Giacomo Puccini was a regular patron at Gran Caffè Margherita. The famous Italian composer had moved to Viareggio in 1919, in a small villa facing the sea, and loved to go around town in his Fiat 501; he was working on his last opera – the wonderfully exotic “Turandot” – but never got a chance to finish it.
The splendid Art Nouveau café – which had originally opened in 1902, was torn down in the 1920s, and was finally rebuilt, in 1928, by engineer Alfredo Belluomini and decorator Galileo Chini – was a favorite of Puccini for an hour or two of relaxation after a whole night spent working. A plaque, set in 1949, reads, “And dear friends of the maestro, from Italy and abroad, sat around this table that Giacomo Puccini had chosen as his meeting place to simply relax with some civil conversation after the extended efforts required by his immortal art”.
Over the years, Gran Caffè Margherita has remained a favorite refuge for men of culture, including writers Manlio Cancogni and Cesare Garboli.
Just like the plot of the “Turandot” – full of dreams, apparitions, ghosts and offstage voices – the building is like something out of a fairy tale. Like a glimpse into another world.