It was 11 in the morning when we reached Piazza San Marco. The sound of classical music coming from two orchestras attracted our attention: one, situated by the entrance to the piazza and the other, at Florian Caffe, is on the opposite side some 200 meters away.
Orchestra #1, lively as it was, had no audience except for a couple who was more occupied with their lovey-dovey pursuits than paying attention to the music.
Orchestra #2 seemed to magnetize most of the tourists in the piazza. What is their secret? Because at 11 in the morning, the sun’s direct rays was hitting the alfresco caffe where Orchestra #1 was playing. Florian was in the shade.
We saw another, Orchestra #3, from a third caffe but it was not playing.
Just as soon as orchestras 1 and 2 finished their music, #3 suddenly reverberated with a tango tune reminiscent of Scent of a Woman. In a dash, the standing audience at #2 scurried towards #3, leaving only those who were seated (the customers).
Couples started dancing and some passersby were swaying their bodies to the rhythm.
After few minutes of playing, #3 stopped for a break. Instantly, #2 re-started with a popular classic, the audience at #3 darted towards their direction. And then it was #1’s turn again.
This battle of the bands or sometimes referred to as “dueling orchestras” in Piazza San Marco, with the audience running here and there, make a comical scene – but the music nevertheless remains poignant and soul-reaching.
Then H announced that he would treat us to a cold beer – at Florian!
Is he out of his mind? Did I hear it right? The 18th century Caffe Florian in Venice is the oldest cafe bar in Italy and is frequented by the well-heeled, hence, expect a well-heeled “el conto” (the bill).
We got seated. I kept fidgeting, worrying at the final bill. No doubt, the moment our backsides touch the caned chairs of this caffe, our wallet meter would be ticking outrageously fast!
A waiter in his sartorial elegance came to hand us the menu. Opening the second page and without ordering anything yet, we were aghast to discover that our bill has already registered an amount of 18euros! Why was that?
For the privilege of listening to the orchestra in the comfort of Florian’s caned seats, there is an automatic charge of 6euros per person. And we were three.
We ordered three beers which came with miniature bowls of olives and chips. Guess how much each bottle costs? 10euros! And we were three.
So all in all, on our 2nd hour in Venice grounds, we already spent 96euros! (48 for the vaporetto and 48 for the beer)