“High rank government officers, aristocrats, bureaucrats, rich bourgeoisie used to meet” in the halls of Fiorio. “Sometimes some rich equestrian merchants used to sneak in.” Once in a while, some bourgeois attorney used to sneak in its halls, trying to make important friendships. There was an officer among those, who used to boast about having participated in the repression of 1821 movements and Brofferio wrote his ironic work called “che taja le teste come i melon” [The one who slices heads off like melons]. The idea of the importance of its clients was also stressed by Charles Monselet, a French writer, who went to Fiorio when he came to Turin in 1859 to meet all the influential people. As we know, the most distinguished client of the nineteenth century was Cavour, who stepped into politics by establishing the “Risorgimento” magazine in 1847. We can imagine him at his usual table, while he was writing those articles in which he proved the need for a Constitution. And who knows how many times he had to defend his political theses, reproached by the conservative.
A café is a whole universe and it is frequented by really diverse people. There are clients like Cavour, who became a leading historical figure, but there are many others, who earn utmost fame among their descendants because they frequented that Café. Few people can recall Count Onorio today, but in nineteenth-century Turin, he was a famous character. The knight Baratta, whom we will talk about shortly, describes him as a declined aristocrat, who spent his days at Caffè Fiorio, “without taking the trouble to do anything but to eat”. The knight imagined a tombstone for his grave, which would express “the standard of such a useless and empty life.” So he wrote this epigraph, “Let the earth be light on Count Onorio / whose death, alas! Pain! A big void / that he left on the benches of Caffè Fiorio! The knight Baratta was born in Genoa in 1802 and died in Turin, supposedly in 1866. He moved to the Savoyan capital to start a diplomatic career. But it did not go as planned. He was a strange character. He used to collaborate with newspapers and magazines. Often people used to see him read and write on the tables of downtown cafés, including Fiorio. He was famous and feared because of his scathing epigrams (like the one dedicated to Count Onorio) which he used to call “poetic jokes.” When he died, this time he was the victim of an epigram proposed by a collaborator of Gazzetta di Torino. It read, “The Knight Baratta’s bones / lie in this grave / but dare I not say / so that a tongue finds rest.
Fiorio was not the meeting place of funny chaps only, as one might be mistakenly led to believe. It was also a place where ideas were developed and presented to the general public. It was no coincidence that Ilario Petitti chose its halls to exhibit the theory of the need for a railway network across Italy as the driving force behind political unification and economic development, for the first time.
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