The story at the Café

More than two centuries old, but it does not show

The story at the Café

When did Fiorio make its debut on the stages of history? The first reference to Fiorio concerns a curious incident told by Giuseppe Manno, the historian, who in his book called “Informazioni sul Ventuno [Information on Twentyone] tells that Bernardo Pia, an obscure medical orderly of the Corte Masino’s apothecary was taken to Fiorio under great secrecy in the evening of March 18th, 1821 and he was offered a huge sum to add some poison to the medicine used by Carlo Alberto those days. This was four days before he was obliged to leave Turin by the order of Carlo Felice.

That is unfair, though, because although most of its clientele were aristocrats, they had diverse political convictions, so much so that most of its regular customers were exiled a few months after the failure of the 1821 movements, such as Giacinto Collegno, Cesare Balbo and the prince of Cisterna, just to name a few. Fiorio was a café where people discussed about politics and certainly followers of Mazzini were not among its clients. However, this café did not spare its criticism even to its most distinguished clients, such as Camillo Benso, the Count of Cavour. He was particularly criticized when he decided to send an expeditionary force of 18,000 men to Chrimea in 1854, to support France and England’s intervention against Russia. Most people could not even comprehend what interests Piedmont would have down there and some did not even know where Chrimea was. They were small misunderstandings, which were soon settled. In fact, two years later, it was necessary to elect the representatives of the Kingdom of Savoy at Paris Congress. Fiorio’s clientele had no doubts and supported Cavour, against the clients of Caffè Nazionale, who leaned towards Massimo D’Azeglio.

The conservative trend of Fiorio’s clients diminished as the idea of national unification grew stronger. During the 1859 war, many of its clients took part in military operations. Often black strips were hung on Fiorio’s mirrors, chairbacks and divans, as a sign of mourning for friends who died at the front. And that was not the only way to do politics. Owing to Reasons of State, on January 30th, 1859, Maria Clotilde of Savoy, the favourite daughter of Vittorio Emanuele II, had to marry Napoléon Joseph Charles Paul Bonaparte, also known as Plon-Plon, the cousin of Napoleon III.

He was thirty seven and she was sixteen years old. This marriage was orchestrated by Cavour himself, who wanted to consolidate the French- Savoy alliance, but the King had to accept it reluctantly. As Cavour organized a great ceremony to celebrate the event, many of Fiorio’s clients and those of other cafés did not participate, as a sign of understanding towards Savoyans. In the end, what was really there to be celebrated, anyway?

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