One of Rome’s oldest cafés is facing potential closure, and it’s sparking a lot of debate within the Eternal City.

An image of the inside of Caffé Greco in Rome
The Caffé Greco has more than 300 paintings hanging from its wall, making it one of the biggest private art galleries open to the public in the world © Stefano Montesi / Corbis / Getty Images

The Antico Caffé Greco can be found in Via Condotti, one of Rome’s most famous streets and just a few minutes away from the iconic Spanish Steps. It was founded in 1760, and since then an incredible number of famous artists and movie stars and politicians has stopped there for a coffee - writers like Goethe, D’Annunzio and Melville; painters like De Chirico; movie icons like Orson Welles and Elizabeth Taylor; and even royalty like Princess Diana.

An archive picture of Buffalo Bill sitting at one of Caffé Greco's tables
Buffalo Bill was also one of the Caffé Greco's patrons, as this archive image taken at the beginning of the 19th century proves. © Vittoriano Rastelli / Corbis / Getty Images

The Caffé is now facing closure or potentially drastic changes because of a disagreement between the management of the Caffé, the Antico Caffé Greco company and the owner of the building, the private Israelite Hospital of Rome.

At issue is a rise in the rent of the building, which may lead to the eviction of the current managers. The issue has sparked a national (and international) debate, one that also revolves around the 1953 decision of the Italian government to make the Caffé a protected property - meaning that it can’t be completely turned upside down thanks to its historic and artistic importance.

A shot of the front of Caffé Florian in Venice
The Caffé Greco of Rome is one of the oldest in Italy, second only to Venice's Caffé Florian © Eddy Buttarelli / Reda&Co / Universal Images Group / Getty Images

Italia Nostra Roma, a heritage group fighting to preserve Italy’s cultural treasure, is siding with the Caffé’s managers in the debate. Its vice-president, professor Vanna Mannucci, told Lonely Planet that the Caffé “has by now become the heritage of humanity as a whole, not just of the city of Rome.” She went on to say that “Italia Nostra Roma is not interested in the legal issues, but it wants to preserve a jewel with 250 years of history behind it,” and that it’s of central importance the Caffé goes on maintaining its activities within the building. “It’s impossible not to find a shared solution,” professor Mannucci concluded.

“After the expiration of the contract in 2017, we haven’t found a satisfying agreement with the management that is also aligned with the current market situation,” the Israelite Hospital told Lonely Planet. But it also continued on by reassuring that “we recognise the historic value of the building and the importance of the culture surrounding it” and that the future management of the building will always reflect that importance.

A wide shot of the interior of Caffé Greco with its iconic red walls
While bar service at Caffé Greco is not much more than the average in Italy, table service can range from €7 and up © Alberto Pizzoli / AFP / Getty Images

The latest developments are that further discussions between the managers and the owners will take place around the middle of November, while the actual eviction date has been pushed back to January 2020. If you’d like to stay up to date with the story of the Caffé Greco, you can do so through the Italia Nostra Twitter page here.

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