Venice is one of our favorite places to visit. We first stayed there in 2015 while spending 12 days exploring all over Italy. I didn’t hesitate when the opportunity to go again arose a few years later. I feel like no matter how many times you visit there, you will always find new things to see and be amazed by. Along with revisiting a few of our favorite places, we wanted to seek out some fresh new experiences as well. The options there are endless. Venezia is truly the Queen of the Adriatic!
First Some History
Harry’s Bar is a classic establishment in Venice, Italy with a lot of history. It was opened in 1931 by bartender Giuseppe Cipriani after he received repayment of money that he had lent to one of his former customers that had fallen on hard times. Mr. Cipriani lent Harry Pickering 10,000 lire and Pickering repaid him 50,000 lire 2 years later. At that time Pickering suggested that Cipriani open his own bar, and he did! Thus the name Harry’s Bar.
Aristotle Onasis, Truman Capote, Joe DiMaggio, Charlie Chaplin, Ernest Hemingway, George Clooney, Kathryn Hepburn and Orson Welles are just a few of the very long list of famous people who have visited the bar over the years. The bar has become such an icon that it was actually deemed a National Landmark in 2001. Mr. Cipriani has since gone on to open more restaurants, bars and hotels over the years. Someday, I hope to stay at his hotel on the Grand Canal. But I will need to win the lottery first!
Why Harry’s Bar
A long time ago, I discovered the Bellini. This wonderful concoction of prosecco and pureed white peaches was invented by Giuseppe Cipriani at Harry’s Bar in Venice somewhere between 1934 and 1948. While everyone else is sipping on mimosas at brunch, I have always preferred the bellini. Cipriani also invented carpaccio. An appetizer made of thinly sliced Meat (traditionally beef or fish) pounded out and served raw with olive oil and lemon then topped with parmesan cheese or white truffle.
Our Harry’s Bar Experience
On our first trip to Venice, we took the customary gondola ride down the canals on my actual birthday. It was a lovely experience despite the misty rain as we floated through the canals while the gondoliers sang to us. Perfetto! When we returned to Venice a few years later, I didn’t want to repeat the exact same experiences from our first trip so I opted out of taking another gondola ride. Instead, I wanted to visit the iconic Harry’s Bar. What made it even better is the bar is located very near both St. Mark’s Square and the Gondola livery where the rest of our group would be embarking on their boat ride.
Let me say that we got very lucky on this day! What we had not researched was that Harry’s Bar, being a fairly formal establishment, has a dress code. The required attire apparently changes based on the time of day. Since my husband and I had been to Europe before, we knew that it is always best to wear slacks and a nice shirt when touring, especially if you might be entering churches. Our day had begun with a guided tour through St Mark’s Cathedral, so we were dressed appropriately.
We found our way to Harrys after leaving our group. There was no flashy sign or awning screaming out stop here. It was obvious they weren’t looking to draw in tourists or the guests off cruise ships, but preferred the business of locals, those that were already familiar with Harry’s or were specifically seeking them out.
We were seated at a small table near the bar and they brought us a bowl of wonderful Italian olives to enjoy. Of course, we ordered bellini’s! They were served in tiny stemless glasses by waiters in white jackets, with white shirts and white bow ties. So classy! Mind you I did not care that these tiny drinks were going for 21 Euros each at the time. This was a bucket list item for me, so the cost never concerned me. When we travel and are splurging a bit, my husband always tells me “it’s only money and we will make more tomorrow.” That is a key factor in why we have been married 30 years! It really is just about taking in all the experiences when you are on a trip like this.
After enjoying our drinks and olives, we rejoined our group. Some of our fellow travelers were asking about Harry’s. We were clear with them about the prices and told them how wonderful the ambiance and the drinks were. This prompted another young couple we were with to decide to visit Harry’s as well. Unfortunately, the mysterious dress code did not allow them to go in because he was wearing shorts. That evening another couple from our group made an attempt as well. They went around the dinner hour and found that the dress code at that time required men to be wearing a jacket to get in. So they too were turned away as well. We ended up being the only people from our group to make the cut….by simple luck.
Harry’s Bar was an awesome Bucket List experience. I was glad that we found a way to carve our own agenda into our preplanned group tour. The bellini’s at Harry’s were fantastic. Like none other that I have ever had. I think that the fresh pureed white peaches makes all the difference in the world. Who cares how much they cost when they taste that good!
The iconic style and service there were top notch as well. If you plan to visit Harry’s Bar, remember to consider their dress code before you go. And although it is not hard to find, you will need to be alert when looking for it because outside of their signature door, the exterior is somewhat nondescript.