The New and Old Procuratie, boardering
the Square, was the offices of the 9 Procurators, the most
important citizens of Venice after the Doge. They were
controlling the Square, the Basilica and the 6 sections of the city, called sestieri
. In 1585 the Venetian ambassador to Instambul
told the Senate that the Turkish were drinking a hot
black drink, made by a seed called Kahavè and that
people had diffuculty in falling asleep after drinking
this beverage. This seed was brought back to Venice and
in 1638 it was roasted, ground and sold at an expensive
price from a special caffè shop which was located
directly under the Procuratie. In a short time the caffè
shops opened all of the city and by the end of the next
century there were 24 such caffè's in St.Mark's Square
alone. These caffè's soon became the favorite place
among intellectuals to meet and drink coffee. Gambling,
another favorite past time of the Venetian nobility also
went on in the caffè's.
The popularity of these places grew more and more, and in 1720 one of the most elegant: "Caffè alla Venezia trionfante" opened it's doors. This Caffè of the Triumphant Venice was a popular meeting point for both foreign and national high society. Such notables as Carlo Goldoni, the brothers Gozzi and Antonio Canova often spent many hours in this caffè. The caffè's first owner was Floriano Francesconi and therefore the caffè was affectionately called "Florian". In 1775 G. Quadri decided to open a new caffè shop in front of the Florian on the opposite side of the Square and promised to serve only real Turkish Café. For a long time the shop had a bad reputation, driving the owner to near bankruptcy, but in 1830 the nobility recognized the Caffè Quadri as having fine service and quality coffee and it's reputation for quality remains today.
The Venetians were also well known for their love of beautiful women and love affairs were frequent and legendary. Giacomo Casanova became one of the most legendary lovers of Venetian origin but other lesser known lovers soon filled the State orphanages with their children. Many of these love affairs had their start in the caffes of St.Mark's Square so in 1767 the government prohibited women from frequenting caffes. However, Casanova couldn't resist the charms of the women who strolled about the Square and under the porticos of the Procuratie. He was placed in "Piombi", the prison, by State Investigators because of his lascivious and anti-religious habits. Casanova attempted to escape twice. The first time, just before finishing a hole in the floor he was moved to another cell. However it was better that he didn't finish digging as that hole would have dropped him directly in front of the Inquisitors (again!) in the room below. The second attempt succeeded and he made his way out of the Palace and walked directly down the Golden Staircase and out the main entrance! The warders saw him leaving but they thought he was a politician and didn't stop him. Before taking the Gondola to leave the city, he couldn't resist one last stroll through the Procuratie where he bid his friends goodbye and had one last cup of coffee in his beloved Piazza San Marco. Casanova reached Paris where lived for 20 years before he was pardoned and allowed to return to his beloved Venice.