The Gran Caffè Margherita is a building located in viale Regina Margherita 30 (on the “Promenade”) in Viareggio. It is one of the most representative buildings of the season of Viareggio eclecticism.
The building is located next to the Martini shop and near the monumental entrance to the Balena bathing establishment.
Originally built in wood in 1902, it was demolished and rebuilt in masonry in 1928 to a design by Eng. Alfredo Belluomini in close collaboration with the decorator Tito Chini, who took care of the numerous decorative elements, gave the building that exotic aspect which makes it unique in its kind; the Gran Caffè Margherita represents one of the last works of the Viareggino eclectic-decò period, before the event of rationalism.
Interesting is the central gallery of the building originally open towards the sea, later closed and currently used as a restaurant. In the first project, the building was born as a bathing establishment, equipped with changing rooms and related services, as well as direct access to the sea, but this part was never built.
Having survived the dramatic fire of 1917 which destroyed most of the establishments in Viale Margherita, it was subsequently demolished in the 1920s on the basis of the new building hygiene regulations imposed by the Special Commission, which also includes Eng. Belluomini and Galileo Chini, for the restructuring of the beach area of Viareggio.
Several changes were made in the two wings for the location of the services in relation to the new intended use with remaking of the marble slab floors, the fixtures and some furnishings, while the covered gallery still reproduces the rich internal layout with the decorations and the precious ornaments of the ceilings. The room has recently been stripped of its wonderful interior furnishings and chandeliers.
It currently houses the Mondadori bookshop in Viareggio, a large restaurant and the historic café.
Architecture of the building
The building has an image of evident oriental taste and controlled by the symmetry of the two lateral turrets covered by domes characteristic of Moorish architecture.
The mantle of the domes was made with multi-coloured ceramic scales, mainly yellow and green; even the small columns of the balustrade of the large terrace on the top floor are in ceramic (metallic luster) of the Fornaci San Lorenzo manufacture along the entire main façade.
Characteristic and of architectural relevance is the covered gallery, once open and a suggestive filter between the promenade and the beach, now closed with glass and used as a restaurant.
Inside it there are geometric decorations on the dividing walls, while the ceiling divided into squares by the warping of the beams with decorative paneling that alternates pictorial elements with painted and terracotta glass from the Fornaci San Lorenzo manufacture in Borgo San Lorenzo are works by Tito Chini of the 1928.
The large space is controlled in plan by a series of concrete pillars and beams, while the parts arranged on the wings are made of traditional masonry.