Padua owes its ‘Gran Caffè Internazionale’ to Antonio Pedrocchi, a famous cafe-owner who had long dreamt of a place whose design would be both functional and impressive. The designs for this building were by the architect Giuseppe Jappelli, whose work was strongly influenced by the ideas of the Enlightenment.
In the nineteenth century, the café became a meeting-place for intellectuals and men-of-letters; a place where “ideas were born”, parties were celebrated, Masonic meetings held and commercial deals negotiated. In effect, it was a key point of reference for students, local people, travellers and businessmen. Its clients included the writers Ippolito Nievo and Giovanni Prati and Risorgimento patriots such as Arnaldo Fusinato. And among the out-of-towners who are known to have frequented the café were Stendhal, Théophile Gautier, Gabriele d’Annunzio, Eleonora Duse and Filippo Tommaso Marinetti. The ground floor centres around the monumental Red Hall, whose elliptical marble serving counter was designed by Jappelli himself and rests on six carved lions’ feet. To each end is another room: in the White Room one can still see the traces left by the bullets fired at some university students by Austrian soldiers during the Risorgimento uprising of 8 February 1848. The Green Room was intended for the less wealthy customers, a place where they could get warm in winter or just rest for a while (without waiters expecting them to order anything). The upper floor houses the Museum of the Risorgimento and of the Contemporary Age in several interlinked rooms whose decoration eclectically reflects the various styles of the past.