Stick around San Niccolò long enough and you’ll pick up on a subtle rivalry between two of the area hangouts—one built more on affectionate teasing than real tension. Neither “Il Circolo” nor Il Rifrullo is in what the world would call a heyday anymore. But none of the loyal regulars at either spot seem to mind (or notice).

“Il Circolo”—officially the Unione Ricreativa Lavoratori di San Niccolò and the only active one of its kind in the center—is an intergenerational institution, a nucleus for neighborhood workers, and Fernando is one of its constituents di cuore. Stop in “any evening between 5 and 7,” he says, and you’ll spot him taking the devil-may-care approach to afternoon coffee.

Pressed for his perspective on up-the-road Rifrullo (officially “Il Rifrullo”, but nothing “official” goes over too great around here), Fernando chuckles. We gather that it’s always been the chicer haunt, and he explains that leanings (right or left, that is) have long dictated his generation’s hangouts.

Yet neither bar seems bound by something as banal as political posturing. The card-playing crowd in the Circolo’s back room is concerned only with hands dealt, cigarettes smoked and banter exchanged with the beauties camped out in the aptly named “angolo delle ciane”—that’s “Chatty Cathy corner” to non-native Tuscans. And over at Rifrullo, arguments mostly develop not on who’s winning the polls, but who’s getting the terrace seats.

Morning, when said terrace is usually closed, is probably the most pleasant time to watch the Rifrullo flow. Featured community member Janine Gaelle Dieudji grew fond of it over her three years of working in Clet Abraham’s studio around the corner, where she priced art, courted press and dealers, and cultivated a breakfast habit. Her choice of coffee home has remained constant amid professional and personal changes.

The place is also dear to longtime Tuscany residents Suzi Jenkins and Louise Holm Ferragamo, whose friendship blossomed during their shared shifts behind the bar in the late 1980s. It was the first job either of them had ever held in Florence, and an instant ticket to local social life: San Niccolò was the place to be, whether you fit better with the Circolo’s boot strappers or Rifrullo’s social strivers. Friendly foreign bartenders fell somewhere in between.

It takes a village, indeed.

 

Color photos by Michelle Davis / Black and white photos by Marco Badiani

 

 

Support The Florentine

The Florentine is still here.

“Thank you, The Florentine, for the support you’ve offered to the city of Florence during such a difficult time.”

—Andrea

We’ve kept our promise to stand by your side during lockdown with real-time updates on legislative changes to inform local readers; with thoughtful words and iconic photography in Healing not Broken, a commemorative special issue; a more frequent and redesigned newsletter; and TF Together, our live interview series on Facebook and YouTube.

We’re bruised, but alive. We’re hurt, but refuse to break. Our advertising revenue has all but vanished, but we are striving to stay true to our mission as the English News Magazine in Florence since 2005. It’s thanks to our readers, the international community of Florence, wherever you are in the world that we are still afloat as Covid-19 relinquishes its grip on Italy and the economic crisis begins to bite.

If The Florentine is here tomorrow, it’s thanks to you.

Please donate to help us continue our coverage from this city we love.

Our request

We’re asking Florence lovers, here in Italy, in the US and further afield, to pledge what you can to guarantee coverage in the short- and mid-term.


Personal Info

Donation Total: €20,00

more articles

Comments