ART NOUVEAU A (Almost) Forgotten Cafe In Italy

Posted by on 20. Juni 2017


The entrance to the „Contarena“ ...


… the exit to the toilets ...


… and some Art Nouveau/Art Deco details

IT ISN’T MENTIONED IN THE GUIDES, I saw it by chance: the „Caffe Contarena“ in the Via Cavour, 1. Why hasn’t anybody mentioned to me, that Udine in Northneastern Italy houses an Art Nouveau/Art Deco treasure? A public one! An 19th century palace, a modern entrance with sliding glass doors – and inside a stunning sight: a rare mixture of the two styles who blend into something great! The frescoes and the mosaics are late Art Nouveau, the architecture, the lamps and the windows pure Art Deco. They built the „Contarena“ a bit too late, between 1911 and 1925 (I wonder what took them so long) and Raimondo D’Aronco, Italy’s most prominent Art Nouveau architect, couldn’t avoid the upcoming Art Deco move, but refused to part with the style he was best known for. I saw fairytale book illustrations in the Caffe, Mucha-like figurines, floral ornaments, formed into cupolas, and golden masks, growing from rows of circles. Here the decorations could fit into a church, there into a brothel. Square meter after square meter are filled with flowers, made of tiny stones, and painted with a tender touch by the tip of a brush. And I sat down, ordered a capuccino for 2.50 Euro (more or less the same in US$), and turned a 360° circle to inhale the beauties. Just look at the lamps, hanging from the wooden cassette ceiling like a cascade of frozen water, and mind the wall lamps, which are placed high to illuminate the treasures, not the tables. Even some of the original furniture survived. I confess I drank three capuccini and ate a brioche, because it took me quite a while to understand all the details of D’Aronco’s work.


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