aunt. One day the aunt stopped funding her nephew and the nephew stopped drinking at the Hotel Europa. At this point the barman leant the Bostonian 10,000 lira, because he 'was such a fine young man.' Pickering later left Venice and Cipriani assumed he would never see either him or his 10,000 lira again.
However, two years later, in February 1931, Pickering pitched up at the Hotel Europa to repay his debt. In addition to the 10,000 lira he owed, he gave the generous barman an extra 30,000 lira 'so that you can open a bar of your own.' Pickering suggested that Cipriani call his new venture Harry's Bar, 'not a bad name.'
On May 13th, 1931, Harry's Bar opened in what had once been an old rope warehouse. It very quickly became the haunt of a host of (mostly American) celebrities, including Ernest Hemingway, Orson Welles and Truman Capote.
In 2001, the Italian Ministry of Culture declared Harry's Bar a national landmark, even though hardly any Italians, let alone Venetians, ever venture inside.
By rights, a business with such a high ratio of bad reviews to good ones (see Trip Advisor) should be bankrupt. But Harry's Bar invented the Bellini cocktail and for many people a visit to Venice is just not complete without quaffing an overpriced glass of the stuff in the place where it was created.
Blogging about Venice:
its art, history & culture.
My name is David Lown and I am an art historian from Cambridge, England.
Since 200I I have been living in Italy, where I run private tours of Florence, Rome &
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